Feathers and ink: Fred Dolislager writes turkey tales

Susan EspirituKarns/Hardin Valley

Nothing makes a mother prouder than for her child to give her credit for his success as Fred Dolislager does, “My mother was a teacher and is a writer which has played a significant role in my book-writing journey.”

Nothing makes a Tennessee native happier than to hear someone who was born in Michigan and lived in Florida say as Fred Dolislager does, “I wasn’t born in Tennessee, but I got here as soon as I could!” He even says upon arriving in Tennessee, it didn’t take long for all things Big Orange to become a part of his life and watching Miami get destroyed by the Volunteers in the 1986 Sugar Bowl sealed the deal.

Now, Fred got to Tennessee by way of a Greyhound bus from West Palm Beach that got him to Chattanooga to board a van bound for Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee, which began the continuation of life journey of twists and turns that led him to writing books about turkey hunting escapades.

Fred said, “I’m pretty sure I fished and camped in the beautiful Tennessee rivers and mountains more than I studied. The ample waterways and the beautiful scenery captivated me.”

A big part of that beautiful scenery was his organic chemistry teacher’s daughter, Sue, whom he married in 1991 in her hometown of Oak Ridge where her father worked at ORNL and her mother at Y-12.

Dolislager’s career had him formerly employed at both ORNL and Y-12 as well, and he ended up doing what he refers to as a short 24-year stint as a UT employee doing the same job of environmental restoration of DOE facilities.

In 2006, Fred’s pastimes transformed as he was sitting on a couch at the Leaf & Ale cigar shop where he would buy cigars and brewing supplies. It was there he made friends with Doctor D. and was educating him on the finer points of cigars, so Doctor D. educated him on turkey hunting.

When Fred went on his first turkey hunt with Doctor D., he said he was hooked. Doctor D. suggested Fred write down a “little bit” about each hunt, so he did.

The “little bits” over the years became exploits of tremendous blunders made in the woods that worked their way into Fred’s logbook. Extrovert Fred made friends with lots of turkey hunters and shared some of his adventures with them via e-mail and with encouragement from his friends, the “little bits” became short stories.

Remember the inspirational mother? A retired teacher at the time, and author of several books, Mom got wind of what Fred was doing and for 16 years nagged him to turn the short stories into a book.

So, he self-published the first book, Turkey Hunting Exposed – Tennessee Turkey Tales September 2021. The stories are all true, but the names were changed to protect the innocent. He says he is no turkey hunting expert, so his first book wasn’t instructional. But his mind kept pushing him to lie just a little about some things so he started the second book.

Aligned with one of his favorite quotes by Cassandra Clare, “The best lies are based on the truth, at least in part,” Fred ‘s second book, Turkey Hunting Tomfoolery – Tennessee Turkey Tales lists every story as fanciful but based on truth.

The book cover shows him taking a wild turkey on an airplane as his comfort animal. Fred says, “Heck, it happened in real life in San Francisco, so why couldn’t I do it?” All the research about certifying an animal as a comfort animal is true. In fact, most readers can’t tell where the truth ends, and the entertaining fiction begins. Recently he had a reader ask how his comfort animal appeal was going at the Tennessee Supreme Court. “That made me really happy, so I didn’t let on.”

Fred’s favorite review came with an anonymous single star that read: “This guy just wanted to write a book.” Fred’s answer was classic: “Well damn skippy he was right! What book gets written by somebody who didn’t want to? In fact, ‘This Guy’ is working on book three right now about near-death experiences while turkey hunting: Turkey Hunting Requiem – Tennessee Turkey Tales. Take that Mr. Single Star.”

Fred and his wife, Sue, have two children, a daughter Carolina, who graduated with a master’s in microbiology and a son, Gerrit, who is pursuing his master’s in landscape architecture at UT.

Sue was the Hardin Valley Elementary School PTA president and front office secretary for years. Now, I am sure Sue could write a book as well because I know there is School Tomfoolery. Fred says he has nagged her for years to write, What to Expect When You Are Expecting an Elementary Schooler but she has refused.

“There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up a pen to write.” William Makepeace Thackeray (another of Fred’s favorites!)

Fred’s books are available here: Fred’s Books and for a signed copy, contact Fred at fdolisager@gmail.com.

All of us have a story and I want to tell yours! Send them to susan@knoxtntoday.com


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