I’m in a pecan orchard. The trees are blocking out the sun, and I’m in some kind of heaven. Pecan trees do that to me. I could spend an entire day here.
The year before my father died, we planted nearly one-acre’s-worth of baby pecans.
I’ll bet they’re huge now.
It was late October, chilly weather. We dug holes all day. I wore a coonskin cap made from real raccoon. My father hand-made the thing when he was a young man. Folks from our pedigree often hunt coons with spotlights and longneck bottles on the weekends.
While planting each tree-row, he blasted music from his truck cab. I can’t remember which songs were playing, all I remember was a twang.
While we worked, Don followed us around.
Don was a duck. He was pure white, and behaved cantankerously toward anyone but Daddy. The old bird hung around wherever Daddy went. Sometimes, you’d see them walking the fence posts, side by side.
“Don,” he’d sometimes say. “Why don’t you make yourself useful, dammit?”
Don would just stand there, blinking.
“You freeloader,” he’d go on, “I’m gonna eat you if you don’t start pulling your weight.”
But Daddy would’ve never done such a thing. He didn’t want to admit that he loved that stupid bird. He did. Later that year, we found Don’s white feathers scattered all over the yard, I saw Daddy cry.
After we’d finished planting the trees, we looked at the mini-orchard in the low sun. Daddy let me sip his beer. Don wandered back and forth, grunting.
The pecans sat in long rows, straight and neat. Like a little army.
“One day,” said Daddy. “Maybe these things’ll make a little money.”
I was too tired to care whether they ever would. We’d worked so hard, I was half-delirious.
Daddy finally looked at me and said, “These trees’ll outlive me. One day, they’ll be huge. Hell, maybe I’ll see’em from heaven, and be proud that you and me planted them.”
I didn’t know how to answer him, so I just nodded.
Truth told, I don’t know why I’m telling you this. Maybe these pecans are getting to me.
But it’s been a long time since my father died. When he passed, he left me alone, and it seemed like the world quit spinning. I suppose, when I look at these trees, I think about that. I think of who I am, wondering who I’ve grown up to be.
And I hope he sees me.
I still have that coon hat.