Hurricane, a Prose Poem

Job.  It was an appropriate book for the weather because, after all, Job’s troubles had started with tornadoes striking the house where his sons and daughters were feasting, killing them all.  Hubert listened to the wind shake his house and thought about the book of Psalms, where King David had written:

He makes winds his messengers,

flames of fire his servants.”

He wondered what the wind had to tell him tonight. Probably nothing. Maybe, that it was time to go out in the storm and let God have his way. That painter on the coast had done it. Anderson. Walter Anderson. Rowed a boat out into the Gulf of Mexico, clear out to Horn Island, tied himself to a tree and howled into the throat of a  hurricane. He was dying too. Cancer. The storm didn’t get him though. The cancer did.

Everything was in order, he guessed. The will was signed, cattle records filed, pass book and insurance policies locked in the safe-deposit box. His lawyer knew where everything was, and Caleb wouldn’t have any trouble sorting out his affairs.  He’d already made the arrangements at the funeral home—everything paid for.

There were worse ways to go out than in a storm. God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind. Jesus calmed the waters. He would be with his cattle, and that’s where anybody who knew him would expect to find him. Out in the field with his cattle. That’s where Caleb would know to look.

He rolled another cigarette and thought about it, picked up his matches and lit it and took a deep drag. He coughed it out, eyes watering, and waited until he could take another pull.

When he finished the cigarette he ground it out in the ashtray and dropped the butt in a mason jar about half full of butts, insurance against a day with no makings.

He set the Bible on the table beside his chair and stood up to go.

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Coyote

Coyote

 

The logging has been over a long time and

The forest is coming back.

Still, the logging road is well-used, especially by

locals looking for a place to dump an old refrigerator and

teenagers sneaking out to the woods to party.

 

Saplings brush the sides of the truck and

I pull in the side-view mirrors

So they won’t get knocked off.

Branches lash the open window.

Sunlight filters through the canopy overhead and

reflects off the windshield and the junk lining the road:

White enameled appliances riddled with bullet holes,

rusted steel drums and five gallon herbicide cans,

a sofa with foam leaking from a few dozen holes in the fabric,

tin cans and rotting plastic garbage bags,

soiled disposable diapers,

faded cardboard beer cartons,

empty bottles and cans,

cigarette butts,

empty packs of Zig-Zag rolling papers,

scorched fire rings—

all covered with a thin layer of leaf and pine needle mulch, garnished with poison ivy and pine cones and lacy ferns.

 

The road ends beside an eroded

red clay gulch fifty feet deep.  A couple of

wrecked cars have been pushed over the

edge and lay at the bottom beside a pool of

water surrounded by more junk.

 

I untied the rope from the bumper and

drag the coyote to the edge,

roll him over with the toe of my boot.

It slides down the bank and splashes into the pool,

floats for a moment,

and sinks.

 

The coyotes had been singing up and

down the valley for the last week, a wild chorus setting all the

neighborhood dogs on edge with lust and jealousy,

and I had listened to them myself,

enjoying the wilderness encroaching

into our safe subdivision.

But someone must have minded.

 

This was not how I had planned to spend my morning.

 

 

Day 7 — Countdown to the Colorado River/Grand Canyon Raft Trip

KAYAK: Part I

The Natchez Trace Parkway ran behind the neighborhood where I grew up, following the route of old Indian trails from the Cumberland River around Nashville, Tennessee to the Mississippi River at Natchez. In the 1500’s Spanish conquistadors traveled the trail looking for gold and found the Mississippi River. In the early 1800’s river boat men with the reputation of being fearless used the trace to return to their homes in Kentucky and Ohio after floating barges down to New Orleans. Mississippi was wilderness then: Indians, highwaymen, wolves, bears, and panthers haunted the boat men’s journey.

The parkway is scenic–rolling hills punctuated by farmland and cutover timber, no houses or businesses. It is closed to commercial vehicles and has a fifty mile per hour speed limit. Frequent pull-offs allow travelers to read historical markers without leaving their cars.

miss grass

At fourteen a friend named John and I backpacked seventy miles down the Trace. We filled our canteens at the house of a man who kenneled his hounds in junk cars. Our only trouble came when a carload of teen-agers decided to harass us at a rest area. It didn’t occur to me to be scared–that’s something that comes with age. We ran off into the woods, and those teenagers didn’t get out of the car. A year later we rode our bicycles two hundred miles down the Trace, to Jackson, where we camped in some woods behind a grocery store, and then two hundred miles back. But it didn’t seem to be enough. I’ve always wanted to live someplace wild, liked to take chances.

Another friend, Mark, and I hunted, rode motorcycles, chased raccoons with his hound through the woods at night, and learned to canoe white water on a chilly river in North Carolina. The white water stuck. In the children’s book The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame wrote, “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats,” something Mark and I agreed upon then, and I’m sure he still believes now. Ratty-and-Mole-in-Boat-with-Dragonfly

We liked the challenge of the river, man against nature stuff.  Mark and I tried to impress girls with our adventure stories. We drifted the halls of our high school quoting Burt Reynolds from Deliverance, whispering: “You don’t beat this river,” or “Sometimes you have to lose yourself before you can find anything.” Once at the Nantahala Outdoor Center we’d found a poster of a fog-bound river with the caption, “The River is life; it’s energy symbolizes every challenge afforded by nature.” Mark and I were known for randomly inserting that philosophy into conversations with people who had no idea what we were talking about.

Cliché or not, there is something about rivers, messing around in boats. Maybe it’s being outside, the way water falls over and around rocks–the sound of it, the isolation, the tired feeling after a good day on the water.

Mark moved to Arizona for college and stayed there, but we kept in touch. He wrote me letters about western rivers and I told him about new rivers in Arkansas and Tennessee and North Carolina.

phoenix

In 1987, in between jobs, I visited him in Phoenix. We were both paddling outdated fiberglass kayaks at the time (ironically, manufactured by a company called Phoenix). On that trip we headed up to New Mexico and, foolishly, paddled a section of the Rio Grande above Taos at near flood stage. The water was fresh snowmelt and after a long swim, Mark nearly died of hypothermia. I remember being overwhelmed by a wave train that I couldn’t see over, and my fear of swimming is the only thing that kept me alive that day. It was a crash course in “Big Water,” something I’d never experienced in the dam controlled southern rivers, the Nantahala in North Carolina and the Ocoee in Tennessee. Southern whitewater rivers flow through tight valleys and often are controlled by hydroelectric dams. Rainfall is plentiful and the rivers are runnable year around as water is released to produce electricity. The typical southern rapid is drop/pool, usually not more than a hundred or two hundred yards long, ending with waterfalls followed by quiet pools. Precise maneuvering is required to set up for the waterfalls.  Since the water flow is controlled, the rivers are smaller than out West, dependably constant.

perception

On later trips out West, Mark had upgraded to a plastic boat, a Dancer by Perception, and he arranged for me to paddle a borrowed Dancer. These were state of the art whitewater playboats, practically the only boat I would see on the Ocoee. The way the boat responded in moving water, the way my body became an extension of the boat was as close to a true dance as I’ve ever come.

Western rivers are messy. When the snow melts the rivers fill up with muddy brown water and the rapids can run anywhere from a quarter to two or three miles long. The paddling season lasts as long as the snow melt. Water levels can change dramatically depending on the weather in the mountains fifty miles away from where you’re paddling. When the rivers cut through canyons, “big water” occurs. The water can’t spread out, so it stacks up.  Maneuverability is no longer a problem; rather, it’s trying to remain upright while plowing through six to ten foot standing waves.

big water

I have always had a problem with what are called “eskimo rolls,” the ability to sweep the kayak upright after turning over. My roll had never been dependable. It would come and go.  Even though the mechanics of the roll are simple, there is a mental element that I couldn’t master. As in baseball, sometimes a batter will do everything right and still go into a hitting slump. I sometime came close to panic when I turn upside down. The kayak is a tight fit; wet suits, life preservers and paddling jackets add to the claustrophobic feeling. Underwater, it’s dark, cold, and water goes up my nose. You have to tuck your head and body tight to the deck to keep from bouncing your helmet off submerged rocks. Imagine sitting with your legs spread before you, bent at the waist so that you’re trying to kiss your knees, and extending your arms and paddle below your bottom, above the surface, and then initiating a sweeping motion while snapping your hips and rolling upright, so that ideally, your head should be the last thing to emerge from the water. Or even worse, having to bail out of your boat, upside down, while flowing down a rapid, and swimming through the rapid to the shore while holding on to a paddle and a boat. Swimming is embarrassing as well as dangerous. I imagine my companions saying, “There goes Engel again,” whenever they have to rescue me.

Roll_2

Southern rivers are easier for me, the water clearer, waves smaller, not so intimidating as muddy Western rivers. Kayakers talk about confidence, about knowing that you are going to roll up, and that it just happens. You’re not supposed to think, is the idea. They say you have to like being underwater. My fear of not rolling makes the problem worse and sometimes I think it would be easier to never kayak again.

**This essay originally appeared in Product, 1993.

Day 13–Countdown to Colorado River/Grand Canyon Raft Trip

nantahala falls

Nantahala Falls (The Lesser Wesser)

Part III: Learning to Whitewater on the Nantahala River

In 1976, the nation’s Centennial, my friend Mark’s family and my family happened to take separate vacations to North Carolina, and a few weeks apart we both happened upon a sparkling white-water river in the western mountains near Cherokee, not far from the terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the eastern entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We both happened to take raft trips down the Nantahala River, which flowed through a deep gorge that gave the river its Cherokee name, “Nantahala–Land of the Noonday Sun,” because it was shaded a great part of the day. A two lane highway ran the length of the paddleable 8 mile stretch, which contains over 20 named rapids, mainly Class II whitewater with a III at the beginning and the end for a good shot of adrenalin (See Footnote 1). The water was cold, around 45 degrees, because it is pulled from the bottom of a dam high in the mountains and dropped down the mountain through a tube in order to generate hydroelectric energy, before being channeled into the riverbed. The sun only directly hits the water for about 4 hours, and often a mist hovers above the river where the cold water and warm air make a dense fog. At these times paddlers appear as disembodied heads bobbing above the mist. Where the sun does hit the crystal clear water, it creates golden patterns along the sand and gravel bottom, visible at depths of several feet.

Summer mornings in that gorge felt magical to a Mississippi boy who grew up on adventure books that frequently featured young kids or teenagers stranded in the wilderness and learning to survive (Farley Mowat’s Two Against the North and Gary   Paulsen’s Hatchet come to mind). More often than not, that survival depended on mastering the skills of running rapids. Mornings in the western North Carolina mountains had a cool crispness and the air had the clean smell of spruce and white pine and rich damp earth. At the put in to the river there was the pleasant busyness of loading and unloading boats, pumping and rigging air bags, gearing up for cold water, stretching, and checking out other paddlers and their boats. (Like most outdoor activities, a good portion of the fun is getting ready, messing around with ropes and equipment.) The put-in for the river lay in an arrowhead of land between two forks. On one side the natural riverbed lay exposed, with just a thin trickle of summer water winding between rocks, and on the other the channel leading up to the power station. Usually around 9 a.m. as the demand for electricity arose somewhere, the power station would generate by pulling water out from the dam and through the turbines and into the channel, raising the water level in the river and transforming it from a stream into a pleasantly roaring white water river.

It should be noted that the year Mark and I got our first taste of whitewater, 1976, was a short four years following the theatrical release of Deliverance, the Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight film based on South Carolina poet James Dickey’s novel about four men from the city who venture on a weekend canoe trip on the fictional Cahulawassee river in the remote mountains of North Georgia. The heart of the story focuses on the conflicts between the city men and the mountain men, and the movie created the unforgettable and chilling line, “You shore got a pretty mouth,” a prelude to sodomistic rape, but for me, the movie’s main attraction was the whitewater. These segments were shot in the Tallulah Gorge and on the Chatooga, a national Wild and Scenic River, a little known gem at the time. But the movie sparked an interest in canoeing, and even Jimmy Carter, the governor of Georgia before he became president that bicentennial year, had run the rapids a couple of times. The names of the Chatooga’s rapids still stand out in my memory: Warwoman, Rock Garden, the Roostertails, Dick’s Creek Ledge, The Narrows, Screaming Left Turn, Bull Sluice, 7 Foot Falls (described in the guide books as a “train wreck”), and Woodall Shoals. The naming of rapids has always provided a rich mix of imagery and language to characterize the raw experience of paddling a river.

Following that North Carolina trip, Mark purchased a yellow, 17 foot “Blue Hole” canoe, manufactured out of ABS Royalex in Sunbright, Tennessee. For boys experienced only with aluminum canoes, which, while wonderful, were heavy, noisy, leaky, and because they almost without exception always had a keel, difficult to maneuver in whitewater, canoes made out of ABS Royalex represented the jump in grade from a single gear fat-tire bicycle (this before retro was cool) to a ten speed English racer. Royalex is a synthetic material manufactured from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic. It featured a hard inner and outer shell of ABS sandwiched around an inner layer of ABS foam. It was manufactured in flat sheets that could be heat moulded into any shape, including canoes ranging from 18 foot expedition models down to sleek and highly maneuverable whitewater playboats. An outer vinyl layer painted the boats bright primary colors and made a day on the river look like a festival.

The other alternative was fiberglass boats, and though these were ultralight and also mouldable, they broke when wrapped around rocks. That’s where the beauty of ABS Royalex came in. The boats floated naturally without built in air chambers (like aluminum boats), and they were practically indestructible. Whereas Burt Reynolds’ wooden canoe snapped in half in Deliverance, I once helped pull an ABS boat off of a rock it had wrapped around and used a chunk of driftwood to beat it back into river-worthy shape, with only a slight crease in the side to remember the battle with the rock.

Of course, Mark and I knew very little about paddling whitewater at the time. Our experiences on the Buffalo hadn’t prepared us for the real thing, but that next summer, 1977 we headed up to the Nantahala to learn how to whitewater or get hurt trying. I believe the first time back to the Nantahala, it was Mark and I and his father. We camped out at a little campground a couple of miles above the river, Lost Mine Campground on Silvermine Creek. We were fortunate on that trip to meet a little group from Mississippi camping at the same campground. They were actually there for college credit, a class on canoeing, taught by Dave Heflin and Dr. Henry Outlaw. Dave and Dr. Outlaw invited us to join their group and we paddled with them for three or four days, essentially taking their class (See Footnote 2). It seemed ironic both then and now, that Mark and I learned to whitewater from two Mississippians who lived in an even flatter part of the state than we did (the Mississippi Delta, where the land was as flat and smooth and green as a pool table).

Outlaw

Dr. Henry Outlaw

Heflin

Dave Heflin

dave

Dave Heflin running solo

While I look at Class II-III whitewater now as fairly easy, I can thank Outlaw and Heflin for opening my eyes to the science of whitewater, teaching me to read rapids and understand the dynamics of water falling down hill toward the oceans of the world.  They taught us the names of the rapids on the Nantahala: Patton’s Run, Tumble Dry, Pyramid Rock, Quarry Rapids, Pop ‘n Run, Delabars Rock, Whirlpool, and Nantahala Falls (or, the Lesser Wesser), a Class III+ at the end of the run where motorists pulled over to watch paddlers run–and often swim–the rapid. Whereas Mark and I would have been happy survive the river, counting success as getting downstream with a minimum of spills and swims, Outlaw and Heflin taught us how to “run” the river with style and grace.

Nantahala_River_canoeist_2009

We learned to read rapids and look for the clearest channels and how to recognize the pillow above rocks from upstream and avoid them. They taught us how to “catch” an eddy, the pool of water located behind rocks or in the bend of the river, by driving the bow of the canoe into the eddy and pivoting the rest of the into the quiet water. They taught us to lean downstream when in trouble, because the current can easily flip a boat turned edgewise to the flow. We learned draw strokes (to move the boat laterally), crossover draws to avoid having to switch hands on the paddle, pry strokes, sweeps, and the always useful J stroke. We learned how to do an upstream ferry, which means to turn the bow upstream and angle the boat slightly, so that we could cross the river without being swept downstream, a useful skill when maneuvering a difficult rapid. We learned how to surf, that is, sticking the bow of the boat into a hydraulic, a strong hole in the river where water falling over an obstacle recirculates (powerful enough to hold a boat or a swimmer depending on the size of the obstacle and the volume and speed of the current). Under Outlaw and Heflin’s tutelage, we learned to work the river like a math problem, catching eddies, ferrying, and playing in the rapids, rather than just surviving.

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  1. Eastern rivers use a scale of I -VI, with I being moving water with small waves, and Class VI considered un-runnable by anyone other than experts.  Class IIs are fun paddling, with lots of action but little real danger or need to scout. IIIs are pushy and require intermediate skills, but they’re usually forgiving–other than battered pride–if mistakes are made. Class IVs are exponential IIIs and swimming one is no fun–in fact swimming a IV is likely to rough a paddler up. Once I started paddling on my own I usually looked for a way around Class Vs on the rare occasion I got on that level of river.
  2. I just learned of Dr. Outlaw’s death as I looked him up on the internet. Both he and Dave are legendary at Delta State University, in Cleveland, Mississippi. Apparently Dr. OUtlaw, a chemistry professor, was also a Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor scholar, dabbled in poetry, and they both left a legacy of outdoors adventure education. Heflin (still alive) has a distinguished chair named after him at DSU, with the position dedicated to the continuation of outdoor education at the university.

Day 19: Countdown to Colorado River/Grand Canyon Rafting

2-buffalo-river-tennessee

BEGINNINGS–Mississippi and the Buffalo River, Tennessee

I have been in love with whitewater since I was a teenager. Growing up in Mississippi with long hot summers and slow dark rivers and streams, the allure of fast flowing water over rocks was powerful. Occasionally my family would find our way into the very northeast corner of Mississippi, where the foothills of the Appalachians dwindled into the black prairie land of north Mississippi, or over into Alabama and central Tennessee, where the land was formed by sharp hollows and bluffs and the streams flowed a bit faster and clearer. Those rivers were usually a deep green, as opposed to the brown water of my home state, and often they flowed over shoals and ripples, and it was there I began to appreciate the possibilities that fast flowing water promised.

Cave-on-the-River

The Buffalo River in central Tennessee was a favorite destination for float trips, and I began going there with a high school friend. The river flowed between bluffs and through bottoms where farmers raised corn and cows waded into the river to drink. The water was deep green and cool, falling toward the ocean in long slow pools linked by short winding ripples and gravel shoals and sometimes a one or two foot ledge that extended a waterfall the width of the river. My friend, Mark Hollis, and I, paddling clunky old 18 foot Grumman aluminum canoes, lived for the rush of those short “rips.” We would drop off the seats and kneel on the deck and paddle feverishly through the water, working twice as hard as we needed to. On one trip Mark’s father, paddling a shorter canoe solo and carrying most of the camping gear, showed us the science behind the J-stroke, and put us to shame as he angled the shoals with delicate sweeps and prying strokes that looked like an artist working a canvas compared to our broad-brushed slapping paint on a barn.

In Honor of Father’s Day

The following is a re-post  of a section from a Nonfiction piece titled “The Tools We Work With.” The essay itself was a part of the introduction to my dissertation, which explored the idea of creative writing as work. My father, Clarence Engel, certainly taught me the meaning and value of hard work.

 

When I was thirteen I took my first job outside my father’s supervision. A man hired me for two weeks to help gut a church sanctuary that he had contracted to remodel. My father’s jobs were slow and he could spare me. When I took the job, the way my parents treated me changed. My father bought a pair of lace up boots for me, where I had always worn tennis shoes to work before. My mother worried that I had enough sandwiches and coke money for lunch. She made my father talk to me about how to conduct myself on a real job. He said something like “Just do what they tell you.”

0409DemolishBrickWall16summary

The best part of the job was being paid to destroy. The man who hired me didn’t say ten complete sentences to me the whole two weeks. He wasn’t much bigger than me, and his silence and his close set eyes made me nervous. I started on a row of tall, frosted glass windows that had to be torn out and replaced with stained glass. I used a hammer and chisel, removing the brick around the sills one at a time. Mortar dust dried my throat and tasted of lime. I admired the straight lines of my work, the way the whole bricks stacked into a neat pile. When the man came to check on me, I stepped to one side to show him the layer of brick I had chipped out, the unbroken window glass. He picked up a sledge hammer from the floor, handed it to me and said, “That’s real pretty, but let’s see how hard you can swing this thing.” He pointed at the row of windows left in the sanctuary and I understood that on some jobs fast was better than pretty.

I began to notice weather while working for my father, something I had always taken for granted. We worked in attics where the summertime temperatures reached one-hundred and forty degrees, and in the cold and rain and mud where I layered my clothing to stay warm and dry. The weather gave each day, each job, a different set of problems to overcome, and intensified my sense of satisfaction as we loaded the tools and drove home in the pickup. Even now, when I drive through my home town and see the houses and businesses where I helped my father install a heating and cooling system, pour a foundation, or snake out a drain, I remember the weather better than the work.

Over the years my father mashed his fingers, crawled on his hands and knees under floors and across attics, burned himself with acetylene torches and acid, and was electrified once as he stood on a ladder and gripped a piece of conduit that wasn’t grounded properly. The electricity held his grip until someone thought to shut off the breaker. Another time, while trimming a section of air conditioning duct with tin snips, he ran a two inch sliver of jagged metal completely through his thumb. He wrapped a handkerchief around the thumb to catch the blood and drove to the doctor’s office. The doctor dabbed at the chunk of metal with alcohol, jerked it out with a pair of pliers, and wrapped his thumb in gauze. My father looked at his thumb as we were driving back to the job. “I should’ve done that myself,” he said. “It would have been free and it wouldn’t hurt any less.”

When I was seventeen years old my father was buried alive for thirty-five minutes. He was on his hands and knees at the bottom of a ten foot ditch, tapping a new drain into the city sewer line, when one side of the ditch sluffed off and buried him under seven feet of earth. The opening in the pipe and the air pocket his body made allowed him to breathe.

buried alive article 1 clarence engel

My older brother Gary was working for my father that day. Gary said the backhoe operator was afraid to dig with his bucket. “I’ll take his head off if I go too deep,” the man said. Gary called the man a son of a bitch and said, “My daddy will be dead anyway if you don’t crank that thing up.”

The backhoe took off three feet of earth while my brother went for help. Soon, ten men were digging with shovels and hands, getting in each other’s way. My father told me he could hear the digging. He said that he thought about his brothers and sisters, and about my mother and Gary and me. He was sure that his life had come to an end.  Gary told me that they first uncovered one of his hands, and he heard my father call out that he was still alive. Afterward, a reporter asked my father what he planned to do next and he said, “I’m going home and spend time with my sons.”

I still have the clipping from the front page of the newspaper. The headline reads: “Tupelo Man Prays For Second Chance While Buried Alive.” The picture shows my father sitting on a pile of dirt with the hole in the foreground, staring down the street with a faraway look, and Gary beside him, looking scared. When I came home from my own job that afternoon, my father met me on the driveway and hugged me, hard. He was crying, and dirty in a way that could only come from being buried. There was grit in his eyebrows and teeth and ears, pressed into his skin so that he still smelled of soil the next day. He was sore for days afterward, but otherwise unhurt.

 

My father didn’t talk much about the experience, but once he told me how long thirty-five minutes really is. I don’t remember any changes in my father’s relationship with Gary and me. We were close before the accident, and remained close afterward.  I didn’t understand how his death would have affected me that day because I didn’t experience the fear firsthand. I remember being embarrassed by his embrace, by the display of emotion. I wouldn’t understand what had happened for years to come.

Just after he bought the pickup, my father had a magnetic sign made for each door reading “Engel Repair Service” in red, with our telephone number and the type of work spelled out beneath in blue letters. Sometimes he talked about my brother and I going into business with him after we graduated from high school, but we both went to college instead.

Hubert, Waiting for the Hurricane, a scene from a novel in progress

lg-hurricane-katrina-ir-clouds-from-goes-on-29-aug-2005-869

Job.  It was an appropriate book for the weather because, after all, Job’s troubles had started with the tornados striking the house where his sons and daughters were feasting, killing them all.  Hubert listened to the wind shake his house and thought about the book of Psalms, where King David had written:

“He makes winds his messengers,

flames of fire his servants.”

Hubert wondered what the wind had to tell him tonight. Maybe nothing–a big storm like this hit the Mississippi coast every few years for as long as he could remember, a long time. Maybe, though, it was telling him that it was time to go out in the storm and let God have his way. That painter on the coast had done it. Anderson. Walter Anderson. Rowed a boat out into the Gulf of Mexico, clear out to Horn Island, tied himself to a tree and howled into the throat of a  hurricane. Anderson was dying too. Cancer. The storm didn’t get him though. The cancer did.

Everything was in order, he guessed. The will was signed, cattle records filed, pass book and insurance policies locked in the safe-deposit box. His lawyer knew where everything was, and Caleb wouldn’t have any trouble sorting out his affairs.  He’d already made the arrangements at the funeral home—everything paid for.

There were worse ways to go out than in a storm. God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind. Jesus calmed the waters. Hubert would be with his cattle, and that’s where anybody who knew him would expect to find him. Out in the field with his cattle. He rolled another cigarette and thought about it, had just about made up his mind when the shooting started down at the river. It was just far enough away, dimmed by the wind and the rain, that he thought it was firecrackers.

Hubert smashed out his cigarette and stood up, waiting for a moment for the dizziness to pass. When he could walk he pulled on his boots and headed out the door, pausing only long enough to pull on his rain coat and pick up the shotgun from the corner by the door.