Jupiter’s Legacy Part 3

“A Family Tragedy, A Legend Is Born”

Duncan Dobie | October 1, 2013



“This is Jamie… Jamie Hardin.”

“Hi. How did you get my cell number?” she asked.

“I went by Haynie’s today, but they said it was your day off,” Jamie said. “Mr. Haynie gave it to me. I hope you don’t mind.”

“No, not at all,” she said. “I’m glad you called.”

“I was wondering if you might want to do something later on this afternoon.”

“Like what?” she asked.

“Would you like to go look at some deer? I’ve got a great spot on my grandmother’s farm where we can sit in the truck and watch deer. They’re coming out in one of Corey’s soybean fields just before dark.”

“Is this sort of like a date?” she asked.

“I guess you could call it that,” Jamie said.

“Nobody’s ever asked me to go out on a date to look at deer before,” she said. “That’s a first!”

“Not even your boyfriend?” he asked.

“Especially not my boyfriend,” she sighed. “He would never ask me to go look at deer.”

“I thought you two hunted together,” Jamie said.

“He lets me hunt on the 500 acres, but he pretty much does his own thing with his buddies. He doesn’t like having women around when he’s hunting.”

“His loss!” Jamie said. “He ought to like having you around no matter what he’s doing.”

“That’s nice of you to say, but he’s really funny when it comes to deer hunting,” she said.

I’ll bet he is, Jamie thought. That’s because he doesn’t want you to know he’s out spotlighting at night with a rifle.

Out loud, he said, “Well I thought you might want to go watch some bucks in velvet come out in the field late this afternoon. Corey says we’ve got some nice bucks on our place this year, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to go out and glass deer before the season.”

“That would be really nice,” she said. “But I don’t think I can. Skeeter really would get mad.”

“About what I said yesterday…,” Jamie told her. “I didn’t mean to upset you, but Corey and I have known Skeeter since high school, and he has been known to break the law. Ask anybody in town, they’ll tell you.”

“Yes, I know,” she said. “He’s done some wild things in his life. But he does have his good side.”

“Well I’d love to see you and talk to you,” Jamie said. “I’ve even got two pair of binoculars we can use.”

“Thanks but I’ve got my own binoculars,” Shelby said. “Look, I… I’d really like to, but I better not. Skeeter has a temper.”

“He doesn’t own you, does he?” Jamie asked.

“No, of course not,” she answered. “Nobody owns me.”

“Good. Then it’s settled. I’ll pick you up at 6:30. You still live at home, right”? he asked.

“Yes,” Shelby said.

“I know where you live. Your dad used to know my dad. It doesn’t start getting dark until around 8:30, so we’ll have plenty of time to talk. I want to hear about your 10-pointer. Got any pictures?”

“Yes, I have some pictures, but I don’t know if this is a real good idea,” Shelby said.

“I thought you wanted me to fill you in on Old Jupe,” Jamie said.

“I do.”     

“Then it’s settled. I’ll be by at 6:30.”


“I know all about you Corporal Jamie Hardin,” Shelby said as they drove down a back road on their way to the farm in Isabel’s farm truck. “I’ve been doing some checking.”

“Oh, yeah? What do you know?” he asked, looking over at her and smiling.

“Everybody in town knows who you are,” she said. “You’re famous. You’re an Army Ranger. You served two tours in Afghanistan. And despite what you said, you are a hero. You’ve been recommended for some kind of big medal.”

Jamie sighed deeply. “Please understand something,” he said. “This hero thing doesn’t sit well with me, and I could care less about any medals. I was lucky to make it home, but a lot of my brothers over there—my best friends—didn’t. I’ve got to live with that now. There’s nothing the least bit heroic about being a survivor. I appreciate how everyone here at home feels. People have really been nice, but all I want to do now is put it behind me and do some serious deer hunting in a few weeks when the season opens. I don’t want to start off with you under any false pretenses. Understood?”

“I understand completely,” she said. “But everyone is proud of what you’ve done, and you can’t fault them for that.”

“I don’t,” he said.

Reaching into the small backpack she had brought, she pulled out a small video camera.

“You videotape deer?” he asked incredulously.

“I do,” she said. “This is a great little HD camera. I’ve gotten some great deer footage with it from my tree stand. I even videoed myself shooting my 10-pointer last year. It’s not the greatest footage in the world, but at least I have a record of it.”

Jamie turned down a dirt road and pulled into a driveway where there was a locked gate.

“Want me to get the gate,” she asked.

“No, I’ll get it,” he said with a determined look. He got out with his single crutch and hobbled over to the gate. Shelby jumped out and helped him swing the gate open.

“Thanks,” he said. “It’s a bummer having a leg that doesn’t work right. At first, they considered amputating it below the knee, but I raised so much Cain they decided against it. I was not the easiest patient.”

“That’s understandable,” she said. “Anyway, like you said, you’re down to one crutch now. Pretty soon you’ll be running marathons.”

“I don’t know about that,” he said. “I’ll settle for just being able to walk normally.”

They got back in the truck, pulled through the opening and drove across a pasture to a high spot overlooking a soybean field about 400 yards away.

“Here we are,” he said.

“This is beautiful land,” Shelby said, taking in the view.

“This was one of Big Jim’s favorite spots,” Jamie said. “He and my grandmother used to come here years ago to look at deer when he first started putting in food plots. Back then he called them green fields.”

“Do you always call your grandfather ‘Big Jim,’” she asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Rusty, uh… my brother… and I always called our grandparents by their names. I guess because everyone else did.”

“Were you and Rusty close?” she asked.

“Oh yes,” Jamie said. “He was two years older than me, and I absolutely idolized him. He could do everything better than me—shoot a gun, shoot a bow, play baseball… He would have been a great athlete. You wanna hear the story?”

“Do you feel comfortable talking about it?” she asked.

“With you I do,” he said. “Time is a great healer, and that was a couple of lifetimes ago.”

“Still it’s got to be something you never totally get over,” she said.

“True,” Jamie said. He clutched the steering wheel and looked straight ahead toward the soybeans. “You pretty much got the story about Old Jupe right on the money,” he said, smiling. “He was an old buck, probably 6 or 7 when Big Jim shot him. Several years before he was killed, a neighbor about a mile down the road had seen him several times on his farm, and he kept telling Big Jim about how big he was. He even offered to let Big Jim hunt on his land since he didn’t hunt himself.

“A year or two later, my grandfather started finding some man-size rubs and scrapes on the back corner of the 500 acres where you and Skeeter hunt, and after a while he started wondering if it could be the same buck. Then he started finding some massive tracks at the creek crossing not far from the railroad tracks. He went and checked the tracks on the neighbor’s place, and he knew it was the same deer.

“There was a grown-up field back there about 2 acres in size, and in the spring of ’99, Big Jim decided to clean it up and put the whole thing in clover. Apparently Old Jupe loved that clover. He took up permanent residence and started living back in there that summer.”

“Did he have trail pictures of him?” Shelby asked.

“No. He didn’t have any cameras back in those days. He just kept finding his tracks. Big Jim knew his tracks, and he was confident he could kill him early in the season. He put up a stand near the clover field and hunted it without ever seeing the deer. They played cat and mouse for two months until cold weather set in.

“All of us were out hunting on a miserably cold day in November; me, Dad, Big Jim and Rusty. Rusty had invited a good friend of his to hunt with us named Kyle Williams. Kyle was 13; Rusty was 12; I was 10. Of course, Big Jim was hunting with his bow. The rest of us were rifle hunting. It was Nov. 22, the day Kennedy had been shot. It was a wet kind of cold; a perfect day to see a rutting buck chasing a doe, but nobody saw a single deer that morning.

“Around 8:30, Rusty and Kyle had about all the cold they could take. They got off their stands and walked up to the tracks to an open spot where the sun was just coming up above the treetops and shining in their faces. God only knows what they were thinking. Pretty soon, with the warmth of the sun, both of them had fallen asleep on those tracks. The woods were unusually quiet that day, and we all heard the awful screech of brakes as the train tried to stop. Then there was a lot of yelling. I thought that was strange. About 30 minutes later we heard the sirens out on the main road. They had called the sheriff and several ambulances from the hospital, but there was nothing anybody could do.”

“Oh my God,” Shelby said. Tears were rolling down her face. “It must have been horrible.”

“It was—for everyone involved. Big Jim ran up to where the train was stopped on the tracks, and my dad arrived a minute or two later. I had been told to stay in my stand until Big Jim came and got me, so I sat there wondering what all the commotion was about. I found out soon enough.”

Shelby put her hand up to her mouth. She closed her eyes and shook her head. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “Oh, Jamie I’m so sorry.”

“The blame game ended our family,” Jamie said. “It almost killed my grandmother and my mother, and I think my father and Big Jim both stopped living that day. My father blamed Big Jim and didn’t speak to him for almost four months. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Big Jim was never the same. It was over a month later on the day after Christmas before he could even make himself go back to the woods. Isabel practically forced him out the door. That was the afternoon when he saw Old Jupe for the first time and got pinned in his stand.

“The moon was well up in the sky that night and almost full when it got dark. As the stars became visible in the growing blackness, Big Jim remembered that Jupiter was supposed be close to the moon that night. Sure enough, the brightest star in the night sky was right there—just above the moon. Orion the Hunter was there too, just below the moon. Since Jupiter is the largest planet, he named his buck Jupiter, like you said.

“But here’s the part you probably don’t know about… After Big Jim followed him on the ground and put an arrow through him, the buck ran about 100 yards through the woods. He piled up along the railroad tracks only a few feet from the spot where the accident happened.”

“Oh my God,” Shelby said. “That had to be some kind of sign.”

“Isabel always said that Old Jupe was a gift, and that it was God’s way of helping to ease Big Jim’s pain. Although Big Jim later told her that killing Old Jupe was the biggest highlight of his life next to marrying her, I don’t think anything could ever ease the kind of pain he felt.”

“Do you believe in God?” Shelby asked him.

“I did when I was little,” he said. “Then I went through a long stretch where I was pretty mad at him.”

“I guess so,” she said. “Your family went through a lot.”

“I got my religion back in Afghanistan,” Jamie said. “So to answer your question, yes, I believe in God. I saw miracles happen over there every day. And He was always right there with me. I don’t know why, but He was. I never should have made it out of there, Shelby. I’ll tell you all about it some day when I can. Now I feel like I have a second lease on life; like there’s some reason I’m still here. What that reason or purpose is, I don’t know, but I intend to find out. I owe that much to the man upstairs. Do you understand where I’m coming from?”

“Yes,” Shelby said. “I understand completely. I believe in God too, and I believe that miracles happen every day.”

“Well even if Old Jupe was a miracle, Fate wasn’t quite through with our family yet,” Jamie said. “In early March the next year, nearly four months after the accident, Dad and Big Jim drove over to Alabama to look at a tractor. It was the first time they’d actually spoken or been together since the accident. Coming home in Dad’s car at night, they hit a patch of black ice just across the Georgia line. The car skidded off an embankment, and they were both killed.”

“After everything else, that’s unbelievable,” Shelby said.

“I thought that, too,” Jamie said. “I always thought Big Jim was invincible, that he could never die. To me, he was 10 feet tall and larger than life.”

Jamie paused briefly.

“I know this sounds horrible, but it might have been the way they both wanted it. After the train accident, life for them was over like I said. A couple of months after that, my mother moved back to Mississippi to live with her sister. She just couldn’t handle any more. I stayed with Isabel. Best thing I ever did. My grandmother and I tried to pick up the pieces and go on with our lives. She’s really been good to me, and she’s a great woman. She’s tough as nails.”

“Do you ever see your mother?”

“Not often. We’ve never been very close. But I know she cares about me, and she knows I’m home now. I talked to her on the phone the day I got back to the states. And I talked to her several times when I was in the hospital in Germany. We’ll see each other at some point before long.”   

Shelby sighed. “I had no idea…”

“Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it,” Jamie said, trying to force a smile. “Now it’s time to put all that behind us and look to the future. Let’s see your video footage.”

“Okay,” she said. “But I do have a question.”

“Okay, shoot,” he said.

“Why is Old Jupe hanging in the drug store?”

“My grandmother and Mr. Haynie have been friends for a long time,” Jamie said. “When I joined the Army four years ago, we both felt like we wanted to share Old Jupe with the community because of what he represents. We wanted everybody to see him and enjoy him. Mr. Haynie loved the idea of putting him in the store, and he’s been there ever since.”    

“I see,” she said. “That’s pretty generous of you.”

“It’s my grandfather’s legacy,” he said. “It means a lot to Isabel.”

Shelby slid closer to Jamie, opened the viewfinder and turned the camera on. They both watched intently as a beautiful 10-point buck with a basket rack walked past her stand about 15 yards away and stopped in a small opening in the woods. The sound of the bow could be heard, and a well-placed arrow passed through the buck just behind the left shoulder. The buck ran forward and disappeared off screen.     

“What do you mean this isn’t the greatest footage?” he said. “This is awesome! And that’s an awesome buck. I’ve got to admit, I’ve killed some nice deer with a rifle, but I’ve never killed anything close to that size with my bow. He’s got to be pushing 140.”

“He netted 138 3/8,” she said proudly. “Entered him in Pope & Young.”

“Corey and I were just getting interested in videoing our hunts before I left for Afghanistan. But we never were able to do much, even though I’ve always wanted to. Have you ever tried to video someone else while they were hunting?”

“No, just myself,” she said. “I bought an arm that attaches to the tree.”

“We could work together this year,” Jamie said excitedly. “We could put up some double-stand sets and take turns videoing each other. I’d love to video you while you hunt. And you’re welcome to hunt with us here on my grandmother’s place.”

“I’d love to but…” She had a strange look in her eyes.

“What? Is it Skeeter?”

“Yeah, I don’t think that would sit too well with him.”

They were still sitting close together. Jamie sighed loudly and shook his head.

“Shelby Green,” he said, looking straight into her blue eyes. “We’ve got to do something about this situation. Skeeter Davis is a real thorn in my side. I’ve come halfway around the world to be here for opening day. What you need is a good huntin’ partner; one that’ll treat you with the respect you deserve.”

“Got any ideas on where I could find one?” she asked.

“Don’t know,” he said with a grin. “I’ll give it some thought.”


Read Part 4 of Jupiter’s Legacy

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