Thursday, October 22, 2009

Growing Up With Giants

It wasn’t easy living with giants. Like Jack, who planted the magic beans and scaled the stalk up into the sky and the land of giants, I found myself surrounded by beings that towered over me. Unlike him, my experience wasn’t a fable.

Jack found himself among giants by way of magic beans. I arrived there by birth. My father was six-foot-four, and his brothers were just as tall. To many, they were huge, fearful beings. Knowing them from birth removed most of my fear, but not my sense of awe. Only when they played “catch” and used me for a ball was I truly afraid.

Watching them at work and play was amazing. It was like watching huge construction cranes moving tremendous payloads while building a skyscraper. Cutting firewood, picking corn, hanging sheetrock, painting a house, or butchering a hog all seemed like child’s play to these giants, who effortlessly performed the work while laughing and joking.

Even more amazing was tagging along with them on a quail hunt. Their long legs and giant strides made it impossible to keep up, but by double-timing I could stay close enough to witness some of the action. Truthfully, they waited on me a lot, and patiently allowed me to catch up to them and their dogs in time to have a shot on a covey rise or a single bird.

At the end of every hunt we’d sit around and clean the birds and the men would recount the hunt from start to finish. They could remember every covey, every single, every time a dog pointed, and every shot they made. It seemed odd to them that I couldn’t, and incredible to me that they had such wonderful recall of a whirlwind of events. They made incredible shots look easy, and recounted them as if they were describing something ordinary.

Watching them eat was as incredible as Jack’s descriptions of a giant’s meal. They could put the food away in amazing quantities. An entire covey of quail would disappear, except for the pile of bones that accumulated on the edge of their plates. Biscuits and gravy, green vegetables and potatoes were consumed in abundance, and all washed down with gallons of sweet tea. Their mother or sister would usually ask “All right L.T., what kind of pie do you want? Coconut, chocolate, pecan, or sweet potato? and the answer was always a grin and a single answer, “Yes!”

Fishing was an amazing experience with these giants, too. One of my earliest memories is watching Uncle Bennie dive into the pond and retrieve a rod-and-reel that had been pulled underwater by a bass. He broke the surface like a breeching whale, with the rod and the bass that had stolen it. I remember my Dad catching fish before I was big enough to fish, and spent hours under the tutelage of my Uncle Durward as he taught me to fish for bass and crappie on Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

On one rare occasion we went camping, but it was awkward trying to sleep in a small tent with these gargantuan men. Truth be told, my cousin Ken and I probably slept more than they did, but even the heat and the mosquitoes didn’t cause them to quit.

Many memories flash by as I recall life with them. Duck hunts, chasing squirrels in the bottoms, robbing the bee hives, working cattle, and hauling hay. Picnics at the lake stand out, along with freezers of ice cream and cold watermelons.

One of my giants fell last week. Uncle Durward broke his hip in his home, developed complications, and even though he was rushed to Houston and the best hospitals, the doctors couldn’t save him. He went on to that land above that he loved so well, that place where his hero and Lord dwells. He spent much of his life showing and telling others about heaven, but it’s hard to accept the fact that he’s gone there, too.

I can see him now, among the giants of the faith, standing tall among those who welcomed him home. He embraces his mother and daughter who went before him, turns with a smile and waves to his wife, his brothers, his son, and to me as if to say, “Come on, you’ll love it up here.” It’s just like him to pave the way for the rest of us. It’s easy to follow when giants lead the way.

His passing has given me more courage to be a giant for those who are following me; to spend more quality time with my family; to be a good influence on those around me. To hunt, fish, love, and worship with enthusiasm so that one day I can turn and beckon to my loved ones and say, “Come on, follow me. It’s not scary at all. There are giants here to keep us all safe.”

- written and published for the Outdoor Press by my dear friend Charles Bridwell

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