One Year Removed

Daryl Gay | May 2, 2019

So. It’s been a year now.

WHEW! There were times there…

Here’s the deal in a nutshell: Twelve months ago, I was lying on a table beside my guts in an Augusta hospital while a brilliant surgeon rummaged through them and took out what he wanted without overly disturbing the rest.

If you’ve had major surgery, you understand; if not, your education is about to be furthered.

Considering my lifetime of examining various and sundry carcasses from the outside in, it’s conceivable that even I could have gotten to this point in the process: separating parts and pieces and laying them out on a table.

 The tricky part, however, would be cramming the resulting conglomeration back together in some semblance of functioning order. For that, I turned to Dr. Ray King.

From the beginning consultation, I believe Doc realized he was dealing with a novice lunatic.

My first question: “When can I get back to my weightlifting?”

“Very light, six months,” he replied.

“You gotta be kidding! SIX MONTHS?”

“Or you can come back in sooner and we do more surgery to fix whatever you tear up.”

I told you he was brilliant. No frills, just plain talk. Lunatics comprehend such.


I couldn’t let YOU down. We ain’t about to let no little tumor get in the way of your monthly GON fix! I got assignments! Which arrive prepackaged with nasty little critters known as “deadlines.”

I won’t tell you more than you need to know about the surgery; Doc came in afterward, said he got what he was after, then noticed something else a little farther upstream that needed whacking.

“Diverscooperhickenlooper,” I believe was the medical term. That corn liquor they was running through the needle in my arm had me kinda woozy, so I may misrecall. Check a medical journal if you need to know… 

Four days after being field-dressed, I drove part of the way home, Augusta to Dublin, which probably qualifies as one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever come up with from a long list of real doozies. The single most important factor in getting me through those four days and nights­­—my first ever in a hospital—was that my sons, Myles and Dylan, saw to it that one or both were by my side every second.

Dylan rode home with me, knowing that I had to see how far I could push myself and ready to brain me before I crossed the line. He had been in on the exit interview with Doc, during which it was reiterated to me that there was to be no lifting of anything over 10 pounds, and that only from a seated position.

(That’s coming back into play here shortly…)

Doc’s exact words, phrased in terms this lunatic could grasp: “Six months. Look at it this way: you can drag a big buck in November.”

Perfect. Except for the fact that my first deadline was already less than a month away: stripers on the Oconee River.

Understand: we don’t miss deadlines. Ever. In 45 years of writing…

So I’m SEATED in the back of this boat, old friend Steve Brown hovering, when the rod tip darts downward. Reflexes outrace sanity, so I rear back on the rod and set the hook—and feel every single stitch!

You may remember that this particular fish tipped the scales at 30 pounds! Tie a chain to your wrists, loop the other end around a trailer hitch and have someone drag you a quarter-mile down the highway…

I got him in the boat though. After what seemed a quarter-mile. And from a SEATED position!

Then came GON delivery. Deadlines again. I must pick up and deliver 50 or so boxes—30 pounds each—for distribution to you, dear reader. And that’s when compadre Larry Mullis, solely out of friendship and the goodness of his good ol’ heart, stepped in to ride along and do all the lifting until I could heal up.

You don’t run across folks like Steve Brown and Larry Mullis every day. Or often in a lifetime.

And then came THE deadline!

Back during the discussion on big bucks in November, I somehow failed to mention big bears in September. In the Okefenokee.

No, I do not happen to have a death wish. But if I gotta go, it could happen in a lot worse ways and places. And as I’ve said before, the ol’ bears owe me quite a few…

You see, I’ve developed a philosophy surrounding recovery: you can mope around with a woe-is-me, hope-I-heal attitude or you can shift your butt back into Drive with whatever gears you have left.

And while I have no plans to ever miss a deadline, I SHO ain’t missin’ no bear hunt!

But I knew that the ultimate test lay waiting in that swamp.

Dylan has been bear hunting with me since he was 12. As it played out, this was to be the very first time that only the two of us would be first to the tree—with a bear at the top. 

Me and my son; the beloved swamp; the dogs; and the bear. Nirvana. And it only took 14 years for everything to come together at this place in this time.

On the long, long way back out, several times I had to flop down in the mud to regain strength to go on. During one of those, Dylan made a profound statement.

“All my life, we’ve always been shoulder to shoulder. This is the first time I ever had to slow down.”

It takes over four hours for me to push-mow my lawn, recalling with every step. Hope that boy’s in shape in September…

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