I’d Rather Be Wright, II by David Wright My excuse for being who I am

On a cold winter’s night I write, and there, on the opening page of a book I am trying to assemble, is an introduction that might explain my present-day ramblings — and maybe answer any questions as to my sanity — or lack thereof. It goes as follows:

It all started back then, maybe in ’53 when the world was turning a little slower and a little more innocently. At least that is how I see it. “Things were not falling apart and the center was holding. There was no blood-dimmed tides loosed up on the land. The ceremony of the innocent was alive and well.” Yeats was wrong — not that I knew him then.

Maybe in a Scotch-induced, half-dream some years ago I related this memory as a way of seeking out my father’s view of me and how my young life was progressing:

My old man hinted I had gone feral, but when he said it, he didn’t really seem to mind. It was more as if he was just making note of it. After he said those words, he slowly lifted his pursed lips and squinted as if to concentrate on the possibility that maybe it was really true. Then he posted the question to me, “Do you know what it is to be feral?” I let my eyes drift up to him as if I was giving it great thought, but in truth, I knew. I knew because I was with him when he emptied his 12-gauge at a terrified ratty cat we had seen in the pheasant marsh. As his Wingmaster came down, still engulfed in a wisp of gun smoke, he had said, “I hate those God-damned feral cats.”

Before I answered the question, I hesitated not knowing where this was going. At 12, this didn’t seem to be a question with promise. With a look of hesitation and probably puzzlement, I glanced up at him and with a hesitant sideways grin, responded that I recalled the episode at Ebert’s last week. His head fell backward, as he couldn’t hold the chuckle.

“I missed him ’cause I wanted to. Just wanted to scare the hell outta him. Get ’em outta my huntin’ spot,” he said with a grin that portrayed maybe a statement of some questionable truthfulness.

“How does that play for me?” I asked with twisted grimace. He laughed again, this time with a little more intent. His well-known sly and almost mischievous grin crept over his face as he looked straight at me as if to do a more thorough study of this question asked. He paused, pondering his next move, wanting to know if he should lay down the worthless deuces or try to play the pair of jacks. His mouth fell slightly open with intent, but the touch of humor still trickled from his eyes. “I think,” he said,” if I can use a thin metaphor, that you, as young as you might be, are weaving your way through the tall grasses and oak forests trying to capture just one more stinking God-damn mouse”

“You ain’t gonna shoot at me, are ya?”

“You little fart. There’s no way I could hit you if I tried. I been watching you for years now not really carin’. You’re feral I think, but you’re not after my pheasants or at least not the pheasants I’m after, but you might be after pheasants of a sort.”

I grinned knowing there were some birds out there I admired.

I think that was the first time I noticed I was heading in a different direction, but probably not the first time he noticed.

 

While this distant anecdote might be an accumulation of a number of outings and a slight exercise in artistic license, it does sum up his many-times-expressed thoughts on my constant wanderings and seeming lack of responsibility toward the mainstream of behavior. He used the word feral for cats and, if I recall, cats only, but it was the looks he gave me that made me think this man of chosen words was pondering applying it towards me.

The years have flown from this first encounter, but tucked away are memories of the mangy wild cats, the marshes, the fatherly exchanges, the years of rambling, the smells of wetlands, and the pheasants of each fall. It is all there. It has never left me in the years passing nor drifted off like the smoke of so many fires.

My old man, with all his backwoods insight and sly grin, has quietly disappeared as ashes into his duck pond and is no longer here to draw any conclusions on his earlier observations of me having gone feral.

So while the rest of my intended book deals with this loose concept of being feral — and society’s chasing of the Red Queen, the one that had to go faster and faster just to stay even — this little tidbit is my excuse for now.

 

Early evidence of ye columnist’s feral nature.

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