Daddy abandoned me as a child.
I mean repeatedly, like every 10 days or so. It was a side effect of two things: His stubbornness and my slackness.
Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that when those two clash, slackness is going to win nine times out of 10.
Daddy was a big bear hunter. Outside of some religious mystics, I’ve never seen anyone so dedicated to something as he was to chasing bear.
Understand, those days were different. You had to go deep, deep into the woods to get on a bear track. Bears were few and were very wary of humans. You had to drive for miles and walk for miles more and know a lot of woodcraft just to put yourself in the same zip code as a bear.
In other words, you had to take a great many steps that can now be replicated by the simple act of putting up a bird feeder.
Ta-da! Instant bear!
Anyway, Daddy could flow through the woods like water up until he was in his 70s, and somewhere along the line he picked up the habit of “breaking” young hunters – running them until they were mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted. He’d put my two older brothers through that, at least one brother-in-law, and countless other unsuspecting young wanna-be sportsmen.
Now, bear season ran a limited time, but that didn’t keep him out of the woods. No, there were dogs to be trained, possum and coons to be pursued.
Hunters to be broken.
That’s where my turn came around.
Only, I had an ace up my sleeve: The art of giving up.
I’m pretty sure I developed it due to my exposure to higher math. When Savannah, Sylva and Webster schools merged into Fairview, I was tossed into computer class. I didn’t get it. Didn’t come close. In high school algebra was even less gotten. In college … well, I’d still be in college trying to pass Algebra 1 if they hadn’t stuck me in a remedial math summer class in order to be shed of me.
I realized when it came to math I’d never get it, so my time was better spent giving up and doing something else.
Using this same line of reasoning, after Daddy would run me up and down and around the mountains working up to a good breakin’, I’d just give up. Sit down, go limp, full Gandhi.
I think it drove him slightly insane, because that was not the point. At all.
But after a few rounds of this, because there were still coons to be trailed and dogs to be trained and caught, he’d just leave me there. I’d curl up in my coat, generally two sizes too big either because it was a hand-me-down or purchased that way because I’d grow into it, and listen to the sounds of the forest at night. Those were wonderfully contemplative moments, catching a glimpse of a shooting star or pondering the sound of a motor far off in the distance and wondering who would be out at such an hour.
These incidents generally occurred when it was too cold for snakes to be about, and I was never afraid of anything else in the woods, so I developed a peace at being alone up on some hillside that bordered on unhealthy, I guess.
But I knew Daddy would always come back.
And he always did.
Besides, this was before bears were comfortable with being around humans. Plus, I figured if a bear was around, too bad for the bear.
They were on dangerous turf.
Daddy was out there somewhere in the dark.
Buchanan is editor of The Sylva Herald.