I’ve been sweating in this tuxedo for what seems like an eternity. The loft at the top of The Venue is steaming from the combination of the late August sun and the body heat of 7 other guys. The wedding isn’t until 6:00, but we’ve been instructed to be here early for the onslaught of pictures. I look down at my watch and it’s 3:30. When I raise my hand to check the time, an old familiar scar grabs my attention. I slide my arm across my body and present my battle wound to my Uncle, who is sitting next to me. “Remember that?” I ask. He laughs and nods yes. How could he forget?
My Uncle Barry and I had been trying to put together a river fishing trip for a while. Between work, family responsibilities, and a date that would work for all of us, it was nearly impossible. We finally settled on a day that worked for the two of us, and also for my dad and cousin, Hunter. The plan was to put in on the Pearl River in Georgetown and head south to the mouth of the Strong River. There was a good sandbar there to camp, and we planned to spend a couple of nights running trot lines. I’m ashamed to say that the amount of gear we brought would take two boat loads from the ramp to the sandbar.
The trip began with a bang, per usual. My dad rode up with me, which was mistake number one. By the time we arrived at the river, he was so carsick that he threw up for the next half hour at least. I’m not sure if I should have felt insulted or not. He’s told me before that he gets carsick as the passenger sometimes, but I’ve never seen someone throw up so much from riding in a car. We loaded the boat up twice while Dad got his feet underneath him enough to ride to the sandbar. We parked him in a chair underneath a canopy and began preparation for running the lines.
My first task was to make some stakes for our minnow traps. This is where mistake number two occurs. I grabbed my uncle’s machete and cut down a stalk of bamboo that was growing behind our camp site. I propped the bamboo up in the sand and began trimming the smaller limbs from it. As I swung the machete the bamboo shifted in the sand, exposing my left hand. The machete filleted my left index finger to the bone. At first, I thought that I’d chopped my entire finger off. There was so much blood. Quickly, I ripped my shirt off and wrapped my hand up. I ran back down to the camp holding my hand in the blood-drenched shirt. I’m pretty sure that my dad never even got up out of the chair. Uncle Barry tossed a couple of things in the boat and the two of us headed back to the ramp.
The closest hospital from our location was in Hazlehurst. It was about a 15 minute ride back to the truck and then another 30 to the hospital. We checked in at the emergency room, then proceeded to wait for almost three hours. It’s a good thing my injury wasn’t life threatening because they would have surely let me bleed out. There wasn’t more than two other people in the emergency room during this time, so I’m not sure the reason for the long wait. They finally called me back to a room, which I’m almost sure hasn’t been updated since the 1980s. The doctor came in, took a look at my hand, and began to work. Before he began to stitch it up, I noticed his hand shaking as if he had severe Parkinson’s disease. This was going to be a very ugly scar. After four hours in the Hazlehurst hospital, and a bunch of stitches later, we headed back to the river.
When we arrived back on the sandbar, well beyond dark, my dad was still sitting in the same chair that we left him in. He assured me that he had moved in the time we were gone. We gathered up the bait that we could and began to set out our lines. I milked my injury the best that I could and avoided doing any real labor. This is a practice that I’ve gotten awfully good at over the years. The guys spent the evening making plenty of jokes at my expense. For the most part, I just wore them and kept quiet. We stayed two nights on the river, my lack of doing labor continuing throughout the trip. We caught plenty of fish and enjoyed time in the company of family.
It’s after 6:00 and I stand still as a statue on the stage, still sweating profusely in my tuxedo, as I watch Hunter peer into the eyes of his very soon-to-be bride. A smile comes over my face as I, once again, think about that trip to the river. I glance up at my Uncle, watching his son proudly, as he repeats his vows. These two men have meant so much to me in my life, and I’m flattered to share the stage with them on this night. Here’s to you, Hunter and Haley, may you have a marriage full of laughter, happiness, adventure…and very few stitches.