The banks of Tallahala are red clay. When it rains, you can barely make it up the banks, especially when you are dragging a 60-pound beaver behind you. As a young man, my dad introduced my brother and me to the world of trapping. We trapped raccoon, foxes, beaver, and the occasional possum.
Tall pine and oak, sweet gum and hickory, and various other trees and bushes line the banks of Tallahala. We would set our traps around watering holes, and small streams. Wildlife was plentiful, and given it was the 1980s, good money was paid for pelts. My brother, dad, and myself hit the trapping market too early. With the success of shows like Mountain Men, we could have made a killing.
Still, those early mornings in the woods, creeping through the gray mist of fog in search of gas money to get us to school, taught me many valuable lessons. If an animal had been trapped and it’s survival instinct kicked in, they would chew their trapped limb off.
My walk in darkness taught me this lesson, as well. When everything is pitch black, and there seems to be no escape, just keep moving. Fortune may favor the bold, but when life pulls the carpet from under you, you need something else to get you through. May I introduce you guys to dogged determination.
Dogged determination will take you further than you ever thought you could go. Persistence is the key to life. The ability to push forward without quitting will get you over any obstacle. In the darkness of my life, I would seek the strength for another step. I would pray for hope, but I felt as trapped in the darkness as the animals I once trapped for money.
My brain was often the greatest enemy that I faced. It would shout how I was unwanted and unloved. “Your life is worthless, just kill yourself already. Stop being a burden to your children. They hate you. Your wife hates you. End your suffering and be done with it.”
Every naysayer from my past would join in the shouting for my suicide. “Do it, don’t be a sissy! Do it!” Instead, I channeled the chanting into fuel for my rage. I became determined to prove the naysayers wrong. Of course, in many ways my hardheadedness caused my health issues. I would drug up, drink alcohol like it was going to be outlawed, and my sleep pattern was non-existent. Toss in a horrific diet and stress and you have the making of volatile combo platter.
Still, I persisted.
Eventually, the trap lost its grip. I was able to find my way out of the darkness. All it cost me was everything. A wounded animal is forever scarred by the chewing off of their trapped limb. I bear the scars of my choices, just like a trapped animal. There is nothing that can take the scars away, but scars are a reminder that you survived what was meant to kill you.
Survival isn’t pretty, but life is not for the weak. It’s for those who are willing to persist, to fight no matter how many times you get knocked down.