On this Father's Day, I thought I would share a story of mine. He was a man raised in the city who wanted to be country. Plain and simple. Would even tell his coworkers that he was born in the small town of Halls, Tennessee. That was true enough, but what he didn't say was that his family moved to Memphis when he was two.
He loved hunting and fishing, but wasn't particularly adept at either.
But, bless his heart, he tried to instill a love of those sports in me.
Had it been left to my maternal grandfather, I might have turned out differently. Or if on the hunting trips he had equipped me with a Canon AE-1 instead of a Winchester 30-30, I might have enjoyed the experience.
Deer hunting for me mostly was climbing into a deer stand built in a tree, hoping a gigantic spider or two hadn't taken up residence inside, and catch up on my sleep until the jeep picked me up.
Even though I slept during some of the morning hunts, I did see a few deer. On one occasion, a big doe walked into the clearing unaware of my presence. We had a doe tag, and Daddy wanted venison over the winter. I raised my rifle and lined up the shot perfectly. All I had to do was to squeeze the trigger. Then I heard the words of the Great Prince of the Forest from the movie "Bambi" ring through my head in that rich baritone voice, "Your mother can't be with you anymore."
I couldn't pull the trigger.
This story concerns a hunting trip about 40 years ago down in south Texas where the deer were scarce, but not so the javelinas (the J pronounced like an H). Daddy called them "javelina hogs," and while there is a resemblance to pigs, they are in a different family altogether. These are also known as peccaries, cannot be domesticated and have no problem whatsoever attacking humans if they feel threatened.
Basically, they are wild and potentially dangerous with those sharp tusks.
Daddy wanted to bag one, for food, the hide (to make gloves), and the head (as a trophy). I didn't want any part of it.
But my opinion counted for nothing with regard to The Hunt.
It didn't take us long to find a pack. Daddy picked one out and bagged him. I cowardly stood behind him in case the rest took offense and charged us. They didn't.
It smelled bad enough before Daddy started field dressing it. But somehow, somewhere in the process he sliced some organ or gland that immediately poisoned the air with the foulest effluvium I've inhaled from that day to this.
Daddy turned away from the hog (and me) just before he blew his breakfast onto the ground.
"Son, just go ahead and pull the guts out," Daddy said, keeping his head turned and pointing.
The only reason my breakfast wasn't on the ground was that I didn't have any breakfast, so, fighting a bout of dry heaves, I did as I was told.
Daddy wanted a picture of the hog so I tried hard to smile while pulling its mouth open and exposing the tusks. I wish I still had it.
As we started packing everything up to head back to the car, I caught my father giving me a few sidelong glances.
I knew what was coming.
"Son, I know you're tired, so I'm going to do something for you."
"I'll carry both guns, the thermoses, all of the equipment. All you have to do is carry the javelina. Field stripped, it won't weight more than fifty pounds. It'll be easy tied onto your back."
I took a deep breath to calm myself. "Two things. First, I'm not THAT tired. Second, you killed that foul smelling beast, you can carry it back to the car."
"Oh, son. Please. I'm begging you."
I held firm. And Daddy manned up and carried the hog and his rifle back to the car, dry heaving all the way. I carried everything else, and gladly.
I know this isn't a particularly flattering story of my father but it is one I remember fondly, and file away in that wonderful category called "It Wasn't Funny at the Time."
I'm writing this on Saturday June 16th, 2012, the day before Father's Day. My father died 33 years ago today, Saturday June 16th, 2012, the day before Father's Day.
And to all of the wonderful dads out there HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!!