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"Rubber Band Man"

“I know you are, Darnell.” Cora turned, laid her hands to her slender hips, and she grinned. “Like I always say, you be careful out there. Remember, while you did a fine job with squirrels, that rattler, the boars, and the bear are still dangerous.”

“Yes, mam,” said Darnell.

He had slapped yellow mustard and mayonnaise on two, slices of whole wheat bread and added ham. Cora had stepped to the kitchen table. She’d reached for a sharp knife, cut and sliced a juicy, red tomato, and she gently put two, thick slices on soft, wheat bread as Darnell added his apple and cookies to his bag.

“I’m going to have fun, mama,” Darnell rattled on. “Sometimes I dream, sometimes I build, sometimes I fish, and sometimes I just watch, observe, and talk with animals. It’s blissful—like the pastor says.”

“Lordy, Darnell,” Cora Mae gasped. She shook her head. “You’re, nature boy and Tom Terrific wrapped up in one sweet bundle. I love you; and be careful,” she said once more. Then she leaned and kissed his cheek.

“Thanks mama,” said Darnell. He beamed; and he held his sack lunch.

“Now, be off with you. Don’t forget. Keep track of time. Daddy and I will be watching, as usual.”

“Yes, mam.”

The wonder boy swerved. He ran out the door and jaunted to oaks.

Now, he climbed; and then he jumped. Darnell beat his feet to soil. He knew poison ivy. He’d had personal experience with the nasty plant two years, past. Eustis showed him, thereafter, where the itchy whelps came from. Darnell knew the pitcher plant, the Venus fly trap, too, which were carnivorous plants that liked to trap and eat insects. He had experience with the thorny smilax vine, the sweet-smelling tupelo, the dogwood, the hickory, and a variety of oaks and more. Pappy had taught him.

But now, he raced on one of several paths he’d created or found over the last four years, one which he’d been allowed to explore alone or with Pappy or Eustis.

Shortly, “Wow,” he gushed. His eyes opened wider. He stooped; and fingers felt damp, black soil.

“Tracks. There are several here,” he whispered. “Bear,” he said as he waved his hand over a large, padded print. Sharp nails as toes made clear impressions. “Then, pigs, or, the boars have been by here,” he carried on as eyes swept the forest floor. He looked left. “And deer, too,” he said softly. “They’ve all come to the creek for water. That’s just what I wanted to see—deer prints.”

Darnell, rose. Once again, he picked up pace and he ran quietly through much-loved, mystifying woods. Following deer tracks, stopping on occasion, as if he were Daniel Boone or a big-game tracker, he kept eyes peeled for deer.

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