Art by Kathleen Swain
Cousin Carol married a sorry guy. He wasn’t crazy about working. In fact, he was pretty much averse to it. He had better things to do, hunting, fishing, sleeping and making babies. He and Carol had three babies in record time. It worried Daddy’s brother terribly that Jerry didn’t provide for Carol and the kids. As a favor to him, Daddy had Jerry meet him at the house one day after work. “Come with me and we’ll go get you a hog so Carol can have something to cook for the kids.” Jerry was all for free pork. They went to the pen, got Jerry a nice-sized pig, and he was on his way.
A few days later, Daddy showed up to check hs traps mid-morning and surprised Jerry at his pen with a 22 rifle in his hands. He’d just shot a pig and was getting ready to load it in his car. Daddy was an imposing man, very six foot three. He slapped Jerry to the ground.
Billy was Daddy’s shadow, making every step he made, whether it was hunting or socializing, which were often one in the same. One evening, they were sitting with several of the guys on logs around a fire telling tales. Billy had worked hard to keep up with his new orange hunting cap all day, only too aware of how lucky he was to have it. It was late. He was tired. He’d nodded off a time or two, leaned up against a big log next to Daddy when he was startled to see Runt Rider, the crotchety owner of the fish camp wearing his cap. His hand flew to his head, finding it bare. Sure enough, Runt had his hat! The other fellows teased him routinely, but Runt was an old grump, who’d never even spoken to him. There were even stories that he’d stabbed a man!
He’d been set up. The guys were all waiting, watching for his reaction. The more he studied the situation, the more outraged he became. Finally, time for action. He bounded across, grabbed the cap off Runt’s head, and was rewarded by an explosion of laughter from all the guys around the fire. Runt was not happy at being laughed at. His face turned fiery red. He spit, sputtered, cursed, struggling to maintain control, clearly infuriated. Billy calmly put the hat on his head, walked to Daddy’s truck, and got in, feeling vindicated.
Daddy walked over to the truck. “Son, why in the world did you grab Mr. Runt’s hat off his head?”
“He had my hat. I had to get it back.”
“Look on the seat beside you.” Beside him on the seat, undeniably, lay his own hat. “I guess you’d better give Mr. Runt’s cap back. Billy took off the cap, returning it to Mr. Runt, with an apology. Mr. Runt was ungracious, but at least didn’t stab him.