Thursday, November 6, 2008

"Nor'Easter Cans"

The idea for this story came purely from the frustration of working on Thanksgiving, my personal favorite holiday. Shamus, such as he is, helped alleviate those frustrations. Purely a fictional character, I like ole Shamus and may have him hunting elsewhere sometime soon.

NOVEMBER around the turn of the century

It hit, really fast, and seemingly in an extremely short amount of time the skies turned dark and the temps dropped. Shortly thereafter, the blue norther’ set in, starting with rain and high winds, and progressing to sleet, accompanied by those same winds. Weather such as this was known to shake the very timbers of ordinary folk, driving most inside to the comfortable climes of wood furnaces and the roasted holiday goose. During the ride from town, he merely chuckled at the empty streets, and watched the streets only other inhabitant earning his wages.

Startled by the “clippity-clop” of the horse’s hooves coming from the unlit end of the brick side street, the lamplighter turned, almost dropping the wick and pole. Gathering himself and recognizing the driver of the horse, shouted above the wind, “Rough out Shamus, it be, no’ a da’ fer gallivantin’ abou’!”

“Jes ligh’ yer lamps Gavin, I’ll bring ye’ back somethin’ fer yer table. S’pose it’ll be yer table for Thanksgiving this year?”

“S’pose so Shamus, jes make sure ye’ brang us sometin back ter eat.”

With that, the town’s lamplighter, and the only other person brave enough and desperate enough to be out in such weather, moved on down the line, lighting the unlit lamps as he went. Strange to be lighting lamps and not yet having greeted noon, but this was the Eastern seashore, this was November, and this was going to be a storm to remember.

If you asked the townspeople of Easton, Maryland about Shamus MacTavish, one would draw some curious looks. And, why not? Fact is, in the early 1900’s, only the truly destitute among us live a solitary life. Can’t really blame the good folks of Easton for believing there was something very strange about Shamus. But, Shamus was simply cut from a different cloth. Leaving the Cromarty area of Scotland during what became known as the Highland Potato Famine, Shamus spent months on a rickety derelict, eventually landing in Easton, Maryland. Shamus made his lot in life running crab traps along the rocky shores of the Chesapeake during the warmer months and gunning the market for “cans” during the winter. At two bits a bird, don’t reckon anyone would think as curiously of Shamus if they knew.

Opening the right hand reign Shamus directed Polly, his bullheaded old nag, off the brick street and onto the muddy trail leading seemingly out to sea. Staring down the iron-gray skyline, again he chuckled as if to say, “If they only knew.”

After a bit of a ride with the only sounds being the increasingly loud crashing of the surf and Polly’s incessant snorting, proclaiming her displeasure of being off sure-footing and tromping through the mud, the team approached the mice laden shack, which really served as nothing more than a wind break that Shamus had devised along the shores of the Chesapeake. Dismounting from the horse, who snorted with the delight of having her burden lifted, he led Polly to the south side of the shanty in the hopes of protecting her from the most prevailing of winds. After tying the horse off to a heavy piece of driftwood he had collected, he watered her and placed an abundant amount of hay on the ground.

Patting the horse, mostly for his own peace of mind, he mumbled to himself, “thar ye go Pol, ol’ girl. Shud be enoug’ fer the nigh’ anyhow.”

In the back of his mind, he knew that if it got much worse, he’d bring “Ol’ Pol” in for the night, no matter how unbearable it would make things.

The outside chores done, he stepped inside. Dodging the piece of salt cured venison hanging from the center rafter he brought over the week prior, he moved to the back of the shack and lit the stove.

“She’ll be warm enoug’ to cook chowda soon.” And, with that, he turned to finish one last chore. He knew where they’d be, the back-bay where the wild celery flourished. Wouldn’t be much left, but if history held true, they’d seek the refuge of the back-bay, and ride out the storm there. And so, Shamus set off for the little outcropping of rocks that marked the mouth of the creek which fed the small bay itself. During high tide, the rocks were barely visible above the chop, but during a low tide, Shamus knew he could get out close to where the cans would be loping past, on their way to food and solitude.

Reaching the jetty, Shamus climbed over the rocks and upon finding a suitable place out of the wind, ocean spray and sleet, nestled in for a bit of watching in hopes of finding out that the cans had been pushed down from wherever it was they came from. Seemingly, these birds never make an appearance around the Chesie until a very strong storm pushes through. Because this had been a strange year consisting of mild and dry weather, this was the best chance so far he had to gun these birds. Peering out from crystal blue eyes, through the clouds and sleet, he was greeted with what he wanted and maybe even what he needed to see. Out in the mist and chop, forging across the high seas perilously close to the rising waves, and barreling toward that secluded bay were CANS in huge numbers. Enormous flocks rifled past Shamus hidden between the gray rocks, each one larger than the next. “V” after “V” of drake cans with their rust-red colored heads cruised past. It didn’t take him long to realize tomorrow would be a good day. It also didn’t take him long to realize he should have brought more clothes.

After he was satisfied that he would not only make a pretty penny at market but also be well fed over the holiday season, he made the trek back to the shack, and as he did so, he began to notice that the sleet was turning to snow. At present, it was a mix of rain, sleet and snow, but Shamus reckoned there’d be a fresh blanket of snow on the ground for Thanksgiving.

Reaching the shack, he made quick work of unsaddling Polly and wrapping her in blankets. Then, needing to get off his wet, cold clothes to hang dry above the stove, he started inside. Seeing this, Polly let loose with a snort and whinny combination that Shamus knew was his old friend’s way to say, “Please take me.”

Reassuring her that he had no plans to keep her outside in this mess, Shamus stepped inside and muttered under his breath, “Gonna be a helluva nigh’ wit tha’ nag in here too.” Outside, Polly must have overheard the comment, as she snorted in displeasure.

That night anyone that might have been peaking through the window into the candlelit room, would have been met with one of the strangest sights ever to grace the Eastern seaboard. On a tiny cot sat a rather burly fellow with a long graying beard in long johns, old woolen clothes hanging above the stove atop which sat a brewing pot of coffee, and a big, stinking, brown horse who looked like she really didn’t care being so close to her master. Shamus, for his part, had to chuckle at the thought as well.

Not long into the night, the rickety door finally gave way to the pounding wind and flew open with such force that Polly almost crushed Shamus in a leap. Racing to the door in hopes of bracing it against the wind, Shamus, clad only in long johns stared out into the emptiness, across what Shamus knew was the rock and sand that defines the Eastern seaboard coastline. Knowing tomorrow he’d be gunning for cans, he couldn’t help but wonder aloud, “wonder what the poor folks are doing?” And, with that, closed and braced the door, quieted the old nag Polly, and went sound to sleep.

That morning, as if being awoken by some unnatural force, he got up and prepared a breakfast which he considered fit for a king consisting of bitter brewed coffee and steel cut oats, sprinkled with what little sugar he could spare. Realizing he was in no rush, he waited until just before sunrise to put back on his wool trousers, shirt and old mackinaw overcoat. Again leading Polly from the warm hut, tying her off and making sure she had hay and water, he set off down now frozen and snow covered trail toward to rocky outcropping.

With the wind abated and the snow having stopped sometime during the night, Shamus was greeted along the weathered path with snow glittering in the sunlight, and felt a peace in his heart. The peace he felt was strange and he knew what needed to be done. Before taking another step, he knelt down in the 6 inches of fresh snow and said a soft little prayer, way too soft for such a gruff man, and thanked The Creator for such a day.

“There”, Shamus thought, “tha’ twer somethin’ I have needed to do for qui’ a while”, and with a start, made off for the rock pile.

Considering the still calm left in the wake of the departed storm, Shamus climbed nimbly into a shooting position among the rocks that, had the wind and snow been whipping about, he would have avoided.

There among the rocks, with his trusty yet fairly new L.C. Smith double gun perched in his lap, Shamus looked up and was greeted with a welcome sight. Just as he had hoped, the swarms of big canvasbacks were picking up little by little, flock by flock, from the flats of wild celery, mussel beds, and protected waters of the small bay, and were beginning to head back out to the bigger waters of the Chesapeake. Shamus knew the gunning would be swift, and just as this thought entered his mind, they appeared. A huge flock came barreling down the little creek in hopes of making the big water. The closer they came, the faster it appeared they flew. Closer and faster still, until Shamus could here their mighty wing beats only inches above the water; he could here the “ching” of the cash register and could feel the fire while sitting on the lamplighter Gavin’s hearth. In one motion, the safety off and hunter rising to meet the mighty hordes from the North, one moment and the feeling he’d waited so long for would finally be here………one moment.


As the clouds pushed from the nether land that was your dreams, it becomes apparent that true to form, you’d hit the snooze three too many times. Although the alarm clock finally did its job, it was a half hour too late. Crazily, you toss on your clothes and almost tear the dog’s head off as you pushed him in his box. The wife, still asleep, quietly wishes you good luck as you kiss her forehead.

Thankful you had loaded the four-wheeler and blind bag last night, you tear out from the driveway, almost knocking the neighbor’s mailbox out of the ground in the process and hustle off down the road. Once on the interstate, you turn on the local radio station for a weather report as you missed it last night.

After a couple of songs, the morning radio personality begins his daily diatribe, “Good morning everyone and Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!!!! Today’s gonna be a bad one folks, with the storm that blew in last night accompanied by high winds and plummeting temperatures, it’ll be a Thanksgiving to remain in doors with your……….”

And, with that announcement, you tune the radio out and think about your dream and mumble to yourself, “Nah, couldn’t be……………….could it?”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"A Call Remembered"

Not long ago I had someone from an internet duck hunting forum contact me concerning the making of a call...two calls actually. The calls were to be a father and son set, celebrating a birthday. Being highly honored, I accepted. The thing is, as messages where traded back and forth, I realized that this was a bit more than "just a call". The daddy, rightfully so, wanted the call to be "just so". Questions like "do you want antler to be used?", "contrasting woods?", "brass bands, stainless steel bands, etc?", were all met with either "no" or "I'm not sure, what do you think?"

After a week or so of just not knowing what to do, I came across a story I had read a long time ago - "The Neglected Duck Call" by Nash Buckingham. In that fabled tale, Mr. Buck lamented on duck calling and duck call making in general. Several "collectable" characters make appearances including Perry Hooker and Tom Turpin - either of which, if you can find a call in some estate sale made by these two, consider holding onto them like grim death.

Quietly, I closed the book when the tale was done, setting it back in it's proper place, and sometime around 3 a.m. I turned a call.

This call was turned from a memory. A memory of a call that I had never really paid much attention to until it was most assuredly too late. Yet, this call bares a story. Not an epic mind you, but a memory that tugs at me every time I think of taking the fly rod out, every time I think of the Rockies, every time I think of him - my Granddad.

Pm'ing the father, I declared, "let's forget about bands and other embellishments, but rather, let's give your son something more valuable. Let's give him a call graced with a blessing and a story!"

This is that story:

"HOLY CRAP MAN! SLOW THE HELL DOWN, YOU'RE GONNA TO KILL US," exclaimed Magic as my old trusty Jeep Cherokee slid damned near off the levee. It didn't matter, this was the last weekend of the season, it had started sleeting - sideways I might add - and we were headed to camp. GranGran had been there since Sunday night, as he was every year. He only left camp during duck season on Saturday evenings, heading home to be there for Sunday service and dinner at our house. This was pretty much his schedule since we lost MaMaa some ten years prior. Daddy had gotten someone to come fill in at the store and had been there all day, calling and telling momma that the greenheads where thick.

"Cajun" of course was there. Much to the chagrin of Gran Gran. I can't figure it, but there was always a bit of tension between them. I guess, looking back, it was more just a lifestyle difference than anything. But, they got along well enough I suppose, particularly when daddy was around to buffer things.

So there I was running breakneck on a tiny levee, that was rapidly freezing over in Northeast Louisiana, headed to the camp, with only thoughts of food and fun on my mind.

Considering the sloppy conditions, the torrid pace, and the intrepid arguing concerning farting and smoking in the truck, courtesy of Chunk, we were lucky to make it there alive. Not to mention feeling ten foot tall, bulletproof and in rather jovial spirits per the peach shine we were sipping - compliments of Cajun. But made it we did, right at dark, and thus convened another meeting of the minds. Around the campfire we sat eating my dads famous hamburgers which were drenched in some of the best BBQ sauce I've ever tasted. I ask what is better than sitting around a fire, eating burgers, laughing with your best friends? That night, around the fire we told old tales concerning snipe hunts, an atheist graveyard, and questioned what Freddy Moore had going on at his store. That particular part of the evening brought cold stares from my daddy, who knew we often bartered with Freddy Moore for beer. A deers rib meat or a stringer of fish might get us a case or so, a hind quarter a bit more. So was the way we dealt with Freddy Moore and his country sto'. Seemingly others dealt with him differently because we were always seeing folks come from the back of the store and we always had the same question, "why where they all the way out here getting gas...they lived in town." At the time, a question we figured would go unanswered.

Maybe it was Cajun and Daddy's refusal to tell a story, saying only, "our time is past, you've heard them all, you are the ones with the stories now" or maybe it was the noticeable absence of Gran Gran - who never missed a night around the camp fire - hell, maybe it was all of it, but something was gnawing at me. Something I just couldn't quite place, but things were different.

Late that night after everyone but me, Daddy and Cajun had gone to bed, the sleet turned to snow and the winds abated. With concern in my heart and curiosity on my mind, I asked Daddy about "how Gran Gran was doing". I was met with a tired, truly tired like I had never seen nor hope to again, expression and a "I'm going to bed". Cajun merely handed me his flask and walked into the cold night, beckoning me to follow.

We walked forever that night, well past midnight in fact, not really heading anywhere, but definitely going somewhere. Down the road that led to the camp, back to the levee, over it and slipping all the way down the far side, we finally came to a stop at a rice field that some other hands from town were leasing. And, all we did was listen. Thousands of ducks chattered together, fresh arrivals on a new North wind. I remember that night and it's sounds like it was yesterday. Everything that could quack was doing just that, and it melted together into a symphony like none other. Taking sips and passing the flask, me and Jim just sat there in awed silence. After a while, Cajun asked how things were since "we found out", but taking notice of how uncomfortable I became at having to answer grown up questions, quickly changed the subject by stating, "Justin, never forget the past because you never know how it will affect your future." And that was it. Nothing else was said until we got all the way back to the camp. Our hands, ears and nose where cold as Dante's hell. Having had enough of Jim's brew, I started to bed and Cajun just about knocked me over clapping me on the back exclaiming, "Helluba good talk we hab toni'!" Seemingly, ole Jim was damned near as snookered as I was, off his own brew no less.

The next morning found us graced with about 2 inches of fresh fallen snow and me with a stupendous hang over. I had never hunted in such before, and despite the little African in my head with the ball peen hammer, couldn't quite contain my jubilation. Quickly getting dressed, I ran over to the grownups trailer to wake them. Cajun and Daddy were sitting at the domino's table drinking coffee and smiling. Seems they found the little boy in them as well that morning.....and Gran Gran slept.

We were all going to hunt to hunt the "woodpecker hole" that morning, so Daddy and Jim rode up front and me, Chunk, and Magic were to make the short ride to the boat launch in the truck bed.

Not being able to stand it, I stalked back into the trailer to get Gran Gran up myself. I walked in and could hear him snoring soundly. Looking at a chair sitting around the domino's table, I saw his call and thought, "well, if he ain't gonna go, I'll take this thing with me." But, I couldn't. I just sat there, staring at that call in utter disgust and anger. Anger at what was going on and anger at "finding out". Dammit, I wished that call would burst into flames right before my eyes that day. Over my shoulder came a solemn voice, "the chemo just works on him Justin.....he'll be out there tomorrow, I'll make sure of it." Turning back I faced my daddy's downcasted gaze. Confused and frustrated, I started to say something, couldn't, and just walked out to the truck.

That call, the one he wore around his neck all those years, the one he killed all those ducks with, the one I never really noticed at all............that call.

This call:

Custom Fiddleback Walnut Duck Call

To the future owners of this call (and the other), may it do for you what it's memory has done for me.

To my GranGran, you gave it and got it over Europe in WW2 for God and Country, you lived it and taught it to your friends and family along the way, yet your greatest gift is how bad it hurts to say, "I miss you".

"Of Gumbo"


It's with honest trepidation that I even post this. In fact, my hands are refusing to type as well as they normally do. Over the last year, I've realized that there is a story in everything, and growing up in the south, a boy can experience much the 'everyday joe' doesn't. So, I started writing. At first, I wanted to be the next Hemingway and bring stories to life through drunken eloquence or the next Buckingham with the added rawness of the day, but nowadays I just want to be me.

This story you're about to read is the beginning of the character development that I hope one day (several years from now) finds me in an editors office, working out "a deal". It started a year or so ago, with little notes here and there about my boyhood and my friends from the day. We called ourselves the "Heads or Tails Hunting Team" (don't worry, you'll find out why sometime). Thick as thieves we were, running backroads at night, dodging the 'laws', just having fun. But, until you've hopped up the memories with imagination and outright lies, it'll only be worth reading for you. Thus, the characters while mostly tangible assets, are portrayed as I 'viewed' them both then and 'characters'.

If you find yourself ever asking, "man, I wonder if ole Gator is pulling my leg", I will only respond with -- Every story I tell there's but one absolute truth......that 8/10 of it is 20% true.

I thank the guys that initially read it several months ago: IRONGRIP, for giving credence to the recipe at hand, GordonGekko and Champcaller for the honest critique, Gordon and RJohnson for reminding my I like making a gumbo last night as we waited on it to 'get ready',and also a character in this story that reads this board and has never posted. When told of my ideas and plans he merely stated, "well, don't have me as no crackhead."

Lastly to my bud DoubleR, for showing me through his own 'lifes work' that sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns and "do it yourdamnedself".

Truly, this is just the start.

“Of Gumbo”

By Justin Harrison

There have been numerous influences in my life, but very few have been as strong as the little no named duck club which sat under the pin oaks on the banks of the Ouachita River. So strong in fact that if the wind blows right, I can shut my eyes and see the characters that made that place so special. Invariably, you notice Jim, “self-proclaimed” best friend of my father. Yep, there’d Jim be, or as us kids called him “Cajun”, fussin over the roux. He used one cup of flour and ¾ cup of oil, that according to Jim, was “de’ perfectest combonasheeon”. The stirring piece of Cajun's arsenal was a humongous wooden spoon that Gran Gran, my granddad and leader of this motley crew, was quite certain doubled as Jim's boat paddle. For a kid, one of the things that made Cajun larger than life was his total, undeniable disdain for the nuiances and order of everyday living. Such that is was and to a great spite of my Gran Gran's, often Jim was found making said roux sporting not much else but his “personals” and boots. Fortunately for Jim's place amongst the camp and concerning a pot of gumbo, the man simply had no equal. He was truly a Picasso when left to his own devices, a living tribute to his South Louisiana upbringing. Cajun used to boast in an oft drunken slur that, “eben me gran b’ named Roux, didn’ she wuz Mike.” Heck even Gran Gran, realized the importance of letting Jim handle this measure of the proceedings. Graciously, he resigned himself to the peeling of shrimp or crawfish and shucking oysters when the season and money allowed, picking ducks and geese when they didn’t. Either way, the old man would be wearing a button up shirt freshly pressed, a pair of woolen pants tucked into his socks, while donning knee-high leather boots, a throwback to days he can’t let go of.

Over in the other corner on the chopping block, you had daddy and Harold B cutting up chickens, ducks, andouille sausage, celery, onions of yellow and green, and bell peppers. Hunched over the block, they talked in whispers hoping “us kids” wouldn’t hear the snipe hunting and bootlegging stories of their youth. This was in all probability the first time I ever heard the term “holy trinity” when not in reference to some baptismal procedure. Understanding the Catholisism of the area and the importance of onions, celery and bell peppers to a meal as heaven sent as gumbo, the title seems duly justified. Given to such, I suppose now would be an appropriate time for the reader to take full stock of the “cutting” procedure. You NEVER (emphasis of the men of that camp) breast a duck or goose or bone a chicken. Rather, you pick them whole and cut into them into smaller pieces such as legs, thighs and halves. The use of these pieces are to follow, but rest quietly knowing they were “bone on”.

Depending on a number of issues, none of which matter here, you’d most likely find Big Ronnie and Danny D minding the boil pots. Rendering a duck, goose or chicken broth from the pieces daddy and Harold B produced, they kept a close eye on me and my crew seated around the fire. Sometimes the shrimp and crawfish peelings Gran Gran divvied up would be used to make broth too, remembering of course the seasonal and monetary ebb and flow one will experience throughout a given year.

Throughout the mix that was my upbringing, you’d be hard-pressed not to see my buds Magic, Chunk, Ifee, or Skillet sitting on the logs encircling the fire pit roasting hotdogs because per Chunk, “that gumbo just takes too damned long to make.” Magic and Chunk, were two brothers that were as different as night and day. Magic trusting in the Word from the time of his conception, and Chunk trusting his hangover wouldn’t last all day. Somehow, that camp allowed them to meet in the middle, which made ole Harold B (their dad) pretty damned happy. We should all be so lucky. Ifee’s nickname stems from my Gran Gran considering his fondness of the drink even at such a young age. Having just caught Ifee red-handed in Jim’s peach shine Gran Gran exclaimed, “Danny, it ain’t so much ifee gonna drink, it’s when.” Somehow, “whenee” just didn’t sound right so Ifee as born. As a quick aside, he was Danny D’s oldest boy, and took many a butt chewing over being drunk at the camp. The chewings didn’t take, and last I heard, he spent some time in rehab drying out. Pretty sure that didn’t take either. And finally you’d see Skillet, Big Ronnie’s boy who so affectionately was named by my dad b/c “rare was it he went hunting and brought back anything fit for the damned thing.” These four friends and I were as tight as a miser’s clutch upon two bits. Most have remained that way, though time and life refuse to allow full disclosure of our memories altogether.

The camp itself was nothing more than a bunch of 1960’s fifth wheels and “come alongs”, stacked end to end with a trailer thrown in as the centerpiece for good measure. Really though, it seemed like the Taj Mahal, and we were the lords of the manor. Insignificant to the world though it may have been; that camp left me with more memories and laughter than one man should be granted in a fully drawn lifetime. Strong was its hold on me. Sadly enough and stronger still is the longing to be back there. All too quick did several characters decide to wake up on the wrong side of the dirt. All too quick were we to move on to other camps and pursuits after Gran Gran and Jim passed. Yep, that camp taught me a myriad of things alright. A few that come to mind are that when the calling commences please find yourself politely next to a tree, “thanky-kindly”, contrary to today’s belief system, a properly bred cocker spaniel can be a retrieving machine if given ample opportunity, and also that decoys are nothing more than salve for the hunter if the ducks want in. Per ole Cajun, “they’s com’n boy, we’s ain’t bringin no heavy sack o' decoys if’n we’s don’ be needin too”. The men of that camp also taught me a number of recipes to which I hold dear. Some standing guard at the front line of my memories are mouth watering dishes such as smoked pork loin stuffed with jambalaya and covered in a raspberry sauce, pot roasted teal, fried duck drizzled in honey with a side of tomato gravy and cat-head biscuits, and bacon wrapped wood ducks drenched in homemade ranch dressing. Lastly, a simple truth was stamped into my gray matter that declares there ain’t many pursuits in life as dedicated as a tired, cold and hungry hunter. Now, this last one would be the key to what I’m driving at. You see, there’s not so much a right way to make gumbo because a hand may legally put most anything, up to but certainly not limited to hard boiled eggs, in a gumbo and still rightfully call it such. In fact, if you enjoy it by itself, odds are strong you will appreciate it that much more in such a concoction that is to become your gumbo.

Thing is though, you gotta play it smart. Several truths hold regarding the making of a good pot of gumbo. They can be noted as the following, and should be committed to memory accordingly. First off, if you don’t have the time nor the desire to stand over your roux stirring with a wooden spoon for a few hours, today’s not the day to undertake the making of such. Secondly, no self-respecting gumbo will be found without a healthy population of the aforementioned trinity. Furthermore, corn and tomatoes in a gumbo pot are borderline blasphemy and should be added at the makers own risk, and only if the cupboard is completely bare of necessary items. Interestingly enough, while a certain amount of meat and seafood is required, pretty much anything from possums to coons will suffice. Also, while very little equipment is necessary, a roux should be made only in a large cast iron skillet or pot that’s been burdened w/ layers of burned in grease. All else shall be added henceforth. And the last great commission concerning this matter is that gumbo in its truest form is meant for friends and family, thus making solitary confinement an undesirable situation for the maker. Great care and credit to the men, brothers at arms, for passing along such wisdom to a cotton-topped, big eyed child.

There you have it, the making of a proper gumbo as heralded by that bunch of hunting brethren found from the late 60’s to the mid-90’s under that same bunch of pin oaks. Leisurely they sat supping around the fire, calmed by the sweet serenity of the nearby river and ever present wind, leaving the switch marks of the worlds disappointments behind. O’ to be back!

Time smarts and memories therein haunt those who’ve spent a life collecting the latter and running from the former. Realizing the pain in this, and in order to grant full disclosure, I must add the footnote of how I would enjoy such a day as a good ole gumbo cooking. Well, for me and mine, I’d call up Magic and Skillet, who by happenstance, fate, or God’s work now live within a 5 mile radius of my wife and me. Magic would be on veggies, Skillet on meats, the wives would go shopping, and I’d be commandeering the roux, as only ole Cajun could before me. We’d call up daddy, Harold B, and Big Ronnie to invite them, though given the mileage between us and them, they’d most likely thank us and slink back to their now well broken in easy chairs. At some point the talk would probably turn to Gran Gran, and how he thought it a must to be properly attired to eat said meal. We'd toast the camp nestled quietly beneath those pin oaks at the river’s edge, and we’d probably even talk about ole Jim, his life, and strangely, his funeral. Truly something to behold, considering the South MS Coon Hound Association showed up in full regalia sporting skull lanterns, knee boots, and an army of barking, howling blue ticks, walkers and redbones. Man, could those mutts howl. I suppose in their own way, they bayed and yapped an outlaw tune, betrayed at loosing one of the few. After that, and at several points in between, I’d pour from the bottle into a silver flask Cajun gave me, a bit of whiskey to pass around. At some point, we might actually eat the gumbo. Of gumbo, as the ghosts of that little no named camp which sat under the pin oaks on the banks of the Ouchita River deeded. Simply speaking, a gumbo enjoyed the way it was meant to be.