When I was young, my father often took me to his duck club in eastern Arkansas. I didn’t really care about duck hunting. In fact, I hated it. I would have much preferred to go to the zoo, ride my bike or watch television.
What normal child wants to sit in a sunken pit in freezing cold listening to grown men fart, telling stupid jokes and shooting guns over your head?
But I remember understanding my father was trying to spend time with me, and young boys do have a desire to please their fathers and make them proud. At least to some degree. No boy wants to be called a failure, a loser or a sissy by their father. So, I went, pretended to like it and live up to the manly ideal placed before me.
One of those trips is burned into my brain, and I’ve thought about it a lot thanks to a recent news story.
Before the season started, we’d have a work weekend where all the members would attend and help get the club ready. We’d make the duck blinds, clean the “cabin,” which was nothing more than a mouse infested trailer, and have a horrible lunch at Kelly’s in Wynne. There were conversations with locals where ten minutes seemed like ten years.
I was probably six or seven the first time I went with him. On our way home, my father said he had to check something. It was dusk when he pulled our Plymouth Valiant over to the side of the road.
“Son, I have to go check on something. You stay in the car. Don’t you dare get out.”
The car was perched high on the road on a steep bank and a large patch of ominous looking woods was at the bottom on the right side of the car.
I was highly apprehensive as I watched him walk down the bank and into the woods. With my face against the glass, I followed his every step until he disappeared into the darkness. I sunk down in the seat and waited. Trucks would pass and violently shake the small car. As the minutes went by, my imagination went wild. He was never coming back. Monsters had eaten him. He fell in the water and was covered in snakes. I didn’t have an iPhone. There was nothing to keep me occupied but my own little bizarre mind.
My dad of course returned and while it seemed like he was gone for hours, he was probably only gone for five to ten minutes. I never knew what he was checking. I didn’t want to know, because whatever it was, I hated it.
I was a bit too fragile as a child, although for some legitimate reasons. But with all the recent talk of Trump’s fucking wall and the recent deaths of children in detention, I’ve thought about what it would be like to be forcefully separated from a parent for days, weeks or months. Or perhaps to never see your parents again and to not know what happened to them. How horrible would it have been for me to watch my father disappear into those woods and then have other men take me and put me in a cage.
What would that be like? I think I have a tiny glimpse into that horror. I can imagine a child being so terrified they felt like their heart would literally break.
We will forever be known as a nation that did that to children. And not just to children on our border. To children in Yemen, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and many other places in the world.
There is no escape from our eternal guilt.