When the phone rang Arthur Farrell could hardly believe the name displayed across the caller ID screen—Aaron, a cousin two years his junior. Arthur and Aaron (their mothers are sisters) had done a lot of growing up together in their childhood, but as is the case in many relationships, grew apart as they got older. Careers, marriage, and kids are the three factors that seem to redirect our lives.

Arthur had been sitting in his cabin in southern Tennessee where unconventional theories and radical beliefs did not stand a chance of getting through the front door. You plant your garden in the spring, don’t shoot squirrels and rabbits on account of wools in the summer, and so on. Internet is available but hardly reliable. The TV works fine but is rarely on, except for when Arthur’s alma mater is in the heat of the college football season. Cell phone service is spotty and the uplift Arthur felt in his heart upon seeing “Aaron” flash across his screen surprised him.

“Hello, cousin,” he said into the phone.

“Arthur,” was the reply and then silence. The wind blew at nearly 25 miles per hour, swirling around the cabin and shaking the walls. Then the voice reappeared.

“Are you ready for turkey season?”

“More than you could imagine. And spring. Of course those two coincide, but you know what I mean.” Arthur smiled at the thought.

“Well, don’t argue with me. I’ve got some news. I know that the season doesn’t open in your beloved southern Tennessee until late March, damn near April, so I’ve bought you a membership to my club in Jackson County here in Alabama.”

And that was it. Thanks were given. Plans were made and turkey season jumped about 15 days in Arthur’s direction.

The wind blew out of the north; the temperature’s plummet continuing on toward the upper 20s for the night’s low. Arthur thought back to the times he’d spent with Aaron, mostly as a young child when you have no direction in life, just going with the current your parents or guardians have set. Being that their mothers are sisters, and they were neighbors in childhood, logic would suggest that the boys were catalysts to a pile of mischief coupled with an array of injuries that little boys tend to incur.

But with time they grew older and separated, Arthur went on to college and then law school and Aaron became a pilot, got married, and had a son and ultimately became a man while everybody watched. He served as a bush pilot in Alaska, surveyed in Canada, and turned down many opportunities overseas to stay close to his growing family. Arthur married a little later and had a son some time after that. Indeed, we all choose our paths.

Arthur contemplated these things, listening to the wind rattling the walls around him. He was low on firewood and would need to find a half cord to at least keep the cabin heated throughout the night. Bourbon and scotch will only get you so far, and beyond that point you find yourself stark naked howling at the moon sometime around midnight. Twenty-five degrees in March in Tennessee is a thing rarely felt.

In the fading light, Arthur pulled out his torn and weatherworn turkey vest. His calls were all still there and he suddenly started to remove them from their appointed pockets, realizing that he’d used nothing other than a diaphragm call or two in the last several years. What’s the use of carrying around unnecessary weight and noise? Perhaps a few extra shells would fill the void and provide a reassurance next time he needed to reload. Much like the line from the one-armed deputy in Unforgiven responding to the question of why he carried so many guns, “I ain’t gonna die from lack of shooting back.” English Bob, on the outside anyway, seemed like an okay kind of fella.

Arthur felt that all was right in the world—for the moment at least. The old Mossberg rested heavily in his hands, the smell of Hoppe’s No. 9 strong and musky in his nostrils. He was tired from cutting and gathering firewood (ash tree mostly), but thankful as the fire roared on into the night. It seemed as though a new chapter in his life was about to begin—at the very least a rekindled relationship with an old friend who happened to be blood. Because blood is the thickest of all, you know.

Image by Josh Wolfe

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