Her name is spelled Xayden. It's pronounced Zayden. Don’t ask me. All I know is that she’s 3, adorable, a pain in the butt at times, more fun than a pickup bed full of monkeys, and she’s my granddaughter. We find very little common ground inside the house. I have no interest in those two pups she’s glued to on TV, and I hear that dreaded Mickey Mouse song in my head at night. Let me be clear, I do not give a solitary hoot where "Toodles" is. Yes, I play along with the stuffed animal parade, the endless desire for me to put down the latest copy of Bassmaster magazine and pick up a story book...again. I’m kinda shocked that by now we haven’t erased the words from the pages with our eyeballs simply by reading and re-reading. There is constantly a miniscule bug on the floor, under her chest of drawers, in total darkness where Pappaw has to lay face down on the floor with a flashlight to see. It is uncanny how she spots these things, but none get past her! Walking through the pasture with enough visual happening around us to overwhelm and amaze, she spots a dung beetle in a dark shady spot. God given gift of insecta-vision!
And THERE is my common ground with my Xady lady. We are hunters! It is outdoors where we enjoy our best playtime together! My heart grows younger out there, and she grows up faster. We meet in the middle with a butterfly net, a five gallon bucket and a feverish hunt for bugs to drop in the bucket. Mayflies were her quarry of choice earlier this spring, and she was very good at catching all of them that were at about 32 inches or lower. The natural course of things has moved us from mayfly season to her favorite...The roly poly. It's part of her big 5. I assure you that you’ve never seen a grown man grinning with an 8 pound bass in his hand any happier or more excited than Xady with a poly. When the weather warmed a bit more and the poly parade started in the cool mornings, she was ready. Yes, sadly some polys made the ultimate sacrifice during their time in poly compound. Over-handling, I believe the cause. Even tho death came calling for some of the weaker little insect versions of the armadillo, they still counted towards her tally. Near 20 on that particular safari. It was a tremendously successful outing.
Trips to the ranch are a big deal. She knows that the first stop for supplies is Buccee’s. Corn for the deer, hogs, birds, coons and coconut fudge for us. Once we pass through the ranch gate, it’s out of the car seat and riding shotgun with her head hanging out the window like a fella’s favorite hound. While I hoist the corn for distribution, she hunts. Everything is a wonder! Like the rock that she picked up and asked me about. I explained that it was actually a world record cow patty...true Boone and Crockett material... a dandy. “Don’t eat it.” I teach her these important things, and without her even trying or knowing, she reminds me that the blessing of time in the field, the boat, a conservation area, BLM, National Park or old deer feeder is very very special.
How callused and spoiled am I? Would I be happy for a couple of hours in the floor of the boat with a box of night crawlers? No, but to see her pure joy in that reminds and refreshes my roots with critters and the places they wander. Poly safari in the front yard, poop safari in the pasture…a precious little one’s squeal of pure joy as a night crawler slithers thru her fingers. Safari is a journey, an expedition, a mindset that anticipates with great eagerness what lies ahead. It’s the stop for fudge along the way, the ride through the pasture, the moment when the turtle first lumbers into sight. It’s sunrise in Cordoba when more doves than you ever imagined start lifting from the roost, or sunset on top of Going to the Sun Road.
Pre-dawn when it’s just light enough to see that yes, that’s the big boy I’ve hunted for three years. In a wink he’s gone, but safari still has had its full effect on your heart. Thank you Lord! There is a 3 year old inside of you. Turn her loose, send her on safari near and far. And if you net a poly that’s 3/8ths inches or more, call ol' Roy at Truelife Taxidermy.
May 24, 2019