Occasionally I get to break from this maddening world and go hunting. When I return my wife, many times, will glance out the kitchen window, looking toward the bed of my truck and ask, “Did you get anything?” My quick response, most times, is, “Nope.” In the early part of our marriage, she thought I was one of the worst hunters in the world. You see, I lied to her about where I was going on many of those mornings. I didn’t go hunting at all; I went to see my psychiatrist. Not the kind that has a sign out front of a building and a plaque on the wall but the kind that is open 24 hours a day. To me sitting in the woods or in a duck blind when that first faint sliver of light starts over the horizon is just like the first day of school in the first grade. It’s a new beginning. As the morning progresses, wildlife starts showing all around. The raccoons are headed back to their den from a night of pillaging, the ducks are leaving their roosting area and headed toward food, the squirrels start bouncing from tree limb to tree limb, and distant traffic can be heard. Sure, I have brought home plenty of deer, ducks, and squirrels, but during the times I am outdoors, I can close the door on the world and enter a fourth dimension where time and space are spread out and simultaneously tied together.
It gives me time to fondly reflect on hunting and fishing trips long passed. Many times I feel the presence of family and friends that taught me the wonders of the outdoors. I am drawn back to my youth and sense the presence of many teachers that have long since passed. Yet, there they are right beside me, congratulating me on the successful hunting or fishing trip, laughing with me on a misplaced shot or snagged fishing line. Occasionally, the faint smoky smell of burning red oak from a neighbor’s fireplace or wood heater travels through the woods. Childhood memories of visiting grandparents drifts back to me, and I recall opening the warmer on the side of the oven where one of my grandmothers kept what was left over from breakfast. There was always meat and biscuits and a few strips of fried fat back available whenever someone got hungry before lunch, and the handmade chocolate fried pies my other grandmother made got equal billing. I can still taste the butter, sugar, and chocolate all melted together, dripping out of the crispy dough.
It gives me a chance to count my blessings and be thankful for what I have. It does not matter what is going on outside of my current zone. I am visiting with my psychiatrist.
When taking clients around looking at land, we usually ride in either my truck or my ATV which will hold five or six people. Some come from foreign locales, such as Wisconsin, California, and Memphis, Tenn. They come to Mississippi to work, have a climate change, to retire, and many other reasons.
Over the years, I have noticed the change that many of them go through as they get away from whatever is lurking behind them when they get out on the land. They stop looking at their phone every 10 seconds and don’t answer it most of the time when it rings. Worry lines on their faces start disappearing, their mood is different, and words come out of their mouth slower. Stress seems to have left them, and their blood pressure has probably dropped some. A smile appears that wasn’t there when we first met. Their children look in amazement at the wonders of the outdoors they are not accustomed to seeing every day. The smell of a cotton field full of open bolls, the coyote slipping around trying to be unnoticed, bobwhite quail calling for their mate, and cattle grazing in the pasture unfazed by our presence. How many of these children have ever walked across a log that crosses a creek, chunked a rock and counted how many times it skipped across a pond, or swung from a vine hanging from a tree? Have they ever chased dragonflies on a hot summer day, caught lightning bugs and put them in a jar, lie on their backs looking up at the clouds in the sky, or walked barefoot down a dusty road? There is not a telephone application or “app” for these types of memories. They are also visiting with my psychiatrist.
"It gives me a chance to count my blessings ... "
One lady I was showing land to just started singing for no apparent reason, probably had never sang in public her whole life, but, in that moment, she was just like a little song bird. One man from another country asked me, “Exactly where is this ‘over yonder’ you keep talking about?” I said, “Do you see those trees at the far end of the pasture?” He said, “Yes, I do.” “That is ‘over yonder,’” I explained. He did buy that property, and he and his wife made it their home. I went by to visit that couple one day, and as we were standing in the yard talking, they told me a new barn was in their future. I said, “Where are you going to build it?” He pointed towards the pasture behind the house and said, “Over yonder.” Southerners thankfully rub off on people sometimes.
I’ve seen the look in a hunter’s eyes as they are sitting in a duck blind, months before season opens, imagining the whistling and flapping wings of ducks making their last loop before descending in front of them, even though the duck hole might be bone dry. Fishermen gaze at the lake on the back side of the farm thinking of what it would look like with the early morning fog creeping up. They can suddenly feel the pressure of the rod bending and hear the zing of the line ripping through the water, knowing that they have finally hooked the wall hanger they have always wanted. Then, their phone rings, and reality sets back in. “It’s my wife. I had better answer it this time,” they say.
Others look at raw land and envision building their new home in the grove of oaks on the hill overlooking the valley below. They are picking out their future homestead - a place to cookout on the weekends, ride horses, and holler for dogs that have wandered too far from home. A place to play catch with the kids or grandkids. A place to plant a flower garden. A place to enjoy. Being on land changes some people. It does me. There is no appointment needed to visit my psychiatrist. Where is my psychiatrist? Go outside and look up.