In the backyard this morning at sunrise, raking the first batch of the 10 million leaves that will fall from the oaks and maple from now through January, I heard the sound of distant boom-booms from the fields not far from our subdivision.
At the end of a nose-to-the-grindstone week in which I’d paid little heed to the calendar, it dawned on me: September 1 — first day of dove season.
And as always happens, each year, these 12 years later, those distant gunshots instantly triggered memories of our late son-in-law, William Flowers: He, who loved all things outdoors, would’ve been out there this morning, with a gaggle of his Delta buds, enjoying one of the seasonal rites of life in the land in which he was born and grown to manhood.
His father and brothers hunted and fished, as did a wide coterie of his lifelong friends. Whatever season it was, he enjoyed it to the fullest. And even though an allergy kept him from eating fish, he loved catching them.
Twelve dove seasons have come, 11 gone, since person or persons unknown came into his outdoors shop, shot him while his back was turned, took several guns and ammo, and simply vanished, leaving him lying there. He was discovered later, near death, and airlifted to a Memphis hospital, where he died the next day, never having regained consciousness.
He would, everyone knew, have given the intruders anything they wanted had they just asked and gone on their way. Another cruel, uncaring, senseless taking of a life — one among many such incidents we hear or read about daily.
No one’s ever been caught. If any of the guns ever turned up anywhere, we’ve not been told. Just another cold case in musty police files that, absent some miracle, will likely never be solved.
His was, long-time observers said, one of the longest funeral processions ever seen in the town, a testament to his life and all who knew and loved him. But heart-wrenching for his family, most of all his nine-year-old daughter, Presley Anne, in an instant faced with bidding a final goodbye to her beloved father. She’s 21 now, a senior at Mississippi State University, the school for which her father was an avid fan. He would be beamingly proud of her, as he was the day he held her up in the nursery window for family to ooh and ahh over, and as he watched her, year by year, grow into a young lady.
There are questions in our lives for which we never gain answers. The heartless taking of another person’s life is one of them.
On this first day of dove season, under a dazzlingly clear blue sky, golden early morning sunlight sparkling in a thousand dewdrops on the fading flowers, leaves, and grass of summer soon gone, I remember fondly the son of the Delta, whose life intertwined with ours for far too short a time.