Altar Call Ė Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

December 7, 2008


 Thanksgiving stories are important to Joe Wyatt and his family


††† My friend Joe Wyatt is both a school teacher and a pastor. Joe and his wife Marg both teach at Rehobeth High School near Dothan, Alabama. Marg teaches third grade and Joe seventh and eighth grade social studies. In his spare time he pastors the Columbia United Methodist Church.

††††† Joe is a good story teller. He likes my stories and I like his. My recent column about Thanksgiving memories prompted Joe to send me one of the stories he likes to tell when his family gathers for Thanksgiving. I just had to share it with you. After you read this you will know why I love Joe and Marg. Enjoy:  

†††† Thanksgiving for me has always been a warm, gentle time to celebrate the love of family and the provision of God.I canít remember a bad Thanksgiving.But there is one that stands out in my memory above all others.

†††† I grew up in a family of hunters.My ancestors had been hunters.The Wyatt family history is laced with stories of hunting.The earliest of the ancestors that we know anything about, Bucky Wyatt, moved to what is now Chilton County because the hunting and fishing was better there.From his time forward, the Wyatts hunted.

††††† So, on Thanksgiving mornings my daddy, brothers, brothers-in-law, uncles at times, and anyone else who could and would get up at the crack of dawn, loaded up dogs and headed to a favorite hunting spot.Our intention was always to return home by noon for the greatest meal of the year.We didnít want to disappoint Mama by being late.

††††† When I was about 14, in about 1967, my most memorable squirrel hunt took place.Only three of us went that particular Thanksgiving morning.Danny, my younger brother, the youngest of seven, is almost two years younger than me.He, Daddy, and I went out to the Mulberry Creek swamp.It was squirrel heaven back in those days with lots of big timber, two beautiful creeks, the Big Mulberry and the Little Mulberry, and big hollows, (we called them hollers), and a man and his two sons could have a most wonderful time chasing, spotting, and killing squirrels there.

†††† About 9:00 in the morning, the dog, a Red Tick hound, started running some kind of animal and nearly went out of hearing.We decided weíd better pursue or we might never see her, the dog, again.So we began to try to follow through the jungle in the Mulberry Creek swamp.Before long we came to one of the creeks.After a little time we found us a place to possibly cross.It was a little shoal in the bend of the creek where you could walk out onto the sand and gravel on one side.The water was running on one side in a stream about four or five feet wide, and it was about one to two feet deep at its deepest point.

†††† I went first.I got a running start and lunged for the bank on the other side.The bank was only about 4 feet high, and I landed with my feet in the bank and began to pull on the little trees and vines to get myself to the top of the bank.It didnít take long for me to get on my feet on the top of the bank.We pitched all of our unloaded guns across, laid them on the ground, and set ourselves for the rest of the crossing.Danny easily made it across.He was always the most athletic of four brothers.Then came the interesting part, the part where our wonderful, loving, overweight father would cross.

†††† When your daddy is 35 when youíre born, you donít ever really get to see him in his young, athletic days.When I was 14, Daddy was already 49, and he had experienced a lot of ailments and injuries that slowed him down tremendously.He had also been living with the best cook this side of heaven for 32 years, and this fact had helped him develop a rather large stomach which would keep a man from easily jumping a little creek.

†††† You need to understand a little about this man in order to appreciate the next few minutes of activity.My daddy was a manís man.He was adventurous, an outdoorsman, could build anything with lumber, was a great speaker and Sunday School teacher, yet he was the most tender and loving man that Iíve ever known.No doubt he had crossed hundreds of creeks in his earlier days.All our lives he had entertained us with stories about how he and his brothers and father hunted together.He knew how to find his way around in the woods, and he loved spending time with his four sons for a day of hunting.

†††† Now, letís get back to crossing the creek.Daddy backed up a little bit and got a running start.When he made his last step, the step that would be his push-off step, his foot sank into the mud a little farther than ours had.Iím assuming it was the extra hundred pounds of weight or so that caused that.When he jumped, it seemed as if someone was behind him holding his shirt and keeping him from going very far.

†††† He landed with his feet on the bank about ten inches above the water.Danny and I grabbed his arms and began to pull. I wrapped my hand around his right hand in the classic pulling position.Danny did the same with his left hand.So, there we were pulling with all our might to get him up the bank.He trusted us a little too much and we let him sag backwards just a bit.Now his legs were more straight-out from the bank as if he was pushing hard against the bank.This, of course, only made him heavier.

†††† He said something like, ďPull!ĒWe did pull, but we couldnít make any progress at all.He was just hanging there above that water.We were straining, but we couldnít do it.After just a few seconds, a few seconds that seemed like hours, seconds when we strained, trying everything we could do to pull him up, the impending event was evident.Suddenly, his eyes fastened on mine, and he said, ďDad-burned boys.ĒWhen he said that, Danny and I began to laugh, and that just made matters worse because you canít pull very hard when youíre laughing.A second or two later he slipped from our hands and fell with a splash into the cold, running water, back first.

†††† As long as I live, I will never forget the look on his face as he fell and as the water closed in over him.He had never learned to swim, and as the shallow water closed in over his face, he was a sight to behold.He came up splashing, slashing, and slapping.There he stood knee deep in the water.Trying to control ourselves and our laughing just a little bit, we pulled our soaked Daddy up the bank.Then the full impact of this ridiculous event hit me, and I plunged into some of the most uncontrollable laughter of my life.We may have mashed down the undergrowth on a half-acre as we rolled around on the ground laughing.

†††† One good thing about my daddy is that he knew how to play, and he knew how to laugh at himself.It was through him that I learned that if you can learn to laugh at yourself and your dumb mistakes, other people wonít be laughing at you; theyíll be laughing with you.We all laughed together for a good long while.Today, I cannot tell this story without breaking out in laughter before I get to the end of it.I believe Daddy is in Heaven, and if he can hear me telling it, heís laughing at it too.

†††† This story isnít quite finished yet.I need to tell you what happened in the hunt.As I said, the dog had almost run out of hearing.We thought she was after a fox or a deer.In a few minutes, however, she turned and started back in our direction.She ran the animal down near the creek, and then she treed.We got to the tree, a great big Loblolly pine, and eventually spotted and killed, an old boar squirrel.Now, isnít that the perfect end to a good Thanksgiving memory?

†††† Let me say one last thing.I wish I could load up with my brothers and my daddy and a dog or two, and go hunting this next Thanksgiving morning.Hmmm, maybe thereís a Mulberry Creek Swamp in Heaven.It would just have to be the most perfect place to hunt. Ė Joe Wyatt