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Finding Out What September Knows

Kevin-Tate-170by Kevin Tate | VP of Media Productions

Sparks from a campfire drifted high on a cool wind that arrived a week or so before the first full day of fall. They hatched from the last pops of a smoky smudge, one built of wood leftover from another adventure carried out several rainstorms before.

The Boy had been patient as I’d gotten the blaze to start, helped it to catch, then waited for it to burn down to a serviceable cook fire. As soon as I thought it could be made to make do I’d put the hobo packs in. They’d come out with the meat mostly burnt and the potatoes nearly raw for a perfect medium rare statistical average, just the way any camp cook would hope.

The Boy had waited patiently in a way that made me more proud than I can describe. I knew he was hungry and cold and tired, but he did his part in what we had to do for the remedy. Manhood doesn’t arrive all at once, but filters in here and there, tempered by experience, encouraged by failure and success, strengthened by trial until, by way of statistical average, the done parts outnumber the raw. This afternoon had been one of the former. Now he sat crosslegged in a folding chair, legs out in shorts but a hoodie pulled tight over his head and ears.

“Why do the sparks pop out like that?” he asked, and I talked about pockets of moisture trapped in the wood, boiling to steam and eventually bursting free.

Soon the first stars appeared in the eastern sky, timid and blinking at first, then growing steady and multiplying in the everlasting dark.

“Maybe the sparks go up and become stars,” The Boy said. “Maybe God starts them down here to remind us He’s up there.”

“Maybe so,” I said.

We talked about the Old Men and what they were like, how this one built things out of practically nothing, how that one loved to grow tomatoes, how another loved to hear the beagles run. Mostly we talked about what made them laugh, which was pretty much anything. Little boys, innocent questions, quick observations and the minor accidents that overtake us all were favorites, I said.

“I want to be like that when I’m old,” he said, and I told him he was already off to a good start.

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