My Combat Cherry

View of drivers compartment.Fourteen tons of sharply angled steel encases us like a suit of armor. My vision is restricted much like that of a horse with blinders on. Three small periscopes are my only portal to the world. The scene is like something from the movies. Thick black smoke billows up from vehicles contorted in fire, tongues of flame igniting fuel and oil as it drips to the ground. Burnt rubber and cordite waft upward on a breezeless trajectory. Windows shattered by concussions have showered jagged shards of glass in every direction. On each side of the obstructed road, victorious Marines are betrayed by their faces. Faces that days ago were filled with smiles and youthful arrogance are now stained with muddy tears and an ancient humility. Their eyes speak a warning I fail to understand, my only experience with combat coming from Hollywood films.A company of Light Armored Vehicles.

Ahead lay the bridge secured to allow the advancement of forces to Baghdad. Command issued new orders: armor would be the tip of the spear, an exciting prospect. Light Armored Reconnaissance would lead the assault toward Baghdad, Alpha Company would lead, followed by Bravo Company and then HeadQuarters. I pressed the accelerator and the engine groaned as we crested the battered bridge. Along the river’s edge, grass grows taller than men and basks in the afternoon sun. From my vantage point on the bridge, I get a brief glimpse of the lush countryside. The Iraqi natives have created irrigation trenches called “wadies” to water their fields of wheat and barley. Palm trees dot the landscape and adobe homes are spaced out by twisting roads and trails that lead to the river, a goat pen, the market, and beyond.

Northbound for Baghdad that’s the plan nevermind the pleasant view. Far ahead is smoke on the horizon. Helicopters buzz by the eastern side of the convoy like track stars in a relay race, constantly unloading their payloads and then returning for more fuel and ammunition. We pass buildings that have been reduced to smoldering rubble by barrages of helicopter rockets. Secondary explosions cause me to jerk my head in their direction, anticipating the worst. The sun, my only clue as to the time, suggests it’s late afternoon.

The radio crackles with news of Alpha Company engaging enemies only a mile ahead of us. My heart starts pounding like a war drum. With the constant attack of helicopters and heavy rain of artillery shells, it’s hard to make out the “thump, thump, thump” of the 25mm cannon. Approaching a “T” intersection, I see a huge, dull-colored tile picture of Saddam Hussein on the eastern side of the road. Riddled with bullet holes, the dictators’ picture paints a new story as the broken tiles lay in a pile on the ground. A smile crosses my lips, and I feel a sense of justice for the Iraqi people. I turn West playing a game of follow the leader with the rest of the battalion. Alpha Company’s guns are pointing North, the barrels of their cannons glowing red as they spit round after round of high explosive ammo into an enemy stronghold. The firing stops and Alpha Company continues West.

Upon arriving, the damage becomes apparent. Bombs, rockets, and artillery have terraformed the landscape. Small craters have changed the road into something like a pegboard. A large building a thousand meters North of the road is or was the enemy stronghold. From the road to the building is a plethora of craters, some small like a pop can and others large enough to swallow busses. The soil has been overturned every which way, trees turned to splinters, and twisted chunks of shrapnel lay like mulch over the expanse. The Southern wall of this five-story stronghold is at the bottom of the largest crater. I can see into every floor, the walls inside have been mangled by bullets and charred by fire. Chunks of wall breaking away under the pressure of the enormous weight. The convoy doesn’t stop, and the demolished site is left in our wake.

We turn North again; the sun is fleeting. Palm forest and palm rows break the shrub fields into sections that remind me of hedgerows, and fields back home. Just off the left side of the road, an enemy truck is stopped. The vehicle is angled slightly away from the road, the driver still at his post. Head leaning against his window, eyes forward and open, a single hole in his forehead. The crimson blood running down his nose and eyes, matting in his kempt beard and finally slowly dripping onto his fatigue blouse. I feel sorry for him. Was he a father? How will his family deal with his death? How would my family deal with my death should it be my turn? He is the first dead man I’ve ever seen. Will there be more? Just up the road is another enemy truck, this one on fire and erupting with secondary explosions. The munitions it carried are now cooking off and sending projectiles in every direction.

With darkness settling in, the bright flashes and deafening booms create a spectacle similar to a Fourth of July celebration. I white-knuckle the steering wheel, listening to projectiles “ping” off the side of the vehicle. After a couple “pings,” I relax my grip and breathe a sigh of relief. My slight sympathy for the dead man had washed away immediately.

Alpha Company has taken up its defensive position along the road, covering North, East, and South. Bravo Company fills in the North, West, and South. HeadQuarters and the mortar vehicles take the center. With the defensive coil established, I can finally leave my drivers’ hole and piss. I open my drivers’ hatch and stand up, stretching my sore legs for the first time since morning, and a cool breeze hits my cheek. The Iraqi sky filled with stars creates an automatic night light, allowing me to make out the shrubs and the shape of some buildings a few hundred yards away. I take off my communication helmet and replace it with my Kevlar. It’s heavy and I’m exhausted but it’s the rule. I climb down and check the tires on the left. Go around the front and check the right, all the tires are good. I relieve myself and go back around the front of the vehicle, climb up and reluctantly slide back down into the cramped driving compartment. I close the drivers’ hatch and to my surprise, a burst of enemy fire hits the ground where I just stood. Adrenaline surges through my whole body, I can feel the hairs on my neck rise. The entire perimeter erupts with machine gunfire, and the dreaded sound of mortars whistling in the air and thundering to the ground, spraying sand, rocks, and chunks of plant material flying. Our enemy has been waiting for us, preparing a trap. The gunners waste no time and respond to the threat in kind. The noise is deafening and concussions rock the vehicle.

As the battle outside rages on, I sit trying to collect my thoughts. The visual warning from the bridgemen finally materializing into something I can understand; this is war. A fragile line is being walked between life and death, and it feels oddly exuberating. I sit here waiting for someone to call my name into action, or will it be a mortar that calls to me? The steel casing of the vehicle reminds me of the “whole armor of God.” Is he here? Somewhere, walking among us? No. But Death, yeah, he has to be here? With his icy fingers outstretched, waiting to quickly snuff out whomever he can. “Ping,” I snap back to reality as the bullet bounces off the steel. “Fuck.” I smile. This is war, the most noble death a man can have. Just outside my portal.

Leaving Once Hurt, Leaving Again is Unforgivable

Bright white lights beaming down, the smell of markers and crayons. Looking outside to see mothers and fathers taking their kids home after a parent-teacher conference. It always seems to go the same way. We’d walk in the room, sit down and be asked the question my mother always has to leave the room to explain, “Will the father be joining us today?” When I was young, not even a year old, my mom, sister, brother, and I moved to Michigan to start over away from my father. It was years later that I learned from my estranged relationship with my father that trust is not given but earned. 

Jump ahead seven to eight years, I’m about to start middle school where a lot of things in my life, past and present start to directly affect me as a person. At this time, I was finally understanding the situation about my father, which brought me to a very gloomy, and ominous place.  I felt trapped and more importantly, I felt alone. As time went by, the agony and unhappiness slowly started to morph into resentment. I was engulfed in rage every time I heard my father’s name or when I was told, “You’re your father’s son, you look just like him.” 

One day coming home from school my mom signaled me to come over with a wave of a hand as soon as I stepped through the front door. As I got closer she started to hand me the phone and says, “it’s your father.” Lost in the train of thought, I ignored her and just focused on what I was going to say. The more I Personal Picturethought about it, the more my adrenaline and irritation increased.  I picked up the phone and said nothing waiting for a response. Then finally, he said only two words, “ Hey Son.” All it took were those two words to convert all my anger into sadness. I started to cry and hysterically ask questions like, ”Where are you?” and “what took you so long to contact me?” We didn’t talk for long and he mainly just asked about me. Before long, he said that he was sorry and I felt warmth in his words as if I were in a blanket of sunlight. Finally, I gave the phone back to my mother.  

Happiness was something new to me at the time, and with my father’s somewhat abrupt entry into my life, I was peaceful. Not long after, I called my father many times, but I never once got an answer or a callback. I started loathing myself and all that dispersed bitterness and anguish started to flow back into me. Where’d he go? Am I not important to him? He left once, why’d he leave again?  Not long after I started to transfer all my rage back towards my father.  

A year after my last contact with my father, my mother got home and rounded up my sister, brother, and I.  I didn’t think much of this “family meeting,” but I started to get scared when my mother shed her first tear. The information passed down to my sister, brother, and I made everything obsolete, made everything cold, it made time refrain from running its course.  

I guess if I think back to that time. I was scared that it was true because I could never actually show him what he was missing. My father died that day my mom rounded us up, and I’ve never been the same. We truly don’t know how he died, whether it was a heart attack or he

overdosed on drugs. After his death, I’ve started to learn a lot more about my father and his drug addiction. When I was born, my father started to do coke and other drugs like pills, and that was why we left all those years ago. Even though it was my mom who was the one who took us away from my father, I still blame everything on him because I feel like he chose drugs over me and my family.

To this day I feel no devotion to my father. I only harbor resentment for the guy who abandoned me when I was one. For the guy who mislead me when I cried to him.  For the guy who left twice and didn’t bother to say his regards. 

Ever since that day, I’ve always had trouble trusting others and I took everything with a grain of salt.  Not having my father there when I needed him the most, and then having him die even before I even knew him was an eye-opener.  I changed how I looked at everything. I made three rules for myself after my father’s death. Number one: don’t make others feel the way you did. Number two: don’t trust everyone; only those who’ve earned it. Number three: take everything with a grain of salt.  


A Turning Point

At the age of 14 I realized how priceless nature truly is.  It has always been obvious to me that the natural world should be treated with as much love and care as humanly possible, however, I never really understood or considered why.  As a child I enjoyed everything about the fishing experience, and it was what got me out of the house the most. Unfortunately, I strayed away when I was introduced to video games.  Like most 14 year olds, my eyes and mind were enchanted by the TV screen and I just couldn’t get enough. With that being said I lost sight of the beauty that grew, crawled and sang outside of my home.  In the span of one beautiful summer day, the amount of appreciation I had for nature and its essence grew immensely.  

Summer was never the most amusing season growing up, everybody was working during the week and resting during the weekend, which gave me more of an excuse to play video games. One day in particular felt very off, it was the hottest day of the summer, the sun was blinding and the wind was nonexistent. The birds were silent and the highway was rather quiet which made it easy to hear my parents pull up in the driveway.  They returned home with a kayak in the back of the truck and my name it. I have never been more happy to turn off the TV and head to the old fishing hole. 

As I stepped into the lake to launch my kayak, the cool, clear water persuaded me to take a dip first. After cooling off, I settled off on my journey to catch the biggest fish in the lake. As I paddled off farther from shore I peered over both shoulders, mesmerized by the serenity of the lake and the vegetation that surrounded the banks. I looked up at the sky, all blue and clear and wondered what shape it truly is and wondered if the creatures under the surface wonder the same thing.  As my eyes wandered back down to my paddle, I remembered how much I missed the lake and how many memories were made there over the years. It was truly a happy place I forgot I had.  

Drifting towards the first fishing spot, many fish glided under my kayak and it assured me that it was time to start casting. After the first cast, the bite seemed never ending for bountiful BlueGill and I was enjoying every second of reeling the little guys in. As I got further into the backwaters of the lake my container of worms began to get more empty and before I knew it, I was down to my last one. As I started to paddle towards a new spot, the plastic container caught wind and flew onto the water. I watched it dance on top of the water, and as it got further and further away from me, I thought to myself “ how could one little plastic container affect anything?,” so I let it float away. 

Still fishing for Bluegill I trolled around the spots that seemed the most cultivating. After making a cast I stood still watching the bobber float ever so slowly into the vegetation. Seconds go by and the bobber dives into the water and I set the hook with the intention of it being a small fish. My fishing reel started to howl at the amount of line and speed that was being taken by the fish at the other end. At first I wasn’t sure whether I was in a small lake in Michigan or an ocean battling the tenacious Tuna. As I tried to keep as much tension and pressure on my line as possible, I caught a glimpse of the fish which I was battling against; it was a Largemouth Bass who had no intention of being brought to the surface. The battle lasted no longer than a minute until the line snapped. Aggravated, I watched the Bass swim away with the hook still in its mouth and all I could think about was how badly I didn’t want to retie a new lure.     

The crystal clear lake that I was descending over was a magnet for local bass fisherman but for some reason I was the only person fishing it that day. The adrenalin and eagerness I had running through my body made me realize I’ve had enough of small fish and that it was time to go for Bass. Afterall, I had to redeem myself after losing that beast of a fish minutes before. Left without any live bait,  it was time to switch to artificial lures and a set up that could handle bigger fish. When I was finally finished rigging up and started casting, it seemed as if every other cast I made, I was flipping a fish into my kayak. On one particular cast I realised that I was being watched. I didn’t realise until I had caught my next fish and was trying to get it in that I was being followed and analyzed.  The Fish that had broken me off minutes before had been following my kayak around the lake. It had my hook pierced into its jaw and its eyes were fixed on me and my every movement. As I held and pulled my fresh catch out of the water, the large Bass swam closer to the kayak and its eyes were filled with fright and discomfort. It was clear it was unaware of what I was doing or why, but it continued to swim close to the kayak as I paddled around the shore.

 As I stopped and glanced around at the lake and down into the water I could see the fish was still following me. I observed the houses that were being built on the lake, the docks that shaded the fish during the heat of the summer, and the shadow that my kayak casted under me. I turned my back and realised that my plastic container had caught up to me as the wind shifted. I watched it float above the fish that was stalking me and we both watched as it piled up against  other plastic containers and bottles on the shore. For a second I was lost in thought, my eyes were glued to the pile of garbage and the sound of it smacking the shore rang through my head. As I glanced around, everything before me was perfect, the water, the trees, the breeze, the little fish in the reeds, everything. But when my eyes turned and I saw the garbage once again, the beauty was ruined.

 My body was flooded with guilt, and I told myself I had to pick it all up. Not just my container, but every little piece of plastic I saw had to be retrieved and disposed of correctly. From the kayak it looked as if there were only 6 pieces of debris, but when I got out and started walking, more and more debris appeared. After picking it all up, my kayak was full of garbage and my mind was filled with anger and frustration towards myself and others who use the lake. I couldn’t believe how much waste I had collected. At the same time I had to believe there was 10x more waste under the surface and that infuriated me.  

As I started to float back to the launch I noticed my stalker was nowhere to be seen. I sat and thought in my kayak for a little longer as the pink cotton candy skies light up the water. I thought about all the pretty fish I caught that evening, about how they live to eat and reproduce, and how often this body of water is used.  I thought about my encounter with that fish as a sign from the world. A sign telling me that you only get one earth and one life to enjoy the beauty of its existence. I learned that day that we should all show our appreciation by keeping its wonders better than the way you found them.  


The Irony of experience

Zane DenHartog
Professor John Wolff
English Composition 1
September 9, 2019


In my modest 19 years of life, I’ve learned something about people that’s equal parts frustrating and ironic. They absolutely cannot learn without experience. And I’m no exception. You could be warned your entire life on the supposed dangers of something and still not learn anything about it. It isn’t until you experience the danger and feel some kind of consequence that you finally, truly understand. The only way to understand danger is to experience it. Making warnings only useful in hindsight.

It was February of 2019. I and a busload of fellow high schoolers were coming home from a forensics tournament, (not the criminal investigative science kind of forensics. More like track and field for theatre kids) It had been a long day of competing and performing, but in spite of everyone’s exhaustion, the bus still rumbled with the dull roar of conversation, banter, and crude humor; things typical of high school students with a captive audience and nothing better to do. The outside air was chill your-bones, frostbite in under 20 minutes, teach you the meaning of hypothermia kind of cold. However, in almost defiant contrast the inside was absolutely boiling, likely due to the combination of 30 plus bodies jammed shoulder to shoulder and the bus drivers apparent marriage to the radiator. For those too antisocial to involve themselves in conversation, and with the mental fortitude to withstand the bus induced heatstroke, a look outside would have revealed a sizable amount of nothing. The road we drove on cut through a forest, which was only barely apparent when coupled with the almost complete darkness, revealing only the closest
pines. If one were to then look down they could catch a glimpse of the seemingly endless expanse of ice and snow melding both the road and the bury-a-man sized ditches lining either side of the street. For all intents and purposes, the conditions were scary. Being frightened of the ice and snow would not only be acceptable, but arguably rational.

Except, nobody worried, the banter and the heat exhaustion continued. Nothing bad had ever happened to the forensic bus before. We’ve driven in worse conditions and everything was fine. It was always fine. We had absolute faith that our driver could take us home without a struggle; because they always have. So once the back end started swaying in the opposite direction of the front end, no one panicked. Once we started swaying back and forth with the bus, hardly anyone noticed. When our coach stood up and yelled “brace yourself” he was met more so with abject confusion than with recognition. It wasn’t until we felt the G-force of a spinning bus and saw the trees pass us by as if we were barreling through them that it set in. We might die here. It was here that we finally braced ourselves and realized that if we were going to scream, now would be the best time.

After spinning a full 180 degrees and crashing sideways into a ditch we finally had the chance to collect ourselves. For the first time in what felt like years, there was no chatter, no banter, no jokes, just the bated breath of over 30 people coming to terms with what had just happened. Only as the realization crept in and the adrenaline started to wear off did the noise start to return, but unlike before. You could hear the gentle sobbing, shaky yet resolute reassurances that “you’re okay.” Teammates and friends working to comfort and reassure each other in uniquely similar ways. Somehow I had managed to make it this far into the ordeal before  understanding that there was any danger at all. The swerving, screaming, and spinning did nothing to show me the danger I was in. I very specifically remember thinking “really, is the screaming necessary” as I dug my head into the seat while the bus break-danced off the road. I felt as if there was never any danger at all until I heard whimpering next to me. A friend of mine named Grayson was crying. Shock and horror stricken across their face. Though nobody near us was hurt, seeing their shock at nearly dying is what it took to bring the situation into perspective for me.

Once I’d finished my brief “wait a minute I could have died” moment I invited Grayson over to my seat to comfort him. We’d go on to find out that most everyone was physically okay, a few bumps on the head and strained necks. Of everyone, the coach got the worst of it, a few broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a cracked spine. However that wasn’t nearly enough to stop him, nowadays you can find him directing plays and teaching high school.

The prospect of both myself and several of the most important people in my life dying in that bus taught me something important, bad things can happen. As obvious as it sounds, it was never something I had fully processed. I’ve heard about disasters and accidents before. But I had never felt someone, I had never come so close to losing myself and so much of myself and so many people that I cared about. One would think that this sort of experience would make me cynical, or paranoid. Instead, I’ve learned to maintain a healthy yet unobtrusive level of awareness of the world around me. I learned to take measures to keep myself safe, but unbothered. Making sure to tie my shoes and put on my seat belt, while still enjoying the convenience of walking and driving without the nagging fear of catastrophe looming over my head. The crash taught me that danger and disaster exists, and can exist near me. Nearly losing my life was an experience that may one day save my life. And I can find fewer things more ironic.

A Long Journey

Writing your personal story can come with unexpected challenges, but it is an experience full of self-exploration and you can find that telling your story, even a simple one, can be finished with a feeling of accomplishment and pride. You will learn to appreciate telling your story and how the world has shaped the life you’ve developed. We are the products of what we have been surrounded by and experienced. I am no exception and this is my story of how this world has shaped me. 

When I was only five years old I had gotten really sick. I was laying in bed listening to my older brother read me Peter Pan for the hundredth time. He’s only three years older than me and back then we were inseparable. As I was listening I suddenly noticed I couldn’t hear him anymore. I lifted up my head, I could hear out of my left ear, but when I laid back down or covered it I couldn’t hear out of my right ear. It was as if there was only the sound of a distant hum. I told my mother who immediately called the doctor. He told her that it was just the infection and that the hearing would come back as I got better. A few weeks later I was better, but my hearing never came back. 

A few years later, when I was nine. The day started out pretty normal. My friends and I spent the morning riding our bikes through the city, getting into trouble like every kid there did. After a while, we left our bikes at my friend Richard’s house and started walking around. That’s when I started to notice the headache, a dull but constant pain behind my eyes, but I ignored it. A little while later it got worse and my vision started to get blurry. I told my friends about the headache and Richard suggested I might be dehydrated. After all, it was hot and we’d been out all day without any water. So we stopped by a restaurant and asked if we could get a glass of ice water. I drank it as we continued walking. What happened next all happened in a matter of seconds. As we walked, my head felt like someone was hitting me with a brick, my vision got worse until I couldn’t see, I got really dizzy and light-headed until I couldn’t stand anymore. My friends got help and someone called an ambulance. Or at least that’s what I was told, I don’t remember anything after I hit the ground. The next thing I remember is waking up in a hospital bed. I lay there listening to the sounds made by the machines surrounding me. A steady beep as it tracked my heart rate. The room walls were simply white, not a speck of dirt or dust. There was no decoration aside from the curtain that allowed the door to be open without taking from the patients’ privacy. It may have once been that kind of green that reminds people of spring beauty, but it was faded and dull. I understood then why people bring flowers to the hospital. Without them, the room seems mechanical.  It was quiet, but I could hear people approaching my door. 

“We’re going to have to run more tests,” a man’s voice said. “We still can’t find a cause.”

“But there has to be something,” I could hear my dad respond, “seizures don’t just come from nowhere.”

I heard the word, but I didn’t think much of it. I sat up on the edge of the bed as my parents and the doctor came into the room. 

“Look who’s awake,” the doctor said. “How are you feeling, young lady?”

“Just fine. So I can go home, right?” I replied

My dad sat his hand on my shoulder, “No, sweetheart, not yet. The doctors are still running some tests.”

“Tests? For what?” I asked. I was confused, but not concerned.

The doctor looked at me a minute, “Do you know why you’re here?”

“I don’t know. I got dehydrated, I guess. I’m here a lot, doc, but I don’t like it here.”

“Do you remember?” 

“Remember, what?”

“Young lady, you’ve been having seizures for the past two hours.”

I paused, “ So?”

“Do you know what that means?” The doctor explained to me what it meant, but I still didn’t fully understand. I spent a while with needles and machines before I fell asleep again. By the time I woke up, it was dark outside and I could hear them outside my door again. 

“That can’t be true. You have to be wrong. You are wrong!” my mother sounded scared.

“Calm down, Angel,” my dad said. “What are our options then?”

“Well, the only treatment option would be surgery.”

“Surgery?” my mother yelled. “She’s nine. I’m not putting my nine-year-old through brain surgery!”

“And if we don’t do that?” my dad asked.

“Well, her chance for survival drops to less than 40%. It’s highly likely the seizures will get worse, she’ll lose all hearing and most likely all vision. I understand this is a difficult decision, I’ll leave you two to think about it and we can fill out the paperwork when you’re ready.”

It was silent for a long time before my parents came into the room. My dad just looked at my mother, “If you don’t tell her, I will.” They paused. Their heads down and refusing to make eye contact. 

“Tell me what?”

My dad sighed, “Sweetheart, you need to know.”

“Know what?”

“You have a brain tumor.”

Those two words felt like bullets through my chest. For a second, I didn’t breath, I didn’t move, I didn’t think, then I suddenly felt numb. I didn’t know how to respond. I just sat there, quietly letting the thoughts process through my head. My dad and mother talked for a long time that night. I didn’t say another word that night. I wasn’t afraid. That would have been a normal response. Maybe a bit nervous at the thought of surgery, but not afraid. In the end, it was decided for me. I was going to have the surgery. The surgery appeared a success. I recovered and life went on. 

A year passed before I started having migraines and seizures again. They did more tests and it didn’t take long to see the tumor came back and so it began again. The next year, it happened again. By the time I was twelve, it had become a routine and no one could figure out why it kept coming back. I got sent from doctor to doctor, specialist to specialist, hospital to hospital. At sixteen I finally found someone who could tell me something. A neural and brain tumor specialists in Detroit. He ran his own tests, asked his own questions, and in a few months, he said he had an answer. Medulloepithelioma. That’s what he called it. It’s an extremely rare tumor that occurs in only about 1 in 10000 people. 

“Fifty years,” he said, “fifty years of doing this job and I’ve never seen a case like yours.”

I wish I could say that finally finding a name was a relief or that it somehow made it just a little better, but the truth is, it didn’t. By then, I was done. I was worn out and tired of it all. A nearly 8-year struggle I couldn’t handle anymore. I walked around in a zombie-like trance. Ready at any moment to collapse and let it be over. After a little while, this doctor offered to do an experimental surgery that could potentially get rid of the tumor for good. As with most everything up to this point, it was decided for me. I got signed up for the surgery. There were a lot of complications and the surgery lasted three hours longer than it was supposed to. The recovery was no better. I spent almost half a year living in the hospital even though recovery was only supposed to last a week. After that, the tumor still came back and so they did the surgery again, and a third time. Then another one in hopes of fixing my hearing and another because they messed up on the last one. By then I was seventeen. I told them that I didn’t want any more surgeries. I didn’t care about consequences or suggestions or what could be if they did “just one more.” A while past, I turned eighteen and there was no sign of the tumor coming back. That news was the biggest relief of my life. Unfortunately, I still can’t hear out of my right ear and my doctor still wants me to do another surgery to try to fix that. Something also happened during one of the surgeries that causes me to still get immense migraines and occasional seizures. For that, among some other things, I was told I needed to get a service dog. The waiting list for one, however, was years long so my doctor suggested I get a puppy and train him myself. I was hesitant at first, my dog that had gone through the last ten years of my life with me had just passed. Her name was Sheila. She was old and sadly the old age got the better of her. 


After a lot of thought, though, I agreed, and we got a chubby little bullmastiff. I named him Hunter.  I spent months training him and he was an amazing, friendly, and literally life-saving pup. He learned to warn me about my seizures by getting my attention, sitting and putting his paw on me. He also was there as a comforting friend during the seizures. Unfortunately, last weekend he contracted Parvo. An intestinal virus in dogs that has a very low survival rate. Especially in younger puppies. He was only ten months old and there was nothing anyone could do. I lost him. My doctor wants me to get a new service dog but I simply can’t.

Now, I wish I could say this had a happy ending, but I can’t. What I can say, however, is that even after everything in my life I’m still here, I’m still breathing, I’m still alive. I may not always want to be, but I am and I’m sure there’s an inspiration in there somewhere that I just can’t see at the moment. Besides, it’s not over yet. So, interpret this story however benefits you. I’m just going to keep living my life one moment at a time. This is a big world, full of small moments, that can have even larger impacts.

Cristos de las Noas

10 December 2019

Cristos de las Noas

One pm had it the town of Torreón, the blinding hot sun was set high in the freckled sky. The town was busy as ever, the streets were flooded with cars and the palm trees that were all around the streets, looked like they were in dire need of water. My family and I were staying at my cousin Elisa’s house; her house was a pale yellow on the outside and the windows had a white bar like framing on them. There were two doors the first one was bar like as well, the second one was normal, besides the fact that when opening the door, the bottom hinges would come off the frame. Walking inside you are greeted by a small space with walls that were painted bright pink, yellow and green. I instantly walked inside and headed towards the left corner of the room where the air conditioner was placed and turned my back towards it. When turned on the air was warm, my body at this point was sweaty and overheating; once the cold air kicked in, it felt as though I was at the beach and a big gush of cold water hit my back. I sat down with a cold glass of water in my hand. My family and I all sat around in the small space, some of us in the living room and some of us in the dining room and kitchen. We talked about all the drama that was going on with my family in Mexico, we also talked about what we were going to be doing the following day, My father and my cousin were talking about going and having dinner with my other cousins at their house. We spent a lot of time outside of the house in Mexico, my family down there always were spending time with each other, not at all what I was used to, in Michigan. My family and I never really went out and did things together as a family.

Now the time was six pm, my family and I were talking about going and seeing Cristos de las Noas (Christ of the Noas) in Coahuila, Torreón. Eight of us piled into a minivan that was only meant to seat six people, the front seats is where my mom and dad sat, me and my brother took the middle two seats, and my cousins were then forced to sit in the back, with the younger two sitting on top of their mom and sister. We arrived at the road that leads up to Cristos de las Noas, and it was snake-like. It twisted sharply at times, every turn we would make all of us in the car turn as well, it was like we were part of the road. While all of the snake movements were going on we were also going higher and higher from the ground we started off on, going higher each turn made my eardrums pop multiple times, it felt as though I had earbuds in my ear and someone came 

up to me and yanked them out of my ears. While driving up the road my brothers expression was amusing, his eyes were wide while looking over the edge of the somewhat railed road, his mouth was clenched tight and his fist was clenching his pant leg, so tight that his hand was no longer pink in tone, instead a pale color, almost white, he was scared of heights. Being the cruel people we are, we couldn’t help but laugh at his expression’s, 

This is how the lights showed the statue in the dark
Cristos de las Noas in the dark; by MILENIO

and the way he couldn’t look away. Finally, we arrived at the top. We saw people biking up the hill we drove up, I couldn’t believe they had the will power to do it.  As soon as the car was in park, my family sitting in the back forcefully told me and my brother to open the door so they could get out and stretch their legs. 

Walking to the edge of the “building” we all naturally looked down and saw how high we actually were. There were lights that lit up the trail below us enough to see where you were going, looking beyond that you couldn’t see anything else. There weren’t many people there, only a couple of families that were there for what seemed there hundredth time. Even though they had seen this museum multiple times, from what I could see, they were still amazed by what the view had to bring. On my right, there was a set of wide-set stairs, in which my family and I took multiple pictures on. At the top of another wide but narrow set of stairs, there was this enormous white Jesus statue that held his arms out wide, and his hands in a cup-like shape, as if he was a cross, his face was in a calm stance, from my view (looking up at him) he looked as though he was content. There were these stage lights that were on the ground, pointed up and exposed the Jesus statue in the dark, it made him look as though he was a giant light, meant to guide you over his way. After admiring the statue we saw these stairs that lead to a higher ledge, we walked up the stairs and were met with a platform that was in the shadows, there wasn’t much light where we were, but there was enough to see and not trip yourself.  All of us walked towards the edge of the platform, there was large thick railing, so you don’t go off the edge. Looking into the night it was pitch black, not a single

This was the view from the top of the platform
Cristos de las Noas view

star or light in the sky but you could see the town and all the house that lit up in the dark, in a way the lights reminded me of a Christmas tree, they were bright and energetic. A train in the distance was slithering through the dark, it had no lights besides the one that was at 5the head and lead the way, if we weren’t looking very deeply at the scene, we would have missed it. Taking a final look at the way the city looked brought a silence that I only knew was there, it felt as though my ears forgot how to hear, yet kids were yelling and playing all around me, though staring into the night of lights and darkness made the rest of the world seem nonpresent to me. The air was warm, but cold at the same time, I took a very deep breath in and exhaled a minute later, this view had made me stop thinking completely and take in what I’m seeing and appreciate life, my family, friends, and all of the memories we’ve created in life.

Heading home around eight, we were all exhausted, my younger cousins had already fallen asleep, I was on the verge of it myself.  We finally arrived at Elisa’s house, we all piled out of the minivan once more and sat in the living room and talked, it ranged from typical family drama, weird jokes that made you laugh until you had a headache. We also talked about the things we had bought from the stores that we visited earlier that day, and go googly-eyed over what other people had bought, but we were all tired after a long day, and oddly awake at the same time. Around eleven I finally felt tired again, so I went and lied down on a very soft bed. I laid there for a minute or so, staring into nothing, I finally rolled over, covered myself up and went to bed. 

A Twilight Apoplectic

Ndio Battice Mitchell

Professor John Wolff

English 111

20 September 2019

“‘How did you go bankrupt?’

Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises


February 8th, 2016

4:06 PM

I can tell that Darnell is trying not to cry. From the library recliner adjacent, he chooses his words very carefully. “Yesterday morning… Clay, he… grabbed his father’s pistol and…”

I know what’s coming even before he says it. I know it, but cannot bring 

myself to comprehend it.

Darnell tells what he came to tell me, without tears.

I envision a rush of brain matter forcing its way out the back of Clay’s skull. My whole body contracts as a shudder of roiling horror teeters through me. Bile forms in my throat, I bite my fist. Some bored forensic scientist had to scrape what was left of him off the wall. He- 

The floodgates of sanity burst open. Or were they closing? An impossible stillness radiates upward and out. Not peace, but certainly something quiet. What remained was a haze: Damning, uncertain, and all my own.


February 11th, 2016

11:26 AM

I see they weren’t kidding when they described his father as formidable. He towers off-center towards the middle of the reception room, shaking the hands of grieving strangers. I take a breath, two, and make my way towards the newly crippled parent. His blue eyes take my measure with careful and intense efficiency. At nearly seven feet tall and sixty pounds beyond anything that I’ll ever be, he shakes my hand. The grip strength makes me wonder what he looked like ten years ago. I raked my mind, trying to recall what branch of the military he’d served under. 


English, right? 

British S.A.S; remember the beret? You discussed with Clay whether it was ‘who cares’, or ‘who dares’, ad nauseam.

The Motto Of The S.A.S: "Who Dares WIns"
Motto Of The British Special Air Service: Qui audet adipiscitur.

Right, the motto pierces even the damp fog of mourning. Who Dares Wins.

I make no mention of his past and try to give my best impression of a genuine apology in less than fifty words. The souls behind wait with something loosely resembling patience. I fumble more than a few words, he blinks. Only now do I realize how red his eyes are; he’s crying, and has been for some time. 


February 6th, 2016

4:02 PM

Ernest Hemingway, who died by self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head at age 61.

I flip through Papa Hemingway’s greatest novel passively, trying to remember what exactly the themes were. Courage? Hubris? Dogma? After realizing that I could quote the foremost American author of a lifetime, yet knew nothing of the Old Man or the sea he fished in, fear of imposterhood manifested. So there I stood, within the underused library of an unappreciative town, pretending to read one of the greatest novels in the English language to escape the eternal wait that kept me there.

Darnell said that he had news, but had to tell me in person. 

What could it possibly be? Flippant, I told him we could meet at the library. Hemingway had some lessons for me there, anyhow. 

Pinpricks of anxiety pull me to the present, tender and unforgiving.

Six minutes later, I find myself a little, and then a lot closer to the grave. Darnell tries not to cry. Immense stillness overtakes me, warmth from something broken. I wonder which part of my mind is trying to play king amidst this chaos. I realize that I don’t particularly care, in either case; the particulars have lost their relevance in this new world of blinding extremes.

Darnell tells me that the rest of the guys are going to try and talk it through later tonight. That maybe we can figure out why it happened. I nod and watch his lips move, but say nothing. My mind still lingers on the word ‘suicide’. 

I have some catching up to do.



February 6th, 2016

11:20 AM

Did he save this tears for this? 

Darnell stands upon a stage above we, the mourning, who fill this sizable church to capacity. The crying comes slowly, he shudders, then quickly. The arms around my ramrod frame do their best to console. How could they ever know that the discord within was already focusing into something stony, glittering and dangerous? 

I shed no tears– the Survivor’s prerogative.

The preacher takes center stage after he’s finished, and asks the lost souls within to bow their heads in prayer. The preacher says he isn’t sorry when it’s over. The preacher has a certain venom on his tongue I can’t quite fathom. 

After rising a little too abruptly, and scanning the room, I shake the hand of Clay’s father (wow, he’s big), and stumble through introductions with unendearing awkwardness. He opens up after I’ve embarrassed myself, or maybe pretends to for my sake, remarking upon the volume of people here, many he’s never so much as met.

Do all the youthful dead have this charm about them, or was Clay the exception? 

Guilty for thinking this, I maintain my imperative of silence. Soon, it would be the only thing I knew.



April 18th, 2018

5:00 PM

There was to be no conclusory sun at this particular beach, nor did I want one. Instead I’d come to watch the approaching storm, alone. Thunderheads murmured ominously over a sea of glass, wind set the trees to stirring; I knew it wouldn’t be long now. There was a certain wisdom to just how small these storms make you feel, I cherished this perspective.

Denial had passed me quickly, bargaining stayed a few weeks, but anger and I were right cozy for months. Someone must be responsible for such a tragedy, and I was about as good a guess as any. Only after did I meet sorrow– vacuous, eternal, irrefutable. The things I felt burned away all that stood, razed my walls with thundering deliberation, and melted down the monuments to all I held dear. 

After being defeated by myself,  I awoke to find the truth standing over me amidst the ruins: oblique, wily, and without much sympathy.

Though finished with the Old Man And The Sea years ago, I still envisioned Santiago’s strange luck vividly: he wished for dinner and got a marlin. Sometimes life’s bounty is odd, and sometimes it is truly grim. Sometimes the astral fishermen of calculus and misfortune hook us, and sometimes we must cut ourselves loose. These breaches of sanity define us, however; they’ve been burned into the retina of what we experience and therefore inseparable from who we are. In other words: Understanding only filters through the lens of what’s been lived. 

Indeed, sometimes these marks are all we have to prove the event as true, to understand its significance, and to proceed.

And indeed, sometimes that’s enough.

Taking Life For Granted

Makenzie MacDougall  

English Composition 1 

9 September 2019 

Taking Life for Grated   

  Why do we take things for granted?  All we have, our life, our family, our treasures, should be appreciated but for some reason a lot of us take those things for granted. I for one used to take things for granted until one day my life changed.    

Car Accident
Car Accident

My father hung up the phone and turned to look at us. His voice was shaky, when he told us that my cousin was in a bad accident. We quickly got ready and left the house. We picked up my uncle on the way to the hospital because we didn’t want him to drive by himself considering what had happened. As it started to get dark, clouds were moving in, the wind was picking up, raindrops started to fall on the windows, and we were trying to get there as fast as we could. With thought’s racing in our minds as we sat in the car, we hoped we would get there in time and get some answers. It felt like hours before we finally arrived at the hospital and walked in. After walking through the big glass doors, we went straight to the nurse’s station. After checking in with the nurse, a social worker came and led us to a small conference room. The conference room was very cold, it had tan walls, bright lights, and only had a small couch and a few chairs. As we sat there waiting for someone to come in and talk to us, I was recalling every moment before we got the call. I had just got done with a volleyball practice and I was on my way home. I was tired and hungry so I was striving to get home as fast as I could. When I arrived home and walked through my front door, all I could smell was lasagna and garlic bread. After setting my things down in my room, I walked back into the kitchen and began to get my plate. As I started to eat my meal, the phone started to ring. 

 My father got up to answer it. While he was on the phone my mother and I were sitting there quietly still eating our meals. My father started to get a worried expression on his face, so my mother and I were patiently waiting for him to get off the phone to find out what was wrong.  

Suddenly, the door opens, and a doctor walked in the conference room and all the events I was recalling just disappeared, my mind blanked. The doctor had sat down across from all of us and began to tell us about my cousins’ condition. I was trying hard to focus on what the doctor was saying but it was very hard to understand everything. My anxiety level was risen, my heart rate fast, most of what was said just went over my head, but there were a few things that stood out. The last thing the doctor said to us was that my cousin had a major head injury. He told us that my cousins’ brain was swelling, and that they were doing everything they could to help him, but his chances look good. Once the doctor had left the room, our family just sat there speechless, not knowing what to say. After a while a nurse walked into the room, she told us that she was going to take us to a different conference room that was closer to the room my cousin was in. The room that we were moved to was much bigger. It was warmer inside, had light blue walls and had many seats for everyone to sit in. As we sat there, we were talking amongst each other about what was going on and what our next steps would be. Finally, a group of three doctors and a nurse walked in. They sat down at the table and told us that they had come in to talk with us about his condition and to answer any of the questions we may have had at that time. While the doctors were in the room with us, my cousin started to crash. A nurse walked in rather fast and whispered something in the main doctor’s ear. 

 The doctor silently got up and left the room abruptly. While the main doctor was gone the other two kept answering all our questions. A little while later the doctor had come back in the room and told us why he had to leave so abruptly. He said unfortunately, the brain just keeps swelling and there is really nothing else we can do. After the doctors finished talking and we had asked all our questions, the main doctor asked us what our opinion was and what we wanted to do. He said we could either keep reviving him when he crashes, or we can let him go. We all sat there quietly for a moment exchanging looks. After a few minutes, we started to talk as a family to see what each person thought about the situation. We all decided that the best thing to do would be to let him go if he started to crash again. Everyone took turns going into his room and saying goodbye, except me. I couldn’t do it due to the fact I didn’t want the last image of him to be like that.  Once everyone finished saying goodbye, his parents went in and sat with him. It felt like a long time but really it was only about an hour and a half before his parents had come back out of the room and told us he was gone. When I heard those words, I instantly broke down into tears. It felt like my heart was being shattered into a million pieces. We all sat in the conference room for a while grieving together before we went our separate ways. On the way home, all the memories I had with him, all the fun adventures and family holidays we shared were rushing around in my mind. Once we arrived at home, we all decided the best thing to do would be to try and get some sleep. It took a long time for me to fall asleep, all I could think about was how everything would change. After a while, I finally fell asleep. When I woke up the next morning, I couldn’t comprehend that any of it was true. I sat in my bed hoping that it was all just a bad dream, but unfortunately it wasn’t.  

Over the next few days, during the funeral and at the burial site, I still couldn’t grasp the thought that it was all so real. Then suddenly out of nowhere, it just clicked. I realized everything that was happening was really happening and it was time to say a final goodbye.  


No one every expects these bad things to happen in their lives. I realized that I never really expected something like this to happen to my family or to me until it did. I never really paid attention to how quickly things can change or how rapid they could be taken away. Many people in the world today take so many things for granted. They take their family and friends for granted, they take their possessions for granted, but most of all they take their own life for granted. I for one like everyone else, took things for granted until something happened in my life that changed the way I look at things. By losing a very close relative, it opened my eyes and made me realize that I need to stop taking things for granted because those things may not always be there. My advice for anyone reading this is to never take anything for granted, no matter what it may be. You should always cherish the things you care most about in your life because in a blink of an eye those things could be gone forever.  

Turning Point

 Turning point

I looked to the right of me and there he lay. It took me a minute to find out where his arms, legs, and head were. The room was so dark and his small body was swallowed by wires and tubes. 20-30 stitches covered the whole left side of his face. I was in the room no more than five minutes. I had to walk out. I couldn’t take the smell of all the medicine he was on or see him like that. I couldn’t see him barely hanging on to life.

November 16th, 2011 my brother, sister, and I had got up to get ready for school. At 7:45 a.m. my sister was pushing us out the door because she had to be at the school at the same time every day. I put my bag in my locker, went and ate breakfast, then went outside on the playground. My brother was in the grade below me so I got to see him throughout the day. Sometimes I liked to play with him and his friends. After playing with friends I began class. My day at school was normal, I was like every other 5th grader or so I thought. After school I had basketball practice I went to ask my mom who was waiting for my brother and sister if she could get me something to drink from the store that was right across the street from the school. She said no, so I gave her a kiss and a hug and went to get ready for practice. After practice I expected my mom to come get me but waiting at the door to pick me up early was a family friend who lived right next to the school. She said that I would go to her house where my older brother would pick me up. I didn’t really ask questions. I thought maybe my mom is busy so I sat and waited. When a vehicle pulled in I grabbed my stuff and walked outside, but who I thought was my brother was actually my uncle. I was really confused at this point. He was on the phone with someone and the way he was talking, I just knew he was talking about my mom. As the road to my house approached I saw my other older brother at the gas station so I waved. As I looked back to the road I had seen that we had passed my road. I thought maybe my uncle forgot where we lived. After all, we did just move two months ago but he just kept going and going and going all the way to Ludington Hospital.

At this point, I was very confused. I thought maybe it had something to do with my grandpa. Still, I asked no questions. Not really sure why I don’t think I really wanted to know. As we walked into the hospital we were greeted by my aunt who had a sick worried look on her face. What she said next would change not only my life but my view of life forever. Your mom, brother, and sister got into a very bad car accident, she said some other words, but I didn’t know what she said my body was so numb. I thought it was all fake thinking no this isn’t possible. Once we got back to the rooms it became real. My aunt asked if I wanted to go see my brother before he left as they were taking him to Grand Rapids he was supposed to be airomeded but the helicopter was somewhere else and there was no time to wait, for some odd reason I said no that I didn’t want to see him at that moment. I walked into where my sister was. She was scared but had no serious injuries. I had then gone to where my mom was who had twelve broken ribs. I sat with her for a while people coming in and out you could hear the girl who hit them screaming and crying in the other room. 17 years old she was with no license she had been driving a friend’s truck and ran a stop sign and t-boned my mom, brother, and sister. They rushed him by ambulance Doctors didn’t think he would make it. What saved him from not dying instantly was him not wearing a seat belt. If he would have had it on it would have held him there and the impact would have crushed him. I sat there in my mom’s room my body still numb. I had made several trips to the bathroom to wipe away the tears. During these times is when I sat and thought to myself that this is a turning point in my life. It’s when things changed, and I knew nothing would be the same. Who knows how long it will take for them to recover or what the outcome will be if he makes it through it will he be able to walk, or talk?

A little while later they were getting my mom ready to ship her to Grand Rapids. My sister was already released. My Aunts and I rode together. What seemed to be the longest car ride of my life we had finally arrived. At this point, I wanted to see my brother. I couldn’t have opened the car door any quicker. My aunts and I rushed to the turning doors of Helen DeVos Children’s hospital. We went to the floor where my brother was. We sat in the waiting room where we were greeted by other family members while my brother was in surgery. Finally, A nurse came I was one of the first people to go back they only allowed four at a time I followed the nurse with my dad and two other people to where my brother would be for the next month in a half. I took a deep breath as I

Helen DeVos Hospital rooms

walked into his very dark room. The smell of medicine was so bad I had to cover my face. I looked to the right of me and there my brother lay in a drug-induced coma. It took me a minute to find out where his legs, arms, and head were because he was hooked up to so many tubes and wires only 9yrs, 98lbs those tubes and wires swallowed him 20-30 stitches covered the left-hand side of his face. After only being in the room not even five minutes, I had to walk out I couldn’t see my little brother like that. My aunt took me to go see my mom which was all the way on the other side of the hospital she was on the 4th floor. I went and sat with my mom for a while who was in a lot of pain. That night I slept at the very top floor of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Thankfully my mom spent just a week in the hospital. But not so much for my brother he would spend the next month and a half in the critical care unit and undergo 3 different surgeries while in DeVos. It was difficult watching my brother lay there helplessly fighting for his life. I can remember sitting there thinking how can this happen to us? How can this happen to my family? I would have never thought something like this could happen but it has. After a while, they took my brother off drug-induced coma. It was only hours before he woke up. He was confused at first but the doctors and my mom and dad were there to tell him what happened. After waking him up a few days later he was sent to Mary Free Bed for physical therapy and recovery he had to learn to do everything over again like eat, walk, and talk he couldn’t eat real food at first because he had a tracheotomy so he was g-tube fed for a while. While at Mary Free bed he underwent another surgery we spent Christmas and New

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital

Year in the hospital. My brother had physical, occupational and speech therapy every single day. I was there when he was able to take his first steps again. I remember one day I apologized to my brother for all the bad things I did like running over his remote control car and for all the times I have ever been mean to him because I realized that all those fights and arguments were stupid and that I could have lost my brother and without having the chance to apologize to him. I realized I shouldn’t take anything for granted. My brother was in Mary Free bed for another month in half. After that, he was sent home where he would continue to recover. While at home he underwent two more surgeries. Yes, this made me realize what can happen in the real world Things happen for a reason and I will never know the reason. Life can change and have a turning point at any given time. It can come out of nowhere. The way your life plays out is for a reason. Cherish what you have because you never know when it can be taken away. Life isn’t always perfect but it is very precious. Things happen for a reason and I will never know the reason. Life can change and have a turning point at any given time. It can come out of nowhere and in my case, this was my turning point this was my wake up call that life isn’t always fair.

Hunting Wasn’t For Me

It was late on the night before the youth hunt, and I couldn’t get myself to fall asleep. I lay there in the dark with my mind racing.  My dad had told me as I was going to bed that night, “Make sure you get some good sleep tonight, Bud.  You don’t want to be sleeping in the blind and miss a big one.” But the more I tried to get myself to sleep, the more it felt like someone was holding my eyes open with clamps.  My eyes were becoming irritated; they were dry and heavy, and before I knew it, I started to slowly fade in and out of sleep.

In the morning, I awoke to my dad’s voice in the doorway. “It’s time to get up, Marques.” I think he was pretty surprised, given that it was only 4 AM, to see me jump out of bed, thrilled that it was time to get going.  Although I had gone hunting for a couple of years, I had yet to tag a deer. This was beginning to get to me. I never had much patience as a kid and sitting in the cold woods waiting for a deer seemed to take a lot out of me.  I got bored fast.  But this day would be different.  I’d be hunting with my friend Will.  And our dads were good friends, so getting permission to hunt on their land easy.

My dad and I were getting all of our gear together and putting our hunting clothes on when he got a phone call.  It was Will’s dad, Bill, calling to double-check that plans were still good for the hunt.  While they talked, I finished getting ready.  I made sure I had my licenses, my gun in its case, ammo, a few snacks, and proper clothing for the cold, frosty morning.  But little did I know, my two-day hunt was going to be an emotional rollercoaster ride.

On the way there, we didn’t see any deer at all, which was strange.  We almost always saw at least one as we covered the 20-minute drive over the backroads to Will’s place.

It was around 5 a.m. when we arrived at Will’s.  We all were ready for a good morning of hunting. Will and I talked about how he and his dad had a lot of trail cameras set up on their property, and we were looking at all the photos on them.  The deer they had walking through were mostly doe, but there were also a few really nice-sized bucks. Those are what we were after, although we both doe tags, just in case.

On the walkout, we were all very quiet and walking slow. My dad and I came to a ground blind that was tuck into a little group of trees.  A dew-covered food plot was nearby.

Food Plot
Figure 1: This image shows a food plot that someone has made to feed the environment and keep deer coming back to a certain area.

Will and his dad were on the opposite side of the

property, in a two-seater tree stand that looked out over a clearing with thick trees all around it. From where I sat, I could see shooting lanes had been made throughout the property. One was a little off to my left, another straight ahead, and another a little off to the right. But further, past the shooting lane to my right, there was a four-wheeler two-track that led through the property and back up to the house.

            We sat in our blinds the whole morning.  My dad and I didn’t see a single deer.  We were hoping Will and his dad would say they had at least seen some. When we finally made it back to the house for lunch, I noticed Will was a little upset.  Neither of us had seen anything.  Will said he looked forward to getting back out for the afternoon hunt, but I wasn’t so sure.  All the photos we looked at had really raised my hopes.  I ate lunch in a mood of deep disappointment. 

We went out again, determined to stay all afternoon as we had noticed that some of the bucks in the trail camera photos liked to walk through just before sunset.  The afternoon wore on in silence.  I began to feel tired and started to fall asleep. I told myself it was the big lunch Will’s mom had made for us.

I kept nodding off.   My dad tapped my leg.  He told me to stay awake because we didn’t have much longer until we had to head back. We sat there until dark, but, again, we didn’t see a single thing.  It was starting to really bother me at this point, all the days spent sitting in the cold woods, waiting, not talking, not moving, not seeing a single thing besides annoying squirrels.  It was beginning to realize that I was bored.

            We met back up with Will and his dad at the house. Will had seen two does walking through the thick trees, but he never saw any bucks following behind.  We chatted for a while longer.  Finally, my dad said we’d be back in the morning.  When we got to the car I told my dad I didn’t really feel like going back out in the morning to hunt again. He quickly asked why, and I started to tell him with my voice raised,  “It’s because I haven’t seen any deer yet, and I have never even tagged one.” He abruptly interrupted and said, “That’s what hunting’s all about, Bud: you have to have patience.”

The rest of the car ride home was spent in silence.  I thought about hunting and what I really wanted.  And it was then that I realized I really wanted to be done.

When we got home, I again told him I didn’t want to go back to Will’s in the morning, but he wasn‘t ready to accept it.  He told me to think about it some more, and he’d ask me again in the morning.  I lay down and told myself I’m not hunting tomorrow, or maybe even ever again.

My dad again woke me up the next morning by yelling from the living room.  “Marques, you gotta get up!  We are running late this morning!” I opened my eyes and yelled back, “I’m not going!” I rolled over, closed my eyes, and started to try to go back to sleep.  Then I heard him come into my room. He turned on my bedroom light, blinding me. “You don’t have a choice.  Come on! It’s time to get moving!” After arguing for a few minutes about not going, I eventually got out of bed and started to slowly get ready.   I was fuming and frustrated now.

When we got to Will’s house, the sun was already starting to come up. My dad apologized for being so late, and we started to head out. My dad kept telling me that I needed to stay awake the entire time we were out because this was the last day for the youth hunt.  I was so upset that I didn’t reply.  I could not rid my mind of the notion that this would be my last hunt.

Suddenly, my dad stopped and said he thought he saw something run through the trees in front of us, a little way up the path.  When we got to our blind, I started to think about what my dad had seen.  I started to believe he had just said that to get my hopes up.

After sitting for what felt like an eternity, I heard my dad’s radio buzz.  It was Bill, and I could hear him whisper all raspy over the radio static, “We just saw a couple of deer walking through the trees, we couldn’t tell how big they were, but there’s definitely a buck–but we couldn’t get a shot off. They’re heading your way.”  I sat up, looked, and waited.  It again felt like I was sitting there for a lifetime, waiting so still.  In reality, only ten minutes had passed.  My dad leaned over and whispered in my ear, “We only have about fifteen minutes until it’s time to head in, Bud.” When he told me that I think all my frustrated emotions came out, and I started not to care about sitting there patiently waiting for the buck that’s “heading my way.”  I started rocking in my chair and turning my head side to side instead of slowly scanning the area. I wanted my dad to know I didn’t care anymore and was ready to go home.

Then I heard something like a twig snap.  There was a brief rustling sound in the ferns and tall grass. Then silence.  Like it wasn’t ever there. My dad, hard of hearing, hadn’t heard anything at all.  I just kept waiting for the noise to come back, but it never did.  I continued to rock in my chair, looking back and forth to my left, my right, and my left again.  Back and forth, back and forth, waiting for something to move. I looked to my right one last time, and something caught my eye. Something stepping out from the trees onto the two-track leading back to the house. Before my dad even noticed, I quickly turned, with my adrenaline rushing through my body.  I was shaking so much I could hardly hold my gun still, so I rested my elbow on my knee and looked through the scope.

It was a buck and a big one.

I didn’t have time to count how big it was because it was already getting close to the other side of the path where it would again disappear behind more trees. I took a deep breath in to help with the shakes, lined up my crosshairs behind his front shoulder, and squeezed the trigger.  Boom! My dad jumped and asked what happened.

It all felt like slow motion, from the point I first saw him until I had made the shot. My dad was only looking in the other direction for a couple of seconds. He was still surprised and asked me, “How big was it?  Where was it at!?” I could barely talk because I was trembling so bad, but I managed to get out, “I don’t know, I didn’t have time to count!  It stepped out onto the two-track.”

We waited for a few minutes and then radioed Bill. He told us with great excitement in his voice, “We were already on our way back when we heard the shot!” My dad and I started to walk down the two-track up to where I shot the buck, and that’s when I noticed I was beginning to tremble even more.  Almost uncontrollably. This was all the adrenaline rushing through my body as fast as a freight train. This was the first deer I had ever harvested, and for once I was happy with hunting.

When my dad first saw him, he patted me on the back and said, “Great job, Bud!  I’m very proud of you!” We got up to him and started to count the points on his rack.

8 Point Buck
Figure 2: This image is of an 8pt. buck that is in rut, chasing doe’s and fighting other bucks off their territory.

“He’s an eight-point!” my dad said before I even finished counting. I looked at him with the biggest smile on my face.  He told me again that I had done a good job. Will and his dad were walking up. They both were thrilled.

I thanked Bill for letting me hunt with them on his property and told him, “I will never forget this day.”

On the ride home I thanked my dad too.  I told him I was glad he made me get back out again that morning. If he hadn’t, I would have missed the opportunity to tag that buck.

Now I look forward to the hunting season and going to sit in the woods. I love it! Having more patience, like my dad said, helps a lot. There are plenty of days that go by without seeing a deer, and years without even being able to tag one. But now I know the value of practice and patience.  It’s a kind of skill that I use in my everyday life, from sports to school to working a job.