By Otha Barham
The Meridian Star
It's Thanksgiving. Today's turkey hunters have to bag the wild Thanksgiving turkey in the spring and put it in a freezer for the big November day because there is no legal fall turkey season around here.
When Thanksgiving Day arrives, we hunters have teary-eyed memories of just how thankful we really are - to have survived last spring's season! Here is an account I penned one spring while recovering from a hunt.
I can live with the mosquitoes; I just spray on more mosquito stuff. I can survive the heat; it helps me appreciate winter. I don’t grumble when the alarm clock rings at 3:30 a.m. for the 26th day in a row; I am grateful to live another day. I have to forget the rattlesnakes that want my leg flesh; they have to eat too. But what I hate are the mountains. Mountains these days have become so steep a turkey hunter, in getting up the side of one, risks cardiac arrest.
“But you hunt turkeys in East Mississippi,” you say. “All we have here are a few hills.” Not true! I know a mountain when I climb one. We have a few scattered hills in East Mississippi, but we have lots and lots of mountains. Follow me in the turkey woods a couple of days and you will no longer insult the local mountains by calling them hills.
What I want to know is why it is we have to have mountain here, of all places? Mountains should be...uh..., well, in the mountains. What is more, the mountains hereabouts almost all used to be hills. The things grow! They do it at night when no one is looking. Just this week I almost fell off a mountain that I once skipped over with ease when it was just a hill only 30 years ago.
You want to know the difference between a hill and a mountain? The side of a hill is steep. The side of a mountain is really, really steep. Our local mountains are so steep that one can pick hickory nuts from the tops of 60 foot trees while standing on the ground. The other day I saw a squirrel crawling along the ground up the side of a mountain so steep that he rested now and then by hanging onto the side of trees!
Just this morning, while clinging to a mountain laurel branch in order not to fall from the mountain and never be heard from again, I decided that if I lived I would write this stuff down as a protest against the proliferation of mountains that "grow" all across the muddy flats of the Deep South. Most of my text came to me as I attempted to stand up on the mountainside. While I was vertical alright, there was nothing but air under my feet, which instead of supporting me had, of necessity, deferred to my hands - which now clung desperately to the fragile limb that was my link between life and death. I remember whispering to myself, “This is turkey hunting?”
Now that I am safe at home and have had a hot shower, I am softening a little (precious little) on the mountains in my turkey woods. I got to thinking what if God hadn’t made mountains there in the turkey woods. What would be there in their place? Probably briar patches and muddy sloughs and stuff. But maybe, to appease us turkey hunters, why couldn't He or She just have made a bunch of hills?
Okay, it’s really not the mountains I hate. They are really beautiful. It's how hard the beautiful darn things are to climb when my Thanksgiving turkey is gobbling up there!