The Realm of the Verbal Processor

Jarvis's Ramblings

A day in the life of Jarvis

This post was written about Monday and Tuesday of this week. It’s a long post, but I had a lot to say about what went on in my mind and heart that day.

I’m tired today. I’ve been on a hunting trip in Mississippi with my brother for the last week. A few days of waking up before 4am to get in the woods before daylight will do that to you.

3:55am – alarm on my cell phone goes off. Wow…I forgot to change it from the obnoxious alarm sound to one a bit more subdued.

I stumbled through getting ready and out the door. Gathered a couple of granola bars and water for breakfast. Packed snacks and lunch in a cooler. Loaded up my gun and extra clothes…it’s 29 degrees.

Jumped in the car and started the hour drive to the hunting property. Who else is on the road? In rural Mississippi at this time of morning? Probably just other hunters like me. Oh wait…there’s something else on the road…something I’ve never seen while driving…a coyote. He ran across the road in front of me and then ran down the other side of the road as I passed him.

As I drive along the various back roads getting to Jefferson County, I can see plenty of beautiful countryside passing by. Rolling fields. Lush hardwood forests with tall mature oak trees. Numerous stands of plantation pine…someone’s timber investment. Then I come across some ugly scraggly spots where a timber investment has been harvested.

Eventually I see a fox and three deer. Had to slow down to keep from hitting a little 6 point buck that crossed in front of me. He saw his shadow made by the headlights and was looking away. He was running very gingerly…his hoofs aren’t made for running on asphalt.

Finally get to the hunting property around 5:30am. It gets light at 6:15, so I’m in good shape. I get out and start piling on more layers…knowing that I will take them all off later…it’s supposed to warm up to 60 degrees later. Throw everything onto the tractor that I will drive to the back of the property and start the ride back.

I get to a spot a couple hundred yards from my stand and park the tractor and walk the rest of the way. I get to the stand…a climbing stand…one that you strap around the tree and use the upper and lower portions to climb up the tree. I spend the next five minutes raising the top section, then pulling the lower section up with my feet…a foot or so at a time until I’m about thirty feet off the ground where I can see a long way in all directions. I’m hot. I should have unzipped a couple of layers before starting the climb. This has also taken longer than I wanted. I should have woken up fifteen minutes earlier. It’s already starting to get light. I wanted to be settled in the stand while it was still pitch black.

A few minutes later I look to the horizon. I can see the sharp contrast of the trees silhouetted against the orange ribbon of daylight. Each black branch stands out sharply against the colorful backdrop.

Looking out across the field in the growing light, I can see the misty whiteness that the frost on the grass creates. Later as the sun hits the grass it will create patches of golden grass on this white canvas. But for now it is a rolling landscape of miniature ice crystals.

The birds have awakened. They are flitting about. Some are tuning up their voices for the day. Others are busy digging in the leaves for breakfast. There is a busy rustling all around. The shaking of branches and the sound of claws on bark signals that the squirrels have started their morning routine also.

The tree I am in stands at the edge of an oak forest. Behind me is a jumble of trees and undergrowth. Easily discernable paths through the undergrowth show where my quarry might travel. However the primary spot that I am watching is the overgrown field in front of me. This field used to be cut low…back when my grandfather was a full time farmer. But he passed away twelve years ago, and it was many years longer than that since he worked this field. One side of the field has lost ground to the forest that continues to encroach. Except for a few clearings and a road, the rest is a jumble of tall grass and briars.

For an hour I sit watching the world come to life. I cautiously move my head around to look for any deer activity, but mostly I try to remain motionless. The crisp morning air bites at my nostrils, and even the exertion of climbing the tree has given way to a slight chill.

At the far end of the field, a flash of brown. Then another. I quickly wind my scope up to 9x and look downrange. Three deer. All does. I slide the safety off and settle the crosshairs on the shoulder of one. I squeeze off a round. The air explodes. Three patches of brown disappear back into the woods where they came from…a clean miss…I forgot to aim high, they were 350 yards away. I settle back into my seat and wait.

Slowly the woods come back to life. Squirrels scamper. Birds rustle. Chipmunks chirp…yes chirp…I watched him do it. There is a steady drip around the forest as the sun begins to melt the frosty covering.

More brown movement. A single doe. She moved quickly into the briars. Wait she came back out. Again the safety is slid off. Again the crosshairs settle. Again the air explodes. This time I’m confident of a hit. It was only 150 yards away. I unload my gun, disconnect my safety harness and reverse the process that got me up the tree. Once I reach the bottom I leave behind all of the non-essential things…basically everything except my gun and knife…and head out to find my deer. Once I reach the spot where she was standing I start looking. I’m not liking the looks of this. The frost is still perfectly intact on the grass. There is no blood. I look. I hunt. I search. I walk. Nothing. Another clean miss. I don’t know how, but I have missed again.

I head back to my stand and grab my snack…then walk to the stand at the other end of the field. I’ve made enough noise at this one. The field is split in two. The half that is in the shade is still wrapped in its blanket of ice. The half in the sun is a pleasant golden brown. As the next hour passes, nothing moves except the line of gold that overtakes the shade. Eventually I decide it’s time to head back to camp for lunch.

Back at camp, I shed the extra layers of clothes and dig for my lunch. Looking around, I settle into a chair on the porch of my uncle’s cabin. A can of cold soup. A brownie. A drink. A simple lunch. Sitting back, I’m the only one on the farm. The quiet solitude is calming. Only an occasional car passes by the old country road. I wish my wife was here to share it with. I’m looking out on rolling hills in front and behind. A pecan orchard to my left…right behind my grandmother’s house.

It’s empty now. All that’s left are the memories. Oatmeal cookies. Catching bees in jars on the flowers in the summertime. Climbing the pine tree that’s no longer there. Fishing in the pond behind the house. Big family dinners. Sitting at the kids table. Chicken and dumplings. Lots of pleasant memories.

The TreeAs I walk around the hill that the houses are on, I’m deciding if I am going to hunt this afternoon or not. I decide that I’m at least going to make my annual pilgrimage to “the tree“. The tree has the remains of a deer stand in it. When I was a baby, my dad had a choice…hire a babysitter or take me hunting with him. He built a special deer stand in an old oak tree. He tacked an army blanket between the branches and would lay me on that to sleep. He would climb up another ten feet and bowhunt for deer. A few boards and a couple of ropes are all that remain, but that stand is forever etched into my past. I visit it every year. It is surrounded by the pine trees that my dad planted when I was a kid. He had cancer and knew he would never see them to maturity. He planted them to look out for his family.

CisternWhile standing under the tree I get to thinking about him. I haven’t visited his grave in several years. That’s it…hunting is done. I walk back to the car. Once I get there I take a brief detour to take a picture of an old cistern that is in the woods. Don’t know why it never occurred to me before this week, but that cistern means that a home used to be in these woods.

On the drive to the cemetery, I’m noticing rolling beautiful hills. The whole countryside is filled with peace, quiet, and tranquility. It’s been a long time since I’ve driven these roads. Not a lot looks familiar. I throw in a Garth Brooks CD, turn up the volume and belt it out along with him.

Driving down the tiny country road, I choose the best route through the myriad of patched potholes. The road winds along til the little country church appears around the bend. It has changed. They’ve glassed in the entryway where I sat as a heartbroken twelve year old and watched my uncles fill in my dad’s grave. Nearly 25 years later, that is still one of my most vivid memories.

The latch to the short chain link fence around the tiny cemetery barely latches. I wind my way through the graves to the back of the cemetery to the headstone that is a permanent bookmark in the story of my life. The first thing that strikes me is the placement of a new headstone…it is covering the end of my dad’s grave. It is sitting approximately where his left shin would be. Later my brother tells me that he’s working with the head of the cemetery to get it resolved…it had been worse…it’s already been moved once. That family simply chose a headstone that is too big for the gravesite…and it is not in the right location.

My Dad's HeadstoneI stand in front of the grave looking at the headstone that marks my dad’s life and has marked me for more than two decades. I don’t feel much. Somberness maybe. The headstone is sticking up through the covering of oak leaves that carpets the ground. On the headstone I lay the three yellow flowers that I brought from the farm. One for me, my brother, and my mother. I lay them on the base of the stone and step back to take a picture. The next several minutes are spent capturing moments of me sitting next to the stone with the flowers. I wind my way back through the headstones to the car.

Next stop is to go to the nursing home to see my grandmother. I haven’t seen her in a few years either. I get there and a nurse shows me to her room. She’s asleep. I kneel by her bed…there is no chair. She looks awful. She struggles through each ragged breath. Her eyes occasionally flicker open. From time to time, she grimaces from some unknown pain. If not for the movement of her breathing, you wouldn’t know she is alive. She looks like she is already dead. This is one of the saddest experiences of my life. I whisper to her. I pray for her. I ask God to take her home. Later my brother makes a keen observation…”she gave up years ago.” He’s right. It’s just the slow process of her body catching up with her lack of desire to live.

I leave her a note so that she will know that I have been there. It’s not much, but it’s all I have. Walking out to the car, I’m overcome with the sadness in that room. Driving away, Garth is still singing, but he’s singing alone now. I call my wife and tell her about the afternoon. She just listens and says she’s sorry for me.

After a simple supper with my mom, I walk over to my brother’s house to spend some time with him before flying back home tomorrow. I try to teach my three year old niece to call me “Favorite Uncle Jarvis”. It doesn’t stick…but I keep trying. I am however successful in getting her to say “parallelogram”. It’s really cute coming out of her mouth.

Patrick and I get some good visiting time and dream about the hunting camp we want to build this year. I head back to my mom’s house around eleven. I still have to pack. I end up in bed around 2am. The alarm is set for 7.

The next morning is the mad scramble to get dressed, finish packing, load the car, grab breakfast, drive to the airport, drop off the rental car, drag stuff to the terminal, then wait for the plane. I miss my wife. I am really ready to see her again.

I sleep on the plane. Longer than I thought I would. Not long after waking up we start the decent into Orlando. Looking out the windows I see the flat landscape passing by. I see the crisscross of roads. The myriad of lakes. But what stands out to me the most is how many buildings are out there. Houses, businesses, roads…a concrete forest. I hear the roar of the jet engines and the whir of the air vents around the plane.

Traffic is heavy driving home. Everyone has to be first. Airplanes roar overhead. Getting in bed later that night, the sound of a car races down my neighborhood street.

My heart longs for the countryside.

January 17, 2008 - Posted by | guns, hunting, life | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Wow, Jarvis. I love this entry. Growing up in Arkansas and having lots of family that hunts in northern LA, I can relate to your story.

    I enjoyed the details of your hunt and your day. It was just like I was following you around with a documentary camera — but you gave more.

    My Dad passed, too. But it was in 2000. Because it was before we had kids, it seems like a lifetime ago.

    Thanks for writing this.

    Comment by Anne Bridgforth | April 8, 2008

  2. Anne,
    Thank you for the kind words. This post is possibly my favorite one that I have written. It is definitely the most intimately personal.

    Comment by Jarvis | April 8, 2008

  3. Glad you told me about your blog. Love this!

    Comment by Michelle Loyd Thompson | October 27, 2011

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