Duck Tale is a coming-of-age adventure memoir set in South Carolina of the '60s and '70s. It is about a young boy's experiences growing up under the wings of his outdoor-loving dad, Pop, and Pop's best friends. Hunting, fishing, camping, and all the escapades that ensued deep in the wilderness of Santee swamp became a unique roadmap to maturing into a man.
Man. What a misunderstood word! At what point does a boy become a man? Is it when he turns twenty-one? Could it be on Graduation Day? Perhaps it comes with the birth of his first child? The answer: None of the above. Manhood is a state of mind, pure and simple. It is an achievement culled from mistakes and triumphs. Age has nothing to do with it.
Boy. Kid. Son. Pick any one of those titles interchangeably, and that’s what Pop used to call me. As the occasion warranted, he’d call me other things too. On that final afternoon of October 2, 1991, as I slapped Pop’s face, hoping he would open his eyes once more, I fully expected him to wake up and hit me back. It was the only time in my life that I lost control of myself and struck him. I wasn’t angry. I was desperate – begging for one more moment of his attention. With each blow, all the good times paraded across my mind, times that I chose to forget while he was alive. His goal was to teach me how to be a man. We were at odds most of the time.
As a boy, I did not understand the extraordinary value and importance of the time-sacrifices Pop made for me. “Good times” were when he could be outdoors, especially when hunting season came along, no matter the weather. It seemed as if I was no more than a tag-a-long, useful only as a gofer. Always “going for” stuff made me angry, so I tried to reduce Pop’s enjoyment of hunting on occasion by acting like a two-year-old. At the time, I had no children of my own. But then, a few years later, I got it. Believe me.
There are many rough patches on the road to manhood. Some are humorous, some embarrassing, and a few downright abusive to the psyche – like witnessing the death of a loved one. No matter what fell onto my plate, Pop insisted that I learned not to complain. The words “take it like a man” would sometimes filter into his advice. The answer to navigating challenging situations was to “keep putting one foot in front of the other.” If tears came, well, okay, “but don’t keep wallowing in the pigpen.” Life does go on. Along the way, the psyche either grows or withers. The trick is to learn new coping methods like I began to do one day so long ago. Follow me on a quacking good trek to manhood!
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