It’s weird how, in the last few seconds of your life, everything becomes strangely, almost absurdly clear.
For me, that clarity brought with it the realization that all of this, everything that happened, came about because I ignored orders and went for a hike.
And that hike, in turn, happened because of my father.
Not that my father was a bad man, you understand. No, he was a normal, hardworking, blue-collar sort of guy. We didn’t have much money, which meant that we didn’t have much in the way of entertainment, and the rabbit-ears balanced on top of the television never seemed to pick up a good signal, no matter how much tinfoil my mother wrapped around them. So instead of plopping down with Junior and watching the Sunday football game, my father instead took me out on walks.
We might not have had much in the way of digital entertainment, but at least we had some good views. Not that I appreciated them at the time, being a snotty-nosed brat who felt enviously that my buddy Blake, whose dad sank all his bonus money into a fifty-inch flatscreen with digital HD hookups, had all his luck and most of mine as well. My dad would bring me up to the bluffs, brushing aside the leaves on the wide-branched trees to make it easier for me. He’d gesture out at the cliffs, the sky on fire from the setting sun, and he’d ask me what I thought.
Mainly, I thought that I’d much rather be watching football at home, feet propped up on our ratty old couch.
I never told the old man, though. Why ruin his idea that he was doing his son a solid by bringing him out into the wilderness? And besides, I picked up a few tricks: how to tell direction from the moss and by cutting chips into the tree trunks, how to move silently enough to sneak up on the gamey rabbits that hopped to and fro, how to follow the trails of animals, how to keep an eye on vegetation and figure out the best route to a nearby water source. Useful knowledge, not that I knew it at the time.
Although now that I’m thinking back on it, with that newfound clarity that I mentioned earlier, I might have been better off if I’d never learned a single damn thing about the outdoors. Continue reading →