Talkin' Outdoors

While most of my time is spent in the here and now, it does me good to occasionally take a walk down the back roads of my memory, thumbing through the now-yellowed pages of articles I wrote a few decades ago.

Here’s one that titillated my senses because it reveals the contents of a letter I received from a mother to her young son; I liked it enough to include it in a column….

“You are enabling me to realize nearly every parents dream come true. You will grow up in the place where I was raised. You’ll climb the same trees, explore the same mysterious gullies and washes.

“You will find the spring with the old well curbing your great-grandfather put there and you’ll discover the unsurpassable coolness and sweetness of the water that trickles out just fast enough to keep the little creek alive.

“In the summertime, you will discover the wonderful aloneness of lying back in sage grass while you split a stem of it until you come to the soft inside. Chew it; it’s sweet.

“You might be lucky enough (and if you have the patience) to see the old squirrel that hangs around the big beech tree in the corner of the field.

“Look way across the sage field and see that old dead tree shimmering in the heat. See that stump that sticks up straight off the highest limb? Sometimes early in the morning, that ‘stump’ circles high on air currents above the field and woods and screams threats to field mice and rabbits. But then when the day starts getting hot, the old red-tailed hawk takes up his motionless vigil and you can bet he saw you as you left the house.

“We’ll get some poles, line, hooks and earthworms from around your grandmother’s sink drain and we’ll walk back through the field and woods to the place along the railroad tracks where the creek widens to form a pool with a real four-foot waterfall. You’ll see the foundation of the tank that held water for the old steam engines; all so long ago gone.

“Don’t expect to catch a lot of fish, but those little stump perch and goggle-eyes sure will taste good. We’ll bring them home in a lard bucket of water and I’ll show you how to swing the bucket over your head real fast and the water won’t spill out. That fall in school, you’ll learn why.

“In the fall, we’ll walk down the lane to the chinquapin tree to see if we’ve beat the birds and squirrels to the goodies. It’ll be a much tighter race when the possums and foxes find the persimmons.

“It won’t be long until the creek is too cold to swim in, the ground gets too cool to go barefoot, the lightening bugs get too scarce to catch and put in mayonnaise jars. Then when cold weather really gets here and that too-exciting night comes when the weatherman makes that magic prediction, you’ll run me crazy turning on the porch light and peeping out to see if it’s snowing yet.

“Ah, little boy, there’s so much to be crammed into the world of childhood. It seems to me to be impossible for you to experience everything but you, with your new eyes and new mind, will learn far more things that I ever dreamed of, and thank God for that because that is what the history of mankind is made of.”

This article appeared in the now defunct Shreveport Journal exactly 40 years ago this week. The letter writer was my sister, Linda Dupree and her little boy, Sam, is now in his mid-40s with three daughters of his own.

Time skitters on by in a hurry, doesn’t it?