Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy ... they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.
- Miss Maudie Atkinson in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird
"I sure hope she knows what she's getting into," my 11-year-old stoically commented, shaking his head, referring to my youngest brother's fiancé.
It got me to thinking that she probably doesn't know the whole of what she's taking on when she says, "I do," on Saturday. Me, being the blabber-mouth of family secrets, it seems only right that I should enlighten her.
I shall begin at the beginning. Our grandmother, Mama T, interpreted the Constitutional guarantee of the right to bear arms as meaning, "Everybody ought to have a gun." In fact, her version of the second amendment became nothing less than a family creed, so that every adult and child, man and woman, boy and girl, owns some sort of firearm, be it cap gun, BB gun, rifle, or Glock.
Since my baby brother was a baby for a very long time (some might argue he still is), it was a while before he received his first pump-action pellet gun. Mama, being a very wise woman about boys and their ways, let him have it, along with the strong counsel never to shoot any animal he didn't intend to eat.
Taking his gun, he tromped out to the woods to shoot at trees, leaves, stumps, pine cones, and anything and everything else that stayed still long enough for him to accurately aim. As he sighted-in the branches overhead, he spotted a bird through his scope. Lowering the gun slowly, he pumped it several times, and then raised it to his shoulder again. His heart raced. He pulled the trigger.
The bird made a muffled thump on the dead leaves of the forest floor and my brother looked at it in disbelief. He had shot a mockingbird. He'd never intended to kill a mockingbird, much less eat one. All the same, in that instant, he nobly decided that a man has to do what a man has to do. He built a small fire, gutted and plucked the bird, shoved the body onto a whittled skewer, and roasted it.
Squatting in the woods with a morsel the size of a mini-marshmallow on the end of a pine bough, he swelled with pride. Not because he had done the unthinkable and gotten away with it, but because he had taken care of matters without adult intervention. Like an Indian, he put one of the plucked feathers in his hair.
Crouched on his haunches, as he imagined a Native-American would, with great effort, he nibbled the meat off of the tiny bones, wishing he had thought to bring a bit of salt and pepper for seasoning. He also thanked his stars that he killed a mocking bird and not a humming bird.
That's the kind of man my brother is, one who fulfills his obligations and atones for his sins, and keeps his sense of humor intact all the while.
On second thought, I'm quite certain his betrothed does know just what she's getting into, because she's the kind of woman who treats him like a feather in her cap and always makes sure to keep plenty of salt and pepper on hand for flavoring any of life's foul-ups.
Plus, she already owns a gun.
Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson. Lucy invites readers to e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her web site, www.IfMama.com.