Getting By
I grew up at the end of a dirt road on a creek you've never heard of off a spur, that if you drove up it you wouldn't know why when you got there. Daddy drove cat for old man Stimpson until he rolled it down the mountain and broke his back. They said he was lucky, being thrown clear. But Daddy said pain talked to him every day and he didn't like the conversation. I started picking ferns, barking chittam and selling mushrooms; made spinners and tied trout flies; got used to getting by. We ate venison and rabbit, nettles, quail and grouse, trout and crawdads. I learned to drink thunder water on the spine of Mitchell hill. When I was grown, Mama gave me a hundred dollars she'd saved; told me to go to town. Get a job, she said, make a life. But I didn't want to change tires, stock shelves, or join the army. She withered up after that tending her little patch of flowers along the path to the spring. Forty years later, I'm still getting by. I've planted trees and cleaned toilets for the parks, but I never left the woods, even when I had to sleep in my truck. There's still a place or two left to pick mushrooms, and I get along alright with the dope growers. I'll deliver illegal smoked salmon if you get word from one of my regulars. And when you hurry your kids along in the grocery store, I understand; I won't be there long. Gary L. Lark