I can shoe a horse, milk a cow, drive a tractor, and move a sunbathing rattlesnake off an asphalt highway so the next car won’t hit him on purpose. The first three I learned from my parents; the last is all me.
I can rescue a fightin’ mad and injured raccoon or horse, sing a cappella in public for money, play piano for strangers and kin alike, and cuss like a sailor standing ten words this side of the grave. The first three I learned from my parents; the last is all me.
I can sew my own clothes, clean my own house, mow my own yard, and bake a choked-off or dropped biscuit that can ease down your throat like the resin off a sweet chaw of newly cut sugar cane. The first three I learned from my mother; the last is all me.
I can shuck corn, buck hay, haul wood, and wield a pulaski. The first three I learned from my father; the last is all me.
I can work while everybody else is sleeping, sleep while everybody else plays, tell the truth even when it hurts, and trust in heaven from the nearsome side of anybody’s torment. The first three I learned from my parents; the last is all me.
I can raise chickens, prune tomatoes, string butter beans, and grow mushrooms. The first three I learned from my mother; the last is all me.
I’ve known many, many a fine parent in my time here. None—near or far—measure up to mine. We crossed horns on our paths, my sturdy will and bare feet tangled up with their best-laid plans and dreams and years of hard, aching work, and I didn’t turn out near as well as they’d hoped, but nearly all of my best qualities were set into me by them: by our shared genetics and histories, the homes and pastures and fields and yards we built together, the symbols we sparred over, the models we looked to, and the legends we all breathed in until we became them.
Without any say in the matter, I broke into their lives like an asteroid seeking shelter, and they bundled me up, carried me till I could walk, held me up in the saddle till I could do it myself, and made sure I behaved like I had good sense or paid a price I would remember and live by. My love for these two people is a fierce fire, unquenchable, unstoppable, a force of nature that grins at any tools deployed to halt or hinder its devouring maw. From them I came; for them I live: how I wish there were a god somewhere to whom I might tender my eternal gratitude for having emerged on this planet from these particular parents. Throwback Thursday isn’t near wide enough to carry my stories of them, but it’s a beginning: one long pitch forward into that long night to which we all go.
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