Hunter grew up an only child in a small rural town in South Texas. The kind of town that still had dirt roads around it, the one that had no stoplights, a General store, a small schoolhouse, an old white church, and a very small post office. The kind of town that everyone knew who you were.
His parents had a small cabin outside of town on a little 50-acre spread of land. His dad worked the livestock, the garden and tended to the place while his maw kept the house running and tried to keep Hunter from getting into trouble. She spent most of her days cleaning, doing the wash, cooking, and baking, but there were times that you would find her under a shade tree, reading a book or spending some prayer time alone. Hunter loved when she would make homemade pies and put them in the window cool. You could smell her apple pies for miles around and the pot of chicken and dumplings that simmered on the old potbellied stove.
There never seemed to be time for them to do much of anything together but work and some fishing.
Hunter’s mom was unable to have children after him, so he stayed to himself mostly, even when he was in school, his mind was on riding Whisky to another adventure and instead of playing with the other kids. His dad was a hard man that worked till dinner time and then would turn the jug up before bed. He was always up by 4 am and worked hard till the sun went down. He had Hunter mending barbed wire fences and feeding the livestock and doing chores at a young age. There never seemed to be time for them to do much of anything together but work and some fishing. His dad made sure he knew what a hard day’s work was, how to use tools, and what it was like to run the place. When the chores were done on the weekends, he would hop on Whiskey and head for the river. He would lay by the river’s edge and think about everything in life. As he got older he would think about the times that his maw would take him down there with a picnic basket and his fishing pole to spend Sundays together.
Hunter knew what a toll his dad’s death had taken on her and the look in her eyes as she would stare off into the sky said it all.
His father passed away when he was 12 from a nasty accident with a stubborn bull and barbed wire. It was a day that he would carry for the rest of his life. It was the day that he became a young man quickly, the day when he had to step up to help his maw take care of the place and take care of her. She always had a positive outlook on life and would teach him to appreciate the simple things in life and to be thankful for what he had and do not want for much. Every Sunday they would head to the edge of the mountain and look down over the gorge, kneel beside each other and give thanks to the Lord for what they had. They would spend the day by the river and she would talk to him about things in life and what to look out for and what to expect as he grew up. She taught him how to sew, cook, and she took over schooling him since he had no time to go to school. Hunter spent most of his days working around the place as his dad had and would ride to town to get the things that they needed from the General store and so that she had a chance to have some alone time and a time to rest some. Hunter knew what a toll his dad’s death had taken on her and the look in her eyes as she would stare off into the sky said it all. Though she never mentioned it, he knew that her heart was broken and a big piece of her died along with him. He knew that nothing would fill that void in her heart.
The first three years were tuff, but they survived and they grew closer together than ever before. He grew up in those three years and learned what becoming of age was all about. He loved his mother deeply and never took her for granted again. Soon after he had turned 16, he rode up to the General store to pick up a few things for his maw. She told him to take his time, that she loved him and that she was going to sit under the tree and read. He took his time along the way but had a strange feeling in his gut. Something did not seem right to him. He rode back home and turned whiskey loose. He headed towards the house when he saw his maw laying against the tree with a bible in hand. He spoke to her and with no response, he reached out to touch her. He realized at the moment that she had gone to be with his dad. Her heart had given out, perhaps from missing him too much, he thought.
That summer, the year he turned 16, was the year his whole life turned around. Life as he knew it no longer existed and as he stood one evening looking down over the graves of his parents, he thanked them for helping him to learn what life was about. He knelt beside the graves with his head bowed, hat in his right hand and his left hand on the ground and the words “I love you” escaped from his lips as the tears rolled down his cheeks. He knew this was not goodbye forever but it was for now. He knew what it was like to be alone, but now, he really was alone, all alone except for Whiskey. His heart was heavy, he felt numb and his mind went blank. There were no amount of words that could change what happened.
The day had come that a new adventure would begin. A journey into the unknown that freighted him more than anything else had in life. A journey that would change his life forever. A journey full of fear, pain, and prayer.
To be continued …