TOM BRYANT: In the Name of Progress: Losing Myself in Technology -- Kinda
I believe I got off the technology/progress bus in the fall of 2006.
That was the year I retired from my active duty job and took up my favored avocation of living in the wilds, which is kind of hard to do today.
The wilds aren't as wild as they used to be.
On the way to the mountains to visit my son Tommy last week, I decided to stop by Gander Mountain in Greensboro to check out their duck decoys and maybe pick up a couple of much-needed mallard sleepers.
There was a guy coming out of the store head down, intently punching on a cell phone. I think they call that texting or maybe typing out a message or whatever. I can't understand how someone can type on such a little keyboard. It's hard enough for me with a regular typewriter (i.e. today, computer, but I still like to throw in the word typewriter just to confuse the techies).
He was so intent on whatever he was doing that I had to leap out of his way. He glanced up, mumbled something and shuffled on out into the parking lot, head still down. I hope a pickup doesn't get him, I thought, and went on into the store.
Inside I moved directly to the waterfowl section and began browsing. A display of GPSes stood in one corner. I think GPS means global positioning search. I could be wrong. Anyway, these hand-held machines work like a cell phone, which I do have, and when I can find it, if it's charged, I sometimes even use it.
I read all the paraphernalia attached to the display and figured out that a person with one of those things in his pack couldn't get lost. But, I thought as I picked up a teal sleeper decoy, if you don't care where you are, what's wrong with being lost?
And the Pee Dee River Swamp came to mind. I was on a coon hunt with two of my uncles and my dad. We were bouncing down a deep-rutted, sand road, which was more a firebreak, in an old pickup truck deep in the Pee Dee River Swamp.
I was riding in the bed with the dogs, and my dad and uncles were in the cab. This arrangement would prove unsettling before the night was over.
My uncle had a pair of blue tic hounds, and we had picked up a couple of my granddad's redbones to round out the pack. It was almost dark when we got to our jump-off point, parked under a stand of tall pines, and turned loose the dogs. "Let's head down toward the river," my Uncle Tom said, and he seemed to know where he was going. First mistake.
It got dark. I mean really dark with no moon, no ambient light from anywhere. Our miserable little hand-held torches seemed to pierce the inky blackness only a couple of feet. Then the dogs hit a trail and took off baying like crazy, racing deeper into the swamp. We chased right behind them. Second mistake.
We finally found the dogs treeing a coon up a cypress tree as tall as a sequoia. Well, maybe not that tall, but hey, it's my story. We thought it was a coon and it could have been, but honestly we couldn't see it, as the tree was too tall for our flashlights. After a bit, we pulled the dogs off the tree, and then came our third mistake.
"Let's turn 'em loose one more time," Uncle Tom said.
"Hey Dad, it's getting kinda late," I whispered. "Don't you think we should start back to the truck?"
"We will, son. Let's give it one more try. Besides, your Uncle Tommy knows where we are."
We got lost, big-time lost and wandered around the swamp until we finally found our way out about sunrise. On top of that, the dogs had treed a skunk. I had to ride with them in the back of the truck all the way to the farm.
My grandmother wouldn't let me in the house, and I had to bury my clothes.
"Will that be all, sir?" the checkout clerk asked as I stood there with the decoys.
"On second thought, hold these decoys right here, if you will. I'm going to go back and look at that GPS display one more time."
Hey, I might have gotten off that bus in 2006, but I wasn't thrown off.
Tom Bryant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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