01 March, 2009

How I Met Paul Harvey

South Texas: 1980

One hour before sunrise.

I'm awakened by someone tugging on my arm. "Danno, let's go."

"Oh come on, it can't be that late already can it? I'm tired."

"Come on, let's go."

Too young for coffee, I grabbed my jeans, long-sleeve camo shirt, hat, and snake books, knee-high, slick plastic jobs that I had to uncurl to get around my legs, and headed for the door of the trailer.

Time to hunt.

Leaving the trailer before sunrise the air was already thick, muggy, and the sweat began the moment my body hit the outside world. Sweating was like breathing, just a natural part of the being alive in those parts.

I slowly slid my Ruger Red Label, over-under 12-gauge from my case and felt the oil on my hands. Pops always made sure I cleaned my gun before I put it away. He loved the smell of one particular gun oil, loved it, as much as anything revolving around the experience of a hunt.

It's funny how that works. For me, these hunts were about solitude, about the elements, about not only being alone on the Earth, but in my mind. For mom it was about the dogs, watching them hunt, watching them come alive the moment they saw us reach for the guns. When they knew the hunt was on they were uncontrollable, unleashed from their "normal" routine, unleashed into the vastness to do what their DNA told them to do. But for dad, it was that damn gun oil.

I dropped shells into the chambers and snapped the gun up, making sure the safety was on, my shell belt strapped to my waist.

And then we walked, through rough country, where most things that slithered or stung were known to be, but invisible in the darkness. As we walked in the black the world seemed smaller, compressing in on itself before it exploded and expanded the moment the sun broke the horizon line. As we walked, the brush screamed and tore at us, as if it say, "this is our land and we won't make it easy."

Approaching the edges of the tank, walking slowly, watching as the opal blue sky turned toward daylight and reflected back at me.

In position, we waited. Scattered about the area, each of us left alone.

The insects would cover us, buzzing, itching, biting, slapping, getting in our eyes, ears, and swimming in our sweat as it rolled about.

Moments before the sun breached there was light enough to see the air filled with dove, the prize for the day, and the ingredients for a racing heart and eyes focused just that bit more.

Soon I would smell the burn of powder, but I have no memory of sound, any sound at all, until I would reemerge into the world to the high whine of ringing in my ears.

Hours later, the air filled with trails from the smoker, the doves cooked and consumed, we would pack up and head back to our lives and routines.

On this day I rode in the front with dad and he turned on the radio, something he rarely did. Years of shooting, he couldn't hear much at all, so radio was an annoying sound he could never understand.

On this day the voice coming from the junky plastic speakers of the 4x4 was different, odd, and unlike any voice I had heard before. Dad made mention of it, of the source, and I made a mental note.

"And now you know the rest of the story." "Paul Harvey, good day."

That's all it took, just that once, and this man, his voice, his style, was forever a part of my being.

I don't know what the public opinion is of Paul Harvey, I never cared, because for me it doesn't matter. Harvey was unique, in an age of slow homogenization, where conformity is safe and perhaps marketable.

So on this day, in the bowels of the wooly, South Texas wilds, I met Paul Harvey.

I can't say I followed his career, or made a point to search for him, but the moment I would hear his voice, all of this would come back as if it was yesterday.

So at 90 he left us, but I'll bet that voice will remain in our minds and on our airways for time to come.

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