It’s old now--
this, my father’s hunting jacket.
I remember, as a teen, when it was new.
and trying it on when Dad wasn’t around.
How loose and bulky it seemed back then.
This, my father’s jacket.
During the day, my father roamed the woods
throughout Steuben, Chemung, and Schuyler counties,
fulfilling his role as a New York State Forest Ranger.
But during the fall and winter nights, he would return to these same hills,
donning this now-old jacket,
to follow the sounds of his coonhounds’ voices
Deep into the hollows
—deep into the night--
beneath a quilt of silver stars
fashioned by the Creator of All Life.
I was there, too,
Following in his footsteps,
with the dim beam of a two-cell flashlight,
playing on his back as he wore this--
This now-old jacket
This coat is tough and rugged
—much like the man who wore it--
Its thick canvas turning back the sharp spines of
Thorn apple, briars, and even multi-flora rose,
While staying the biting cold of an Upstate New York winter night.
Alone this night,
pondering these words in some nameless hollow,
Beneath an ancient, leafless oak,
while staring at a full moon while awaiting a hound’s call
I wear it now—this, my father’s jacket.
It’s not so bulky anymore, if memory serves.
(Seems a bit tight around the waist.)
But it’s certainly heavier now.
More than simple canvas,
Bearing the weight of experience.
Of tradition and family.
There is no one else.
The young’uns have gone their separate ways.
And that’s okay.
To each their own.
But perhaps someday,
an unborn grandchild will find this old jacket.
Tucked somewhere in a closet.
Tucked somewhere in time.
Maybe, she’ll even try it on
—possibly loose about her shoulders--
to follow the call of a hound into the woods. Alone.
To find what was once lost.
And if she’s good,
she’ll find us.
Between the front and back cover of some old books
—or perhaps somewhere--
There in the forest.
There in the dark.
This Saturday, November 19, 2022, I and nearly a dozen others will speak at the Rockwell Museum in Corning, NY, as part of a nationwide program that matches local, grade-high school teachers with "tradition bearers," who then share their traditions with the teacher's students.
I will read My Father's Jacket there.
The event is open to the public--please see the flyer to the right.
Hope to see you there.
Joseph Gary Crance