We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
A Georgia man was arrested about two weeks ago for shooting mistletoe out of trees. Before you start drawing conclusions, this was not just some crazy Southerner who decided he was going to remove obligate hemi-parasitic plants from his trees with the only tool he had at his disposal – a double barrel shotgun. The man was following an old Southern tradition of shooting mistletoe out of trees for Christmas decoration and the only reason he was arrested was because he was doing it behind a mall parking lot.
When I was a teen, my cousin and I would go out into the deep woods north of Atlanta before Christmas and gather mistletoe in exactly the same way our hopefully now out-on-bond friend did. We would sell most our bounty to Christmas tree lots and make a tidy sum that we used to buy presents and more shotgun shells. It seemed like a no-lose endeavor: There was no season or limit on mistletoe, we didn’t need a hunting license, and we made a respectable wage from doing something we liked to do anyway – go out into nature and shoot things.
Two simultaneous events one year changed all that and I have not gone on a mistletoe hunt since. The first event was a result of my cousin’s morbid curiosity with gravity, physics and bird shot. The second involved our discovery of one of the most closely-held, tightly-guarded secrets one can find in the North Georgia woods.
The hunt was going well. The elusive mistletoe was plentiful, the weather was mild and overcast, and we had just filled up on a lunch of canned Vienna sausage and saltines. Out of nowhere, my cousin asked if I had any idea what would happen if he fired his shotgun straight up. Before I could open my mouth, that big Browning 12 gauge roared to life and a full load of shot was launched into the heavens.
A condition called tachypsychia alters one perception of time when faced with a fight-or flight situation. I suddenly got a bad case of tachypsychia. As I watched those pellets slowly rise into the clouds, I remember thinking to myself about the distinct possibility that those pellets, given the force of gravity, could very well return to their point of origin at about the same speed they left the barrel. I quickly internalized that hypothesis, rejected the concept of getting shot in the head with a shotgun, and yelled a single word to my cousin: “RUN!”
As we scattered into the trees, we heard the ominous sound of lead shot raining down on the spot where we had just stood. My cousin laughed at what had happened, but I secretly vowed to never hunt mistletoe with my relatives again.
Within 30 minutes of our little metallic rain shower, we encountered the only thing in the woods more terrifying than a bear – a moonshiner’s still. In itself, a still is nothing to fear. It just sits there in all its copper glory, waiting for someone to feed it fire and fermented corn mash so it can produce that elixir of the gods – White Lightning. The problem is, moonshine production is illegal and the owners are very protective of their capital investment.
The fact that a member of the distillation staff could be lurking nearby was not lost on us, and in a moment of true clarity, we turned our backs on what we had seen and ran with all speed back to the truck. Several dollars worth of Christmas decoration product was lost in the retreat, but we learned the lesson that day that all reward carries a risk and the mistletoe industry is no exception.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
Walk into any bar and begin telling a Comcast story. Within minutes it will escalate to violence. Each person topping the next with customer disservice and their loathing of one of our least favorite monopolies. Everyone has a story. Most have more than one. Mine began when I naively thought I could move my “service” with just a phone call. The Comcast phone representative said I had, but there is no evidence anywhere that what Comcast says on the phone has anything to do with fact. Taking their box to my new home was easy. Installation occurred when I surprised their installer by Read on →
Despite the seeming endless number of deficiencies the South can lay claim too, there have always been two aspects which have set the South apart: writers and football. Southern writers, when they are good, are very, very good. From Tennessee Williams to William Faulkner to Erskine Caldwell, Southern writers tap into a part of the human equation at a singular depth of understanding, an ability to strip away illusions and expose the raw nerve of life. There is a subline identification of excellence in the Southern Writer, but it is a real one. And football—especially college football—below the Mason-Dixon Line has the sam Read on →
An old Jewish curse says, "May Your Life Be Filled With Lawyers." Better lawyers than bedpans. Unlike actors in televised medical fables, real people who work at hospitals, while sometimes angelic, are mainly natural-born Homo sapiens, just like the rest of us –- part devil, part saint, but all too human. They mostly mean well, but many days, they just do not give a flip. And some, like former President Dubya Bush, obviously chose the wrong line of work. The most frightening aspect of any serious illness is loosing control of your being to other people; creatures just like yourself. Folks who still think t Read on →
Planning a trip to Michigan, we had heard about the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, so that was our first stop in a week’s trip to Michigan. It is adjacent to Greenfield Village, which we strolled around one morning, then took in the Museum in the afternoon. Both are stellar places to visit. The Village was created by Henry Ford to showcase many of America’s original historic homes. There’s Ford’s home where he grew up, the home of the Wright Brothers, disassembled and moved to the site, and Thomas Edison’s laboratory. Real-size historic railroad engines move on a circular track around the park, Read on →