Volleying Vocabulary

Life On The Back Page.

Daryl Gay | August 30, 2022

Today, class, we’re going to focus on: Fill In The Blank(s). So open those eyes and crank up the ol’ brainbox.

Back in the early days of outdoor writing and, especially, pulp westerns, authors were large on naming folks like B___, L___ or T___.  I’ve read a million of ‘em; you’d be rolling right along and in would pop up d___d. Without whoaing up and enumerating all those annoying ________s, I’m thinking “dilapidated.” Your call.

My appreciation of Creative English was heightened early on when I began hearing it as well as reading. For instance, a dove shoot when I was nine.

A certain inebriated idiot of whom I was blissfully unawares couldn’t get the hang of allowing a dove to get higher than 4 feet off the ground before blasting. One of his number eights caught me directly in that little valley between my eyes, a quarter-inch up. Felt like a pop from a guinea wasp. It was enthralling to watch blood—mine!—spurt from between my eyes with every heartbeat, but even more galvanizing was the sight of my Granddaddy heading in the shooter’s direction and the verbal volleys he was firing off.

Picture Sasquatch without the hair, wearing Pointer overalls and cussin’ like a sailor with an anchor on his toe. “You stupid ____ of a ___ from ____ when I get my ____ hands on your ____…”

I’m sayin’ he never learned that phrasing from Ma, who, upon hearing any of it, would have worn his kneecaps out with a yard broom. (She couldn’t reach much higher than that…)

My Uncle Austin, the (only) peaceful one in the family, urged (at the top of his squeaking voice), “RUN you blockheaded ____ because if he catches your goofy ___ you’ll look like nanner puddin’ swimming in ketchup!”

Trouble was that Daddy and Uncle Kermit were converging from two more sides and we were about to have a hemmed-in cretin facing a knotty future. Fortunately for all involved, I was the quickest!

Running right into their midst, I shrilled that I was perfectly fine and, most importantly, they were turning birds! That got their attention and calmed things down.

A week later, Daddy and I saw the shooter downtown. Sober. He apologized out the ying yang, then told us how much he appreciated our entire family.

“I’ve had freckles for 50 years, but every one of them got cussed off in that dove field…”

The single most ingenious and innovative confabulation ever experienced came in the Okefenokee Swamp. Go figure.

Your brain might overheat and pop a hose here, so take it slow. Keep in mind that the chief Back Page gig is to make you giggle, but there was nothing funny about this episode when it happened.         

It wound up with a dead bear dog and a dead bear, the latter, already wounded, shot again through a palmetto bush at 6 feet with a large pistol. One of the neat things about the Swamp is that when you crawl back out, nobody can say exactly where the wetness on the front of your Levi’s came from.

It’s semi-funny now because I’m thinking Jackie Carter cussed the original shooter in about 13 different languages picked up from Folkston to Vietnam. 

For starters, I don’t know how any human who has ever handled a rifle manages to shoot a bear up a tree—in the left front foot!

Said shooter was not supposed to be where he was and was not supposed to be pulling a trigger under any circumstances—all of which had been explained to him in our  safety meeting. That’s why when it was all over, Jackie questioned his parentage, heritage for 37 generations, predilection, cognitive capacities and pretty much blankety blank blanked him to the level of a blacksnake in a ditch. Man, was I impressed!

And the guy took it! In front of me and a fellow hunter!!! I’m standing there smelling like a latrine while bleeding from a couple dozen swamp-inspired punctures, minus a bullet—waiting for “Let’s get ready to rumbleee…” and suddenly my singular sense of incredulity and humor kicks in.

Interrupting Jackie—and I was one of about three folks on the planet who could get away with that—I had to ask: “So just how in the blue blazes do you manage to stand at the base of a _____ tree and shoot 2 feet over a bear’s head in the same tree and hit it in the ________ ________ foot?”


“You were told to stay ON the ___ road! If you had shot from where your dumb ____ was supposed to be you’d have missed the whole swamp, the ____ bear wouldn’t have come down the tree and killed Jackie’s dog and I wouldn’t have ____ all over myself after laying flat in the swamp and seeing an eye blink on the other side of a palmetto. And I wouldn’t be leaking ____ blood all over the road, either!”

Sometimes it’s infectious. Almost in disbelief I caught a glimpse of a twinkle in Jackie’s eye. He’d never seen that side of me and tried to turn away in time, but we could already see the heave in his little belly roll. That did it. Three of us wound up sitting/lying alongside the ditches howling with laughter that refused to be suppressed. Meanwhile, his ride rolled up and the shooter slunk off.

There’s almost nothing that I fail to find humor in, and the hunting and fishing we do is supposed to be fun after all, is it not?

 Then here I go, bear season upon us, laughing about but panged by the memory of a guy I miss every day. Aw, ________.

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