Two men, a truck, some over-eager deer hounds, and a couple of loaded guns in the treacherous swamps of coastal lowcountry...what could possibly go wrong?
Wisdom is a lot like mileage on a truck; it takes time to accumulate, makes you travel a ways from home and sometimes puts a few dings in your fenders.
If, however, you’re truly accumulating wisdom, you won’t back up to bump the same fender twice.
The other thing about wisdom is that in one case it may take a lot of work, but at other times it comes from a lack of it. Sometimes, taking the shortcut merely reinforces the reason to take the long way around. Here’s an example.
A fellow I’ll call Danny, since that was his name, told this story on himself. He lived in the coastal lowcountry where deer hunting with dogs is both legal and commonplace. The swamps in these places can take a dog with a good nose to pry an old buck out of his thicket.
I’ve hunted with a few clubs in the lowcountry and have concluded there are two kinds of deer hounds: those you can catch after the hunt and those you can’t. The reason some hounds can’t be caught is that they don’t know when to quit, like some folks I know.
Anyway, Danny and one of his buddies were listening to the dogs one cold morning and realized they had struck. The cacophony of barks, yips and yodels escalated in pitch and frequency.
As the two of them listened, they realized the pack was headed for the heart of the swamp. Two wars, the Revolutionary War and the War Between the States, had come to this dark corner and skirted it. The idea of wading through cold muck later that night to find their dogs was no more appealing to these two hunters than it had been to all those armies.
So in their minds, it was time for a shortcut, namely, to jump into the truck and head off the dogs.
At this point, I should add that both of these gentlemen were old enough to know better than to do what happened next.
Danny’s buddy jumped behind the wheel of his brand new 4-wheel drive Ford pickup. Danny climbed into the passenger seat and held the guns.
Notice that I never mentioned either one of them unloading the guns.
The road back into the swamp amounted to two ruts with no trees between them. The deer and dogs were moving fast so that’s exactly how these two hunters decided they needed to travel.
Adrenaline and buck fever may have been involved.
Mud flew up both rear fenders like a badge of courage. Branches flailed against the windshield, and every time they hit a bump the engine revved up when the truck caught air and slowed when it crashed down.
Things went according to plan until one rut was deeper than the others, a bump was higher than the others and the ensuing crash louder than the others. That’s because a load of double-0 buckshot blew a hole in the floorboard.
To their credit, they did have sense enough to point both barrels down. But the blast left both of them speechless and deaf enough for a bit that talking wouldn’t have mattered. They pulled over to assess the damage, the dogs made it to the swamp and they had to hunt them in the dark anyway.
Sometimes shortcuts take longer. And all they had to show for hurrying was a hole in the passenger-side floor.
As I thought this story over, it occurred to me that you don’t have to shoot a hole in your truck to learn gun safety.
At times, it’s enough to let another fellow do it and just learn from him.
That way, you’ll both acquire the wisdom imparted by the experience. It’s just that your truck doesn’t have quite so many dings and the trade-in value is higher on you and the truck.