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Sandspurs: A Southern Memoir
I guess it was luck, the South Georgian home I was raised in was guarded on all sides by pine forest and all sides by pine forests and palmettos, the isolation creating my own lonely Galapagos Island, and that the house was always looking south turning its back on those who abandoned it.
The house was never my first choice of places I wanted to be. Odds are I was found either in or around the large planted pine forest my dad leased had leased from old Doc Darbyshire re-enacting the adventures of Davey Crockett and G.I. Joe and the rest of my childhood heroes. It was easy to become these few, but only for a little a while because the shrill concerned call of my mother would always stir me from my day dreams. Although I tried to convince myself I would never let my southern environment mold me, I would soon be aware that my surroundings had chipping off just to penetrate and remain floating inside of my mind like a cancer, permanently mutating my fragile mentality.
Of all the 365 days that I was ten years old, there is one day that I seem to remember the most.
It had become a custom that every December I would go out early in the morning to help my dad listen to the dogs, the dogs who acted as early warning system for the ultimate prize, a right to passage: a deer. A male dear, preferably with a large number of prongs, so that the top of his head resembles a dying bonsai tree. A bull with a large chest and powerful legs that let him bound over rivers and out run bullets.
We had been riding around on the gas powered golf cart for too long a time, considering the cold air and my age. My boots had gotten wet from a failed attempt to cross a makeshift bridge over a slow, silent stream, and my feet were now frozen. I was struggling to hold back tears of frustration. I wouldn’t let my dad see me cry. Not now, not ever.
After a fuzzy conversation with his CB, my dad calmly picks up, loads his gun and stares off into the woods. I didn’t have to ask what was going on. I became quiet and could hear the dogs’ barks coming closer.
Anything could’ve happened next. The animal could’ve changed direction and completely avoided us. It could have ran right beside us, and my dad could’ve missed, but none of that happened. Everything went according to my dads sick plan. The deer slid to the ground and landed at my feet.
My face was blank. The bullet left the deer without even enough energy to close his big eyes. Everything about him was big, and when he died he was looking up at me, seeing if I would cry. I didn’t cry when my dad ripped through its abdomen with his knife, spilling its guts into an old stained bucket. And I didn’t cry when my dad brought its head home in a box so he could nail it to our storage room wall. Although I have remained somewhat acceptable by my dad, I know my suppressed emotions will one day get the better of me.
Today was the day. I slowly rose from the bed and wiped the sleep from my eyes. Honestly I was too tired to be excited that my wait was finally over. I was less than enthusiastic even though I had been praying for this day since my second sister had been born. Half asleep and incoherent, I stumbled into my Dad. Catching me, he asks, “Can you believe how fast it happened?”
“Fast?” I thought to my self. I guess everything takes forever when you’re twelve with a bad case of ADD, including the 60 mile trip that took eight hours. It seemed like I had played through every GameBoy game at my disposal, and flipped through every boring, old, grown-up magazine in the stuffy waiting room by the time I was allowed to enter the crowded room. I instantly became surrounded by the familiar faces of relatives who greeted me with smiles and cheek pinching. At the back of the room a small blue something catches my eye. I head in closer and I see. My brother. My responsibility. My friend. The one who will always look up to me. The one who will try his best to be me. My best man. My little, wrinkled, perfect, beautiful brother.
I try to hide my tears as I approach the uncomfortable looking hospital bed, because cool kids don’t cry. When I’m finally beside the bed I ask my exhausted mother, “Can I hold him?” I didn’t even listen for an answer because I had already swept him into my arms and was breathing into his face. I looked into his eyes. He looked back. I was no long just a big brother, I was a role model.