Mud Turtles, My Daddy and Mowgli the Jungle Boy

When I was little,

my daddy taught me to fish.

We ate the fish.

When I was a child,

my daddy caught mud turtles.

We ate the turtles

 even the eggs.

When I was a little girl,

 my daddy killed rabbits.

We ate the rabbits.

When I was young,

my daddy shot squirrels.

We ate the squirrels.

When I was just a sprout,

my daddy hunted quail. 

We ate them.

When I was a little girl

we raised our own hogs

made our own bacon.

We ate everything

the feet

the head

the brains.

Nothing was wasted.

And when we ate them

Daddy would say

he was thankful

for meat on our table.

He would say,

“Y’all kids eat

all you want.

Don’t go away

hungry.”

When we had

enough, squirrels

played safely in

walnut trees near

the house. Deer

ate under the pear tree

across the lane.

Rabbits hopped

wherever the dogs

would let them.

Birds came and went

and turtles slid

around the creek

at ease. 

Life was precious

only to be taken

for survival

no sport

no trophies.

***JUST A MEMORY*My daddy never killed a deer and mounted its head on our wall. He only killed what we needed to eat. He never killed a bobcat, skunk, possum or panther, because we didn’t eat those animals. Once he killed some wild dogs that had attacked my brother, but that was survival. He never bragged that he was a great hunter. I remember once, a man up the road killed a hundred squirrels and he told the men over at the store that he did it for the “sport” of it, that he didn’t even like squirrels. I was very young when this happened. My daddy came home and told my momma. His heart was saddened because of this man’s waste, because our family could’ve eaten some of those squirrels. He was saddened because the squirrels died in vain. There was no thankfulness, no honor, in their deaths, only needless slaughter to satisfy one man’s ego.

There came a day when my daddy said it was no longer needful for him to hunt because we could  now afford to buy chicken and beef at the store. And on that day he hung up his gun and said to my momma, “Honey, I ain’t gonna hunt no more. Because it’s sinful to kill an animal when you don’t have to.” I can’t say he never killed another animal after that. There was the dog that kept killing his chickens. One day Daddy lost his temper and shot the dog. Later, he mourned and grieved and told me that he had done a ‘terrible wrong thing’.

My daddy taught me many things by his example. He taught me to love and forgive people. He taught me that no one is perfect and that what people say of me isn’t what matters most, but rather, what I know to be true. He taught me to let no one define me as a human being. My father inspired me to dream and dream big. I have seen his brown eyes light up with childlike faith that made me believe anything was possible. I guess tonight I am just rambling, but I can’t stop thinking about how my daddy taught me to respect life. No human should die needlessly. No animal should die needlessly. I suppose every life that can be saved, should be saved.

I end these thoughts by remembering a scene from the 1994 movie Jungle Book where the captain is telling Mowgli how to kill Shercon. So Mowgli says something like, “Are you going to eat him?”

The captain replies, “No.”

Then Mowgli asks, “Is he going to eat you?”

Again the captain says, “No.”

So Mowgli replies, “Then why kill him?”

I will never forget that scene. I’m a Mowgli.

 

“A righteous man regards the life of his animal.”

                                                                               —Proverb of Solomon

4 thoughts on “Mud Turtles, My Daddy and Mowgli the Jungle Boy

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