Gator boy part 1

a writing by Leslie M. Owens

Bubba sat on the edge of the raft trailing his fingers in the water as his older brother Junior poled it through the algie thickened soup they called The Swamp. “Better get yur hand outta there” Junior drawled, spitting a glob of tobacco into the water. “Sumpin, gonna take yur fingers clean offen yur hand if you don’t”!

Giggling Bubba scooped up a handful of slimy green water and spashed it at Junior. Jerking back Junior tottered on the edge of the raft for a few seconds before regaining his balance. Scowling at Bubba he pulled his pole out of the water and slapped it down hard near Bubba causing the water to splash back up in his face. Wiping the slimy water off his face Bubba grinned up at Junior and blew a raspberry. “you boys stop that now” Papa hollered from his raft where he was poling Ma and the girls. “ you gonna end up falling in and the gators’ll getcha” !

“Yes, Poppa” they called back in unison grinning at each other. Both boys looked at the other with an, I’m goinna to get you later look.

The family was out on a foraging expedition to collect early spring poke weed, wild vegetables and do a little hunting. It had been a long winter and supplies were running low. The weather had finally warmed up and everyone was eager to get outside in the fresh air for some springtime foraging. Early poke week shoots were popping up, as well as cattail shoots and other wild edibles that the family used to supplement their simple lifestyle.

Poppa and Ma were with the girls on the big raft while 16 year old Junior poled 4 year old Bubba and the foraging baskets on the smaller raft. Poppa and Junior were going to drop ma and the girls off to forage and while they went to do a bit of hunting. This was Bubba’s first time being allowed to join the hunt, he could hardly hold in his excitement. He could just see himself dragging back a bear, or a lion or even a Tiger! He would be held up as an example to all other first time hunters. “just look what our Bubba brought in on his first time out” Poppa and Ma would brag to all their friends. Everyone would laud him as The Great Swamp Hunter!

Finally they got to Ma’s favorite foraging spot, she and the girls set off to fill the baskets. Poppa and Junior hefted their rifles on their shoulders and headed back out with Bubba on the smaller raft to do some hunting. “Now Bubba, when we get out there, yur job is to be quiet and when me or Junior shoot a critter you run out and drag it back to the raft”

Bubba frowned, “But Poppa, don’t I get to hunt too?" he whined, I thought I was gonna go huntin’ and shoot me a bear!" Poppa laughed, “now Bubba, there ain’t no bears in the swamp” he said. Bubba was dumbstruck, “but what about the lions and tigers? Junior told me we was gonna shoot lions and tigers, crocodiles and bears”! Poppa guffawed, “that boy beena pullin’ yur leg agin, there ain’t no lions or tigers or crocodiles in this here swamp. Worst you’ll see ‘round here are possum, turtles and maybe an alligator or two.” Bubba gave Junior a dark look but Junior just grinned his “gotcha” smirk and dug his pole in the water to move the raft through the slimy green water.

Bubba fumed silently the rest of the ride while Poppa and Junior scouted for a good spot to hunt. Finally securing the raft among some reeds and bushes they climbed out into the soft marshy ground. Trailing behind his father and brother Bubba plodded along silently. “ I hope they don’t get nuthin’ but an ol’ pole cat” he thought vengefully to himself. “Serve Junior right if he got squirted”. The thought cheered him up significantly as he imagined Junior getting sprayed and all stinky.

Ahead of him Poppa and Junior suddenly squatted down behind some bushes, waiving their hands silently for Bubba to get down so he wouldn’t be seen. Bubba dropped down and crawled over beside them. “ what is it “ ? he mouthed silently. Junior brought his finger to his lips “shhh” and mouthed back, “a wild hog!”

Bubba inched forward and peered through the reeds and bushes. There, not 15 feet away was a big ol’ wild boar, it looked to weigh at least 200 lbs. It’s tusks were sharp and deadly. It was rooting around in the ground around a tree. Bubba’s eyes went wide. “Now here was something worth huntin’ for” He thought This would be a tale to tell the guys at school. Poppa pointed his finger at Junior indicating he should go ahead and shoot it.

Hefting his rifle quietly to his shoulder Junior took aim. His finger pulled back on the trigger, click. Junior’s rifle didn’t fire, he had forgot to load the rounds before setting off from the raft. The boar’s head snapped up, for a second or so everything seemed to freeze. With a muffled grunt the boar swung his head around towards them, lowered its deadly tusks and began his charge.

Poppa jumped up “Run!” he shouted grabbing Bubba and both lifting and shoving him at the same time in the general direction of the raft they all took off running. Blindly at first, Bubba stumbled along in the direction his father had started him in. He could hear his father and brother crashing through the bushes and reeds around him and he could hear the boar snorting and stomping somewhere behind him. Glancing around wildly Bubba looked for a low hanging branch or something he could climb. His back tingled with the anticipation of those sharp tusks digging into him. He ran wildly as fast his four year old legs could carry him. Climbing over logs and around trees, he slipped in the mud going down on his knees. Ready to jump up again he spied a hollow log nearby. The opening was just big enough for him to squeeze into and much too small for the wild hog to get in after him. Scrambling on all fours, Bubba crawled as far into the log as he could, curling his body into a tight little ball gasping in fear his heart beat loudly in his ears. It was wet and moldy inside the log, he could smell the damp earth and rotting wood surrounding him. Small bugs, spiders or beetles skittered around him making him twitch in silent horror. He prayed no snake show up, he didn’t think he could keep quiet or stay inside the log if that happened. Dim light filtered in through the hole at the end of the log and through a few rotten termite eaten cracks in the top and sides of the log.

Huddling in his damp smelly, bug infested hiding spot Bubba waited, listening for the snuffling sounds of the hog hunting for him or the calls of his father and brother coming to get him. Time passed slowly and he shivered and cried scared and cold in his hiding spot. Finally exhausted from crying he fell into an uneasy sleep.

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