Before Instagram and Youtube, Duck Dynasty and Meateater and Charlie Moore, before Facebook and viral videos and podcasts, there were heroes.
Not the kind in Marvel, or Justice League, or whatever the franchise du jour is . . . Real, honest to God heroes.
These were men that packed a metal lunchbox and drove ’83 Oldsmobiles and worked their 40 at the office or the yard or the site, then came home and kissed their pretty wife and, exhausted, helped with homework, or played catch, or watched the game. Sunday’s were for Sunday School and church, and maybe, if you were real lucky and the paycheck had been kind, a trip to Morrison’s cafeteria or Quincy’s buffet for lunch . . .
But, on Saturdays . . . On Saturdays, these men were heroes.
Remember the time he took you and Billy Hester to the boat ramp at Lake Cannon and you guys caught bluegills off the bed as fast as humanly possible? Bream bigger than your hand, slurping earthworms . . . that picture is still floating around somewhere, of you with your goofy t-ball hat and him, looking strangely like you do now, and a stringer full of fish and smiles . . .
Or how about the time you all chipped in for a dove field . . . $80 a person, 20 guys, and Mr. Baker planted the millet just like he had all the other seasons, but this year, well this year something just went right and the birds came in, wave after wave after wave, from every direction.
Can you remember him coming home with a Brittany from the classifieds in the paper? He worked with Copper just enough to drag the pup to the quail grounds one Saturday, and, just like in so many paintings, there was a point, a flush, and birds brought to hand . . . You wondered how did he know how that would work.
There were nights at the trestle, snook after snook over the side of the boat, every bait resulting in a fish or a break off. There were bull redfish and bull sharks, flounder and snapper and sheepshead and trout.
There was the trick to unhooking a catfish with a stick . . . Or how to remove a hook that had embedded into the skin . . . Turning a zara spook into a marionette and watching it dance 30 yards from the boat . . . Calling owls up to the campfire . . . Somehow, intrinsically, always knowing where the turkey would come out of the swamp . . .
How about the love for it, all of it, that he passed on to you . . . the yodel of a gobbler bouncing off cat-faced pine trees, sounding like it was right in front of you and all around you at the same time . . . the blue on a redfish tail when it caught the sun just right, a blue not like you’d find in any crayon box, heck, maybe not anywhere else in nature; electric and soft at the same time. The way he could tell, at 125 yards, that those were redheads or wood ducks or herons, and how calm he stayed as they approached.
Saturdays were full of snacks, of Vienna sausages and powdered donuts and Pepsi made with real sugar and tasting coffee straight out of the thermos. Folded up baggies with PB and J’s, so soaked in Granny’s blackberry jelly that your fingers would get sticky on the outside of the bread.
In a time when the world seems to have tilted just a hair too far off it’s axis, when virtual reality has somehow supplanted reality, when boys seem to endeavor to stay boys as long as possible, isn’t this the time to remember those men?
Before there were Xboxes and Nintendos, Google and iPhones and WaypointTV, before there was HeviShot and Mojo’s and surface drives, there were heroes . . .
We usually called them “Dad.”
Happy Father’s Day!