"If one of you gets eaten, we will name the boat after you," I said.
May 13, 2015 12:49 PM   Subscribe

More from Harrison Scott Key. (Links at that page are pdfs.) He also has an online column with the Oxford American.
posted by zarq at 12:50 PM on May 13, 2015

I was pleasantly reading along thinking "Huh, I like this guy's voice," and then I came to "home to wild peacocks and black bears and other things with mouths" and bam, I'm sold. Thanks for the links to some of his other stuff.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:06 PM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

That was a good read. Reminded me a little of Flannery O'Connor, which I love so, so much.
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:07 PM on May 13, 2015

That was indeed a good read. Thanks for the post.
posted by languagehat at 1:11 PM on May 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

My mother's side of the family hails from Lafayette County, Florida. She assures me that it is exactly like what you would imagine a place called Lafayette County, Florida would be like, which is why I have never visited. There's an old family story (possibly apocryphal) about my grandfather and his father, who hunted or possibly farmed (it changes depending on who's telling the story) alligators.

As the story goes, my great-grandfather would take his teenage son out on the boat, and they'd shoot alligators and then keep on going. The alligator corpses would float, and then the two of them would collect all of the dead alligators on the way back home. One day on the way back, my great-grandfather was reaching down to grab one of the dead alligators, only to find the it was not the alligator that he thought it was, and was very much alive. Great-grandfather got yanked into the water, and there was a bit of a tussle until my grandfather managed to grab the rifle and plug the reptile that was attempting to chomp on his dad.

The story might be bullshit, but enough of the details match up to what we know to make it not entire implausible, which I consider to be the hallmark of stories passed down from Southern relatives.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 1:17 PM on May 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

My dad once held me out over a gator pit by my belt loops. To show me that I could always trust him. I was so with this guy through the whole story right up until this line:

I have no sons, only daughters. Their lives are filled not with danger, but with candy and glitter. Sure, I allow them to climb trees when their mother isn't looking, but never with buck saws, and I never take them hunting, because there are more affordable ways to bore your children.

But I read to the end and I'm glad. Glad he saw the value in teaching his girls about danger, finally. And teaching them that their dad sees them as people, not just girls.

As a daughter of a man with no sons, there isn't a second of my life that doesn't go by that I'm not proud my father shared all his hobbies with me. Some of them took, like fishing and hunting and hitting various mechanical devices with a hammer until it broke or started working again. Some of them didn't, I'll never love farming the way he does or have the patience to teach. But I count myself as one of the lucky ones that both my parents chose to share themselves with me and not give a shit about ridiculous gender stereotypes.
posted by teleri025 at 1:19 PM on May 13, 2015 [13 favorites]

i just watched the movie Mud, and this story rung familiar.
posted by entropone at 1:33 PM on May 13, 2015

I immediately scrolled the tags looking for FLORIDA and now I am disappoint.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:35 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by zarq at 1:38 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I KNOW but I wanted to send it to my swamp friend in florida and say THEY WROTE A STORY ABOUT YOUR DAD and now I can't do that unless I make a swamp friend in Mississippi.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:39 PM on May 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Reminds me of the way my Dad taught me to swim: we rowed out to the middle of the lake, he tossed me overboard and I swam back to shore. It was easy once I got out of the bag.

posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:40 PM on May 13, 2015 [6 favorites]

What? No Amos Moses tag?
posted by SPrintF at 2:05 PM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Reminded me of Patrick F. McManus. Good stuff!
posted by slackdog at 2:06 PM on May 13, 2015

Loved this story. I actually would have felt good about dying if the boat was named after me.

Can't say my dad was like this at all. My dad was a short jewish man from Brooklyn whose father was an even shorter more jewish man who migrated to Brooklyn. I think the most dangerous thing my father thought he ever did was to move out of Brooklyn to the Island, Long Island.

But, it wasn't until much later in my life, long after I had graduated from high school, that I realized that my father did actually teach me a lot about danger, being in uncomfortable situations and the love of adventure. See he learned to drive much later in life. It must have been when we moved to the Island. He was an ok driver from the perspective of a 12 year old back seat driver, but not so sure from the perspective of a driver on the same road. He had a love of speed. He was not always so good at judging speed versus distance, mainly stopping distance. But heck, that is what bumpers are for right?

He also did not have much of a sense of direction. I guess growing up in NYC you just took the subway somewhere and away you went. And, as I said, he had a healthy love of speed, willingness to drive and a naivety that coupled with his bad sense of direction had us ending up in all sorts of places that were not where we intended. In fact, when I was about 6, I thought my dad's actual name was, "Dad, are we lost?" I had this notion that "Are we lost" was like his tribe. Father, of the are we lost clan. Our family crest should probably just be a question mark.

Dad also had a firm belief in the subway and thus in the LIRR when we moved out to the Island. I was 10 when my Dad asked if I wanted to go to the Ranger game. "Of course!" I yelled. Me and my two brothers all got into the station wagon thinking Dad was taking us to the game that night. He took us to the train station, gave my oldest brother the tickets and said "enjoy" So here was a 8 year old and a 10 year old led by the 12 year old, not yet bar mitzvahed even, on the LIRR to Madison Square Garden.

I remember squinching my toes every few minutes to make sure I had my "calling dime" still stashed in my shoe just in case. (Thanks mom.) I would love to tell you of some crazy adventure had that night, but really it was a major non event except for the crazy amounts of junk food me and my brothers managed to consume and me learning that "Potvin sucks!" Well, we did also meet all sorts of interesting characters up there in the blue seats near the top of the building.

Anyway, my dad, like the dad in the story, he taught his three boys responsibility and adventure in his own way. While I never had to swim with the gators, I did ride the train with some guy named, Joey Bagel and another named, One-eyed Jim.
posted by AugustWest at 2:42 PM on May 13, 2015 [10 favorites]

To this day, I cannot injure my coccyx without thinking fondly of the man.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:45 PM on May 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Good lord, I grew up not far from the Pearl and this was such a flashback to my childhood.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:52 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

My dad was like this, and to some degree so was my mother. But the difference was that I was more "Bird", busy throwing myself out of trees and bridges while woohooing, and my brother more "fat-tart" in that he was extremely shy and wanted to do nothing more than read WWII books all day. I needed education about the outdoors and my brother motivation. So my parents were caught in a delicate balancing act of encouraging my brother to spend more time with me outdoors in hopes of both restraining my risk-taking and providing my brother with some self-confidence, while at the same time respecting who my brother was and dealing with the facts of broken bones and the probability he could come home missing an eye or something. (Once he did come home missing most of his ear, but the ER managed to sew it back on.)

But that was only part of their motivation for our education and experiences in the land where I grew up. Only later did I realize how wise they are when it comes to experiencing a place. They both love the land, love it deeply, and they recognized that when truly and thoroughly experienced a place has as much influence as a family member; moreover, it can be a family member and a relationship to be cultivated. But they also knew that a place can't give itself to you - the land doesn't love you back. Everything you get out of it has to come out of other relationships: the relationship with yourself, your friends, or your family. Building a relationship with a place based on what you draw out of how you experience it can be one of the deepest, most rewarding relationships one can build, but it takes work - part of it navigating that risk and danger the writer mentions. That's what they wanted to give to us.

But they also wanted to give to us the experience of a relationship with a place as a family unit. When the outdoors or a place is a family member, it's not just a family member, it's a chance for everyone to have a relationship on mostly equal terms. A place isn't child or parent or sibling. Although one is certainly going to experience it within those contexts, a sunset is something that everyone can experience without any kind of power structure. There are moments when those lines are erased and you're just humans united in love for each other and the outdoors.

It's a relationship that keeps on uniting. My brother and I, still completely opposite in temperament, are now also opposite in education, politics, and socio-economic status. But we can still take a hike all day together in the woods; we can still share our outdoor photos and write emails about our experiences outside. By sharing with us their deep love of place and the outdoors my parents gave us both a lifelong relationship we could rely on - our own individual relationships with the outdoors - and they gave us our bond with each other.
posted by barchan at 3:39 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am frightened of almost nothing now, except my brother's mullet, which haunts me still.
posted by coriolisdave at 4:03 PM on May 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

« Older Marie Kondo, Tidying, and Behavioral Economics   |   What's the deep history of birdiness? Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments