In order for me to tell you about the hero of this tale, so you can truly get a sense of the man, I'll have to share some confidential information about a few "villains." I hope the statute of limitations has expired.
- What exactly is wrong with you?
- You are going to clean that up, aren't you?
- You aren't going to eat that, are you?
- Are the kids going to turn out like you?
But one line of spousal interrogation over the weekend sparked my interest, and I figured it worthy of a column, if not an entire manifest or thesis paper:
"Why in the world are you wearing camouflage? Are you going hunting?"
My naïve questions must have seemed awfully silly and distracting to her, judging by the way she almost mistook my head for a piece of round steak she was tenderizing with a mallet. But when you combine life's two greatest enigmas - women and computers - I don't know whether to boot up, restart, or call the IT department for dating tips.
She slides her hands along her body, pausing where the bullet entered her back and shattered her spine.
Her voice drops to a whisper when she describes her fear and helplessness, reliving the moment she changed from a fourteen year-old high school student to an accidental victim of a drive-by shooting.
"I just screamed," Williams said. "All I could do was scream."
You can learn a lot from a dummy, says my kid, especially when the dummy takes you on a few father-son hunting trips.
Despite my personal lack of success this deer season (the AP and BCS polls have me finishing this season ranked just outside the Top 25 at No. 26 and a half, behind all the hunters who know what they are doing, a couple of Girl Scouts, and my mom, who has killed three deer with her new minivan), my kid and I learned a lot this fall, and here is just a sample of that knowledge I'd like to share with you:
I recently had the rare opportunity to enjoy an overnight camping trip with my son and a group of local Cub Scouts at beautiful Lake Warren State Park here in Hampton County, S.C. Let me begin by saying that I was very impressed with both the program and the behavior of the children.
Right now, sitting on my desk, is a request from a local school inviting me to attend Career Day. (And it will remain sitting there, covered with dust while I try to ignore it, until the nice school lady calls me up and tells me what a great job I did last time and they would love having me back, and then I'll probably feel guilty and cave in. I'm a sucker. Darn kids.)
Nevertheless, that legendary, brave, trustworthy, fabled Hampton County hunting guide, Jimmie Polk, invited me to participate in a "redneck buddy dove shoot" last week at Legacy Farms near Luray, where I learned a lot about the fast-paced, often frantic sport of redneck buddy dove shooting.
The article touched many Guardian readers deeply (especially my wife, who threw my supper to the dogs), including Mr. Jim Faison of Hampton, who called and left me a very nice phone message.
My wife and I were walking around the yard the other day, hand in hand, just taking a romantic tour of the front lawn and sharing our feelings (which means that basically I was listening to her blab on and on. She has a lot of feelings, you know), when I heard a loud conversation drifting over the afternoon air from one of our neighbor's houses.
I've been a parent long enough (it seems like 100 years, give or take a rec soccer game or two) to know that the whole back-to-school thing is for the birds.
No, I'm not worried about the kids. Those little monsters are tough. They can take care of themselves. But why should I, a man who has already paid his debt to society and been paroled from education, have to get up early, fix breakfast, pack a lunch, put on long britches for the first time all summer, and then drive through traffic to a school I escaped from years ago, all before 9 a.m.?
That's right, folks. Reality TV. Forget nuclear holocaust, global warming, and the Democrats taking over Washington. Reality TV - and the helpless people who watch, like my poor wife - is what's going to be the end of us and our great modern civilization.
But my calendar also tells me that heatstroke season and sand gnat season and West Nile skeeter season and water moccasin season are also in, so truthfully I'm in no big hurry to get out there. I might be a hunting fanatic, but I ain't crazy. They'll be plenty of big ones left out there in October. And there might even be some deer left, too.
And Mr. Ben Gay will come visit you at least once a week, a smelly buddy that your spouse really doesn't approve of.
But after my most recent trip to the old age doctor (she's my doctor, I'll call her that if I want to. You call your doctor whatever you like!), I brought home about three billion new friends: live bacteria.
That's right. You guessed it. I was on vacation.
As I stared up at those blinding, bright lights of the ER ceiling, the meds quickly forcing me into drowsy La-La Land, still wearing my favorite vacation shorts and flip flops, I heard a voice from beyond: