My Dad an Inspiration

My dad was an inspiration to me at every turn in my life. I grew up in Smalltown USA where there was little else for a man and boy to do but hunt and fish. He took me hunting at a new place he had found when I was fourteen. It was an old plantation, 1500 acres landlocked by the Ogeechee River on three sides, too treacherous for even deer to escape. He parked at the railroad track and we walked deep into the woods where wild hogs and bear tracks were everywhere. We found rail bowties that Sherman’s soldiers had left on the old railroad bed, the remains of burned boxcars still preserved on high ground and even shards of rifles discarded by Rebel soldiers in the fray. We were having so much fun discovering history that we forgot about the time it would take to walk back to the car. Even worse, we forgot in which direction the car was to be found.
It was beginning to drizzle and the dampness was giving me a chill. My dad motioned for me to follow him to a big oak tree. He pushed me back against the tree and said, “Just listen for anything human and I’ll do the same on the other side of this tree.” I stood there a long time listening to the soft patter of light rain on the leaves. Owls were waking, crows heading home, the Brown Thrush calling for the small vermin to crawl into their nests. Finally, I heard something human. I didn’t know what it was, so I cupped both ears and strained to hear it again. There! It sounded like a board breaking far away. Like a doe, I moved my cupped ears in that direction and willed myself to cut out the sound of rain. Again, the noise! Not a board breaking but a load of lumber falling. Aha, a big truck bouncing on the lip of a bridge. Then the sound of an 18-wheeler’s horn blaring. But how far? It sounded like miles. Dad came around the tree and said, “I guess you heard that!” I agreed. It didn’t matter how far, it was the direction. So he picked a tree behind and a tree to walk toward. We “blazed” that trail toward the sound we had heard that once, until we came to a sandy roadbed going in the same direction. It was well into the night when we found the railroad. “Which way?” Left we turned and found the car within a mile.
Have you ever stood in a wilderness in the pitch black night and listened? Lord, it was amazing! A fox yipping, bobcat mewing–I didn’t know they mewed. I heard a swamp panther scream one night. It sounded like a grown woman scared to death. Insects all around, wild dogs barking and howling in the distance, deer hounds still on the trail. Did you know that the keepers often had to chase their dogs down to make them stop hunting. I’ll tell you about the wild dog I caught one day and led a half a mile back to camp before he got over the shock and turned to attack. The woods came alive at night. I was sorry we had to leave that symphony of sounds. But we went back, again and again. I did love hunting with my dad.
Many times since I have lost my way in life. I have found a big tree to lean against and listen. In the city trees are scarce, sometimes only a wall can be found to lean upon. There I stand in silence until I hear it. From there I blaze a trail to a new beginning.