Funny place on the prairie
We’re in a funny place, aren’t we?
I don’t know if you’ve obsessively studied the mechanisms of thoughts and feelings like I have, but best I can tell, most people are like me: trying to make the best choice, caught somewhere between my head and my heart.
The way the adults programmed me is an interesting thing.
First, they let these wonderful women hug on me and love on me. We cuddled and watched “Days of Our Lives.” We made play-dough and sang Elvis songs. If I so much as whispered “sand,” a sandwich would magically appear in front of me, right next to the Kool-Aid fueling the imagination that allowed King Friday and Bob Dog to be as real as Mr. Rogers was.
These women taught me my feelings could tell me things. They told me if I listened close and didn’t ignore it, my heart would always tell me the truth.
Then I went into the woods with men and guns. I went into garages with machines that could kill me. This fat third-grader spent the hottest week of the summer in a garden that needed work and weeding and water.
They let these men tell me to “pay attention!” and “think, son, think.” They even dared to let these men slap me upside the head when I was dumb enough to listen to the heart telling me to point out when they should be paying attention and thinking.
They needed to do all that. Because those machines that fed their families, and would one day feed mine, could cut my finger off. Because when that fat third-grader got to be a fat 25-year-old, he was going to spend a glorious summer helping brick layers in the late July, why-am-I-outside Alabama heat.
Maybe most importantly of all, they needed to because those guns we needed to feed and protect our families, could easily kill me or those around me.
If my dad wasn’t incredibly agile for his age, he wouldn’t be here.
During a bird hunting trip long ago, I was aggressive and ignorant and swung too fast to the right with a shotgun – just in time to see him hit the Nebraska prairie below him. The smoke keeps me from testifying to his rolling abilities, but I can stand before God and say my dad is incredibly proficient at both stopping and dropping.
I’m grateful for these lessons. Grateful I didn’t shoot my father because he had taught me hunter’s safety I didn’t want to listen to, and he had got me pretty dang good at shooting clays – so, I had enough knowledge to at least pull up.
I’m also grateful that sometimes I’m the only man in the room that can tell the boss really just snapped at us because it’s the day he lost his child seven years ago.
My head doesn’t remember that. My heart does because it broke for him when I heard the news.
Some of us listen to our heads too much. Some of us listen to our hearts too much.
The rest are like me: somewhere between the two. In that funny place where we can’t decide whether we should hug the person next to us or try to shoot them.
Stults is a performing songwriter from Russellville. To contact him email email@example.com.