Commentary: There are memories...and then there are Memories
By William Carter, Columnist
The grass crunches beneath my feet because its fourteen degrees out and its four in the morning, but Bear-Dog’s urges wait for no-one. He stands beside me—supported by his sling—sniffing the wind and peering into the darkness. I peer, too, my breath pluming out before me, and look for things I cannot see and listen for things I cannot hear. My hands are numb from the cold and I want to go in but can’t because at that moment, Whomever’s in charge of such things takes me away to 43 years before to a much colder morning.
One Thanksgiving Eve…I was ten years old…I couldn’t sleep and huddled under the covers in the darkness of my room, agonizing through each hour-long minute, waiting for four in the morning when my old man was to wake me up and take me with him on the annual Thanksgiving Morning Deer Hunt.
It was to be my first time hunting, and laid out by Mama on the foot of my bed was a heavy coat and two pairs of socks and a knit cap and thick jeans and a pair of gloves.
Under my bed was my birthday present from Daddy, given only a few weeks before—a brand-new double-barreled sixteen gauge shotgun with a walnut stock, still in its box and smelling of gun oil and magically aglow with the promise of guidance out of childhood and into the world of Deer-Killing Men.
I remember hearing the clack and clatter of pans and plates from the kitchen as Mama made cornbread dressing and sweet potato pies. Awhile later, the smell of cooking turkey curled under my door and into my room and somehow I slept until I was awakened by a hand on my shoulder and the old man telling me to get up and get dressed and get my gun.
When we went outside to get in the truck the first thing I noticed was the sting of sleet on my face and it was the first time in my life I’d ever seen ice fall from the sky and I was mesmerized because in that part of south Georgia such things just didn’t happen.
Daddy scraped the windshield clear with an old license plate he found in the back of the truck and I remember eating some of the ice and then spitting it out because I realized it probably had bird doo-doo in it and then we drove the five or six miles through the dark on red dirt roads to a place out in the county everybody called “The Crossroads.”
We got out and trudged into a grove of pine trees and Daddy lifted me up and sat me on a limb about six feet off the ground and loaded my gun and gave it to me and said “If you see a deer…shoot it” and then he told me he’d be back to get me in a little while and if I got down from the tree before he got there he’d kick my butt and then he left and I heard the truck leave.
I watched its headlights fade away and it was dark as hell and even colder than that. I sat there with my breath pluming out before me and looking for things I couldn’t see and listening for things I couldn’t hear. Then I remember wondering about why I would want to kill and eat a deer when Mama had already cooked a turkey and then began worrying that if I stayed out there too long I’d miss seeing the Under Dog balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television so I got out of the tree and started walking through that rare south Georgia ice storm in the direction Daddy went—accompanied by the sounds of frozen ground crunching beneath my feet and the faint clatter of ice-coated pine needles reacting to the wind.
About the time the sun peeked up above those pines a mile or two later, I saw this old house with a bunch of trucks parked around it and the old man’s was there, too. Smoke was coming from the chimney and I went in, and Daddy and all of his buddies were playing poker and drinking Wild Turkey and Jack Daniels. I unloaded my gun and propped it up in the corner with all the others and eased on over to the fireplace and looked over at my old man and he looked at me but didn’t say anything. Later, he came over and gave me a Coke and my very first “bro” hug ever and said he didn’t think Mama needed to know about this and for a month or two after he gave me anything I wanted.
There are memories…and then there are Memories.
William Carter is a longtime Franklin city employee and published author. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on: 12/8/2013