May 12, 2024


by: tguerry


Categories: Current Culture

Right Place, Wrong Time

Right Place, Wrong Time

Throughout high school, my friend, David, and I used to frequent his family’s deer lease in central Texas. Despite the name, it actually had nothing to do with deer or leases. David’s father, two uncles and grandfather had purchased the 400-acre defunct farm as a place for their extended families to gather on weekends and holidays. The place’s only association with deer was that David’s father, uncles, and grandfather would spend a week there every November, partying and drinking beer under the guise of menacing the local deer population.

Apart from its remote location, the acreage embodied three distinct assets – a two-bedroom farmhouse with a giant common room where everyone could gather … a half-acre pond fed by a Sulphur-tainted spring which served as a swimming hole … and an old International Harvester Scout, four-wheel-drive jeep in which every member of the clan had been taught to drive over the years.

The Swimming Hole
Since the swimming hole was fed by a spring, it stayed full year-round. Since the spring was tainted by Sulphur, no living creatures inhabited it – no water moccasins to be wary of and no pesky fish to nip at your privates while you floated on your back. The downside was that anything you wore to swim in (especially the whitey-tidy underwear of high school boys) came out of that pond permanently stained the right color of yellow to imply the wearer had a serious bladder issue. The obvious solution, given the privacy of that remote location was to go skinny-dipping.

When David’s entire family was in attendance — something like 25 or 30 individuals, ranging from three to eighty-plus years of age, the typical routine went like this: After a large and sumptuous breakfast, the men (David’s dad, uncles and grandfather) would putter around fixing stuff while the women remained inside, cooking incredible-smelling food and enjoying stories that they abruptly cut short along with knowing smirks any time us teens would enter the house.

Immediately after lunch, the men would regroup in a circle of those Nylon-strap lawn chairs and commence whittling on small Mesquite branches — an activity I never understood. Shortly later, they’d break out a huge cooler of ice-cold beer and commence whittling away on that cache as well. By around 4:00PM, David’s grandfather would declare it was “swimming time” and the entire clan would head down to the swimming hole, some less steadily than others.

Remember what I said about avoiding Sulphur stains? Well, the entire horde — mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grand-parents would strip down to their birthday suits and dive in. You could say they were not a bashful group. David and I, being insecure teenage boys, made ourselves scarce. That’s not to say that we didn’t ninja our way up the back side of the Earthen dam and sneak an occasional peak.

The Jeep
The old Scout was rounded off on all four corners and rusting in places where the paint had encountered immoveable Live Oak trees. The hood latch was broken so David’s grandfather devised a steel cable harness that kept the hood strapped down. The cable attached to the front bumper on one side of the car, looped up over the hood, through an eyebolt, and down to the other side of the bumper. It was a crude but effective solution to a practical problem. It also provided the means to one of the greatest pastimes I’m ever enjoyed.

Two or three teen boys would pile into the jeep and head out across the land dotted with young Mesquite trees. One of us would sit atop the hood with our legs entwined beneath the cables and hold on for dear life while the driver executed high speed turns, jumped over small mounds of dirt (which we later learned were buried cows), and even mowed down those young Mesquite trees in an effort to dethrone the hood rider. Apart from bruises and sprains (and that one fellow who fell off into a patch of Prickly Pear), nobody ever got seriously injured in our game of Scout-Hood Rodeo. Angels really do watch over idiots.

The Night Hunt
One summer, David and I and another friend met one of David’s cousins at the farm to spend several unsupervised days prior to his family arriving for July Fourth weekend. Someone got the bright idea that we should take the old Scout out at night and rid the acreage of Coyotes, Bobcats, Racoons, and any other varmints trespassing on the hallowed family retreat. What could go wrong with four teenage boys, armed to the teeth, speeding through pastures in the dark?

As the reigning Scout-Hood Rodeo champion, I volunteered to sit on the hood with a shotgun while two others stood in the back of the Scout, firing rifles over the roof, and David navigated the countryside. Needless to say, I slid down low. If you’ve never fired a rifle in the pitch-black darkness of a moonless night, stop reading this and head to the country immediately. Those expanding gasses that propel the bullet, create exquisite flaming tails as the bullet leaves the barrel. The bigger the bullet, the grander the tail.

It was all awesome until I realized the fire tails coming over my head were occasionally passing dangerously close to the toes of my good cowboy boots out there near the front of the hood. I quickly relocated to the passenger seat of the Scout and suffered only hearing damage from the guns going off three inched above my head. A couple of handy cigarette butts stuffed into my ears mitigated that problem and everything was going fantastic until dumbass David jumped one of those cow graves and the Scout died in its tracks. No lights, no engine, no nothing. And, did I mention, no moon? It was dark!

David’s solution was to whip out his lighter. Only problem was that the light coming off a Zippo’s flame is nowhere near as bright in real life as it is in a horror movie. Freddie Kruger could have been hovering five feet away and we’d have never even known to scream. The good news was that there was an ancient Ray-O-Vac flashlight in the glovebox. The bad news was that the batteries were older than us. The really bad news was that we had absolutely no idea where on the 400-acre parcel we were stranded.

We understood entirely how those three blind mice of song felt. We were four city boys, groping about a pitch-black rural countryside with no clue which way home might be, and we would probably still be lost on that expanse today if David hadn’t caught a whiff of the Sulphur pond.

Once we sniffed our way to the swimming hole bounded by the dirt road, we were on our way home but even then, we kept straying off the path, into the snake-infested weeds and had to inch our way back to the gravel. I’m not sure I ever really heard a waking rattlesnake but imagination reigns supreme in the dark. One of the most welcoming sights I’ve ever experienced in life was the dimly glowing porch light of that old farmhouse as we crested the last hill.

Lost in the Void
We had been in a place that was completely familiar by daylight but utterly foreign by the dark of night. Amidst the anxiety of the situation, we very nearly turned on each other more than once, and it was a miracle that we’d encountered the most unlikely of guideposts.

It occurs to me that our country is in an equally dark place. We are approaching a national election where both presumed candidates have serious mental and moral deficits. More important, there are no centrists among the electorate — there are only those who loath one man or the other (or maybe both). Given the fact that this entire election will be driven by media-driven mud-slinging and exaggerated accusations, I’m wondering if there’s even a flashlight powerful enough to guide us out of this wilderness before we turn on each other.

I’d seriously like to hear your thoughts on the issue (so long as they don’t include Freddie Kruger sneaking up behind us).

Let’s talk. I’d really like to hear what you have to say, and it might even give me something to write about. Email me at
I’ll buy you coffee and we can compare notes. I promise not to steal your ideas without permission.


Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social enviroment. Most people are incapable of forming such opinions.

― Albert Einstein (Essay to Leo Baeck, 1953)


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The Anxious Generation

— Jonathan Haidt

This book could easily be titled “How to Kill Your Kid in Three Easy Steps”. Unfortunately, it describes exactly how current parenting trends are doing just that. And, unless you skipped everything above and went directly to this book recommendation, you can probably guess what lies behind an epidemic of childhood depression and suicide.

A meeting of great minds who think alike