Coming of Age   3 comments

Coming of Age

“Now just do what I told you, dammit!”, the older man spat a chew of tobacco from his mouth and watched as the boy raised an ancient single-shot .22 and took aim at the soda can against the hill and, as the sight picture came into focus, squeezed the trigger.  There was a satisfying plink as the can toppled with a hole dead center in it.  The boy looked up for affirmation that came in the form of a slap on the back and “there, by damn, I knew you could do it”.  There was a feeling of pride in the air, his uncle seeing what his favorite nephew could accomplish, and the boy for what he had done, knew he could now do over and over again.  These were the things that his father never had or took the time to teach him.

This was the beginning of an education in outdoor life, hunting, fishing, and the stewardship of wildlife.  It was also to be the beginning of what would be a close friendship, relationship with my Uncle Clarence.  I was about 8 years old when we began our companionship.  Neither family had much.  I lived on a poor 60 acre dirt farm along the river.  Uncle Clarence lived about a half mile away.  One day he stopped at the house and asked if I wanted to go fishing with him.  I looked at my mom and she nodded, “Go ahead.  Just be careful along the river”.  That scene was repeated often through that summer.  We would sit for hours “drownin’ worms” as my uncle put it.  Quite often though we would catch a few catfish or a couple of bass and that would save our pride.  It was a quiet, peaceful time.  Uncle Clarence didn’t talk much, unless he had something he considered important to say.  As we drifted lazily through the summer he taught me how to fish from the riverbank and from the many sandbars.  He taught me how to pick up mussels from the riverbed, open them and use the meat from them for bait, how to catch minnows in the shallows, and dig worms from the riverbank.  We never brought bait but he always seemed to know where and how to find some.  I grew to love this irascible character, tobacco and all.  Now and then, if I caught him in the right mood, he would talk about how he and my father played baseball in the minor leagues.  Seems they were both pretty good.  Clarence went on to play for one year with the Pittsburgh Pirates but my father never did.  As summer drew to a close our visits to the river became less frequent.  Uncle Clarence had other ideas on his mind and as fall approached I was finally given privilege to them….

******************

The wind was at my back and the sun warm on my face.  Frozen snow crunched softly beneath my feet.  I raised the rifle to take aim and…., no…, not today.  I took my finger from the trigger and lowered the rifle and watched as the squirrel scampered away and up a nearby tree.  There was no need anymore, maybe never again.  The days when that squirrel would have meant meat for a meal, meat that may have absent from the table for days were long past.  I walked back to the car and carefully unloaded and cased the rifle.  It would be used again, years later, but never again against any living creature.

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3 responses to “Coming of Age

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  1. I love this!! Moving~

    • I wrote this in memory of my uncle Clarence. He was a great teacher of nature’s wonders and indescribably funny at times…, but mostly my best friend during that time of my life.

  2. For some of us, wisdom comes early. For others……well, they still wait. I love this……. xoxo Bobbie

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