A Springtime Walk in the Deep Swamp

Going into the swamp on our farm can be a less than pleasant experience if your timing isn’t right. In late fall and winter you have to be on the lookout for hunters. Our land is posted, but Bubba and Junior ain’t above a little trespassing.  You know the type―they get bored when they don’t see any deer after the first few minutes and start shooting dogs, cows, and anything else that moves. I have this recurring vision of Bubba wiping away tears as he tells the TV reporter how sorry he is that he shot me, and that he truly believed that I was a deer when he pulled the trigger.

In the summer months, the mosquitoes and yellow flies make you miserable, and rattlesnakes and cottonmouth moccasins are abundant in the thick undergrowth. They can have the place as far as I’m concerned.  But in the early spring the swamp is nice. Bubba and Junior are out on some lake fishin’, drinking beer, and discussing important issues, like whether or not rasslin’ is fake. The snakes and mosquitoes are still groggy from their long winter’s nap, and it’s a good time for a walk in the woods.

There’s a length of chain that loops around the gate and hooks over a rusty nail to keep the gate closed. I unhook the chain and push the gate open wide enough to pass through. As I close it and hook the chain back on the nail, there’s a gnawing anxiety that I won’t get it back tight enough. If you leave slack in the chain, the cows can get their noses in the crack between the gate and the post and force the gate open. Then the whole herd gets loose in the swamp and it’ll take a few days and a lot of work to get everybody back where they belong.

I’ve had my ass beat about that one. It was a long time ago, but when my old man beats your ass with a hickory limb, you remember it. He is old now and he can’t beat anybody’s ass anymore―he can just barely walk―but I guess you might say it’s been ingrained into my psychological makeup to latch that gate back properly.

Stepping through the gate is a step back in time for me.  I won’t say how many years, but it’s been a lot of ‘em.  Going through that gate takes me into a world that’s still pretty much just the way it was when I was a small boy―I can’t think of any place else like that…


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