Now my cousins and I called our grandmother, Mamaw, but the whole community called her, Aunt Sally. One cold November morning around 1968, or maybe 1969, I was staying with my Papaw and Mamaw. I was sleeping on the couch and I was awakened by my Papaw stoking the cast iron firebox in the corner of the living room. They were country folk of modest means and they did not have central heat and air. I’m not sure what time it was but I am guessing it was three-thirty or four o’clock in the morning. From where I was laying I could see into the kitchen that my Mamaw was cooking and a half-dozen men were sitting around the table eating. My Papaw said, “Lloyd, there are going to be a whole bunch of people in here in a minute why don’t you go back and lay down in my bed.” I could see one of my uncles, my grandfather and several men I knew from their church. I remembered then that it was the first day of deer season. I wanted to get up but I was so tired and I dozed off for just a little bit. I was startled when another group of men burst through the front door.
One of the men that came in was my cousin, Eddie, as he came in Eddie, shouted, “city boy what are you still doing in that bed don’t you know it’s the first day of deer season.” I got up and I followed the men to the kitchen. I couldn’t believe all the food that was on the table. There were all the normal things she cooked for breakfast, big homemade biscuits, slab bacon, ham, white gravy and my grandma’s specialty rice and chocolate gravy. It was a southern style breakfast feasts but there were other things you did not normally eat at breakfast like mashed potatoes and venison. I think my Mamaw might just have cooked everything she knew how to cook. Over the next hour or so one group of men after another came to the door, some knocked and some just walked in. My grandma greeted them all and offered them a plate. I have no idea how many men came through and ate that morning but I would not be surprised if it was 50 men. Now later in the day I did hear Mamaw tell my Papaw that she was getting too old to cook all night but that morning she insisted everyone eat and everyone did. In fact I am pretty sure her feelings would have been hurt if anyone had not had a full plate of food.
Some men ate and took off but most stayed. They were waiting on something. Some were concerned that it was not long until sunup. Finally a man arrived I knew him as the pastor of Ten Mile Baptist Church. The preacher wasn’t dressed for the hunt and made and excuse that he had some business to attend to that morning. One of the men joked; we ought to cut your shirttail off for missing the first day of deer season. Everyone laughed. The pastor then asked, “will everyone join me in prayer.” The Pastor asked God to bless the hunt and he pray for the safety of the men in our community. There was a hardy Amen all around and they were off.
Regrettably this was the only time I was at my grandparents for the first day of deer season. I don’t know if this was a one-time event or a community tradition. Either way it is a wonderful memory and I am glad I was there. The world has change a lot since 1969. In those days we killed deer we didn’t harvest them. I suspect my Pawpaw would snicker at harvesting deer and figure that was something some city-slicker must have come up with. There were no women on that hunt. Today both my daughters are deer hunters. I would give anything if I could send a text or email to my Papaw with a picture of one of the deer they have killed. I know that would bring my Papaw a great deal of joy.