We’re crazy, they say. Everybody knows it, and they’re awfully quick to tell us.
They watch us emerge from “God forsaken swamps” wet, muddy and bone tired. We stayed there for hours and came out “empty-handed,” accomplishing nothing, bringing back to “civilization” nothing save our bedraggled selves, hearts and heads full of naught but images of a rare plant, a new bird for the life list, perhaps some stories to tell.
“I saw an otter catch a bass,” we say.
“I watched two male diamondbacks ‘wrestle’ for the attention of a female,” we recount.
“I walked within five feet of a sunning bull alligator,” we recall.
“For what?” they ask. “You’re crazy.”
We trudge miles through mountain gorges, slipping and sliding on slippery rocks and steep, muddy creek banks. We go the hard way, the path less traveled, simply to approach the pool with the sun in our faces, trying not to cast a shadow and spook the large brown trout we know in our hearts just “has to be there.” Perhaps he is, perhaps not, but we do it anyhow. We won’t know until we carefully cast our fly and pray for him to rise.
“You’re crazy,” they say again.
We sometimes make an errant shot with bow or bullet. The game runs away and does not immediately fall. We follow it up, often through the thickest cover in deepening darkness. Sometimes there is danger. It doesn’t matter. The wounded feral boar merits the same fair-chase consideration as the whitetail doe. The black bear is no different in this respect from the pronghorn antelope. We take the hunt to its conclusion. It is the right and decent thing to do.
“You’re crazy,” we’re told.
We fish all day in summertime temperatures flirting around 100. We cast our spinnerbaits, crankbaits and plastic worms countless times to no avail. We watch the afternoon sky with intense scrutiny. There is a purplish glow. The thunderheads are angry, sinister. Will they move off in another direction? Or will they at least hold off another half hour?
Fifteen minutes before the storm breaks the big largemouth strikes. She is awesome, beautiful, ten pounds if an ounce. She comes to hand and we lift her from the water. We kiss the top of her head and return her to the depths, watching her slowly swim away. We start the outboard as the first pelting raindrops fall. We run headlong across the lake, just ahead of the storm, and make the marina in the nick of time.
“You’re crazy,” we hear.
We climb the mountain. It is not an easy thing. We are too old. It is not worth the wear and tear on aging joints, hearts and lungs. We are near collapse when we reach the summit and gaze down upon the river valley or across the range at the far ridges. Out of breath, exhausted and nearly past going, we look into each other’s eyes and say, “We made it. We’re here. No one since the Cherokees have seen this.”
We smile, satisfied.
“You’re crazy,” they admonish.
We sit in a freezing duck blind, the wind ripping at our clothing, sleet pelting our faces. We negotiate the fragile, brittle river bluffs, just for one glimpse of a tree that grows there and nowhere else. We climb into deer stands at four in the morning. We sit up long into the night honing our skills on a new turkey call. We paddle precarious canoes across the Okefenokee amidst 10,000 hungry alligators. We hunt, we fish, we hike, we camp, we tell our tales around evening fires far from office cubicles and boardrooms. Don’t fence us in.
Or perhaps not.
Beat on, different drummer. We hear you.