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Thanksgiving Memories

Category: Life As I Know It | Posted: Mon Nov 23, 2020 10:16 am


The air was cold and crisp on that December morning. The teenager stood on the old dirt road at the edge of the woods and strained to listen for the dogs. They should have been released by now, but why couldn't he hear them? He lifted up his Marlin 30-30 rifle, placed the cold stock next to his cheek and aimed at a pine tree. As he touched the trigger he whispered, "Pow," and jerked back on the rifle as if it had kicked. He continued whispering to himself, "You got him! You got him! That's the biggest deer I've ever seen. I'll bet it's the biggest deer in Florida."

He ran through the kill in his mind. He could almost see his grandfather's smile and hear his prideful voice, "Nice shot boy. I always knew you'd get a big one."

He was grinning widely, lost in his daydream when he heard the sound of something walking in the woods. The hair on the back of his neck stood up and his senses became acutely aware of everything around him. He felt the adrenaline kick in and his heart began to beat wildly. For a moment he stood there frozen, just listening. The sound stopped. Then, it started again. It was definitely coming from behind him. He turned around slowly. On one side of the road were open woods, but on the other side was a fence that marked some posted property. The sound was coming from the posted property.

He made his way up to the fence quietly, hoping to sneak up on whatever was making the noise. It seemed to be coming from behind a large palmetto bush and it was getting louder. Maybe it was a big buck, marking his territory. With his gun up to his shoulder and his heart beating out of his chest he crept along the road to the right of the palmetto bush. The 30-30 felt heavy and his hands were cold, but he pushed on silently, stalking the big game. Seconds seemed like hours as he moved at a painstakingly slow pace. Finally, he caught some movement and pulled the rifle close to his shoulder, bracing for the shot... but it wasn't a deer. It was an armadillo!

He was disappointed and embarrassed at the same time. How could he have mistaken an armadillo for a deer? He thanked God that his grandfather hadn't been there to witness everything. He watched with amusement as the creature moved along, stopping every once in a while to dig something up out of the ground. It was interesting for a while, but it soon became downright aggravating. He picked up a stick and threw it at him, but the armadillo wouldn't move. Then, he found a rock and threw it, but once again it ignored him.

Then, a warm smile came across his cold face. He hadn't heard the dogs in a while. They must have run the deer the other way. That meant everyone else was in a different part of the woods by now. He was sure he could squeeze off a shot without anyone ever knowing about it. His smile broadened as he once again brought the rifle up to his shoulder and pointed it at the armadillo. He placed the sights on the armored, gray back of the pesky animal and moved the safety. Gently, just like his grandfather had taught him, he squeezed the trigger.

The roar of the shot echoed through the woods. The boy looked and saw the armadillo bounding off. He was scared to death, but totally untouched by the bullet. Then, he heard something that completely erased the smile from his face. A truck started up and he recognized it right away. It was his grandfather. He would be coming to see what he had shot at. How was he ever going to explain this?

That boy was me over forty years ago. I could never lie to my grandfather so when he got there I did the only thing that I could do, I told him the truth. I'll never forget the look on his face when I told him that I shot at an armadillo. He chewed me up one side and down the other and then, after a moment of silence, he said, "Well, I hope you at least killed it."

When he found out that I missed he chewed me out again.

Thanksgiving always reminds me of going hunting with my grandfather. As a kid I can’t think of anything that I looked forward to more than spending the night with him the night before a big hunt. I'd wake up to the sound of the hot water pot whistling and then he'd make me a cup of Folgers instant coffee. That's the only time that I ever got coffee and it always made me feel so grown up to sit there and drink a cup with him. Then, we'd get into the truck, turn on the CB radio to find out what the other hunters were up to and head out to start looking for deer tracks. I can still hear him humming as we go down the road and I can see him rolling down the window a little to let the cigarette smoke out. He had told my grandmother that he stopped smoking, but she never believed him. So, he would sneak cigarettes whenever she wasn’t around. It was a silly little game they played, but it makes for great memories.

Yes, Thanksgiving holds many fond memories for me. Now, I hear that some states are trying to cancel Thanksgiving altogether because of Covid-19. How is that good for anyone? How do you cancel Thanksgiving?

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