Vice President Joe Biden wrote a letter to his 12-year old self and there were folks so touched that it brought tears to their eyes. Get ready to cry again folks ‘cause here is my letter to myself when I was 12.
It is hard to see a 12-year-old boy so torn up about something so let me assure you… you will indeed be able to shoot flying ducks in time. Some day you’ll never again have to shoot the ones which are sitting on the water like… well… like sitting ducks. And in time, those backlashes in your fishing reel will be almost non-existent. I hope that is some comfort to you
You are really a lucky kid getting to work at your dad’s pool hall. Few 12 year olds have so many friends, even if most of them are old codgers.
And you should know, thinking as you do that your teachers hate you, that some of them don’t. Not many, but some. Mrs. Smith, the one who dislikes you the most will brag on what a great influence she had on you when you start selling articles to Outdoor Life and Field and Stream and publish your first book or two. Sure seems strange that a kid who avoids books like you do would some day write one.
Oh well, Larry, I wanted to offer you some good advice in this letter. So, let’s get to it. First of all, stay away from alcohol and drugs. In fact it is far best to stay away from those kids who use alcohol and drugs as well. A lot of them aren’t going anywhere but to jail and to an early death. It is good that you have been able to see, there in that pool hall where you work after school, what tobacco does to men as well. If you choose to smoke or chew, you will indeed reinforce what Mrs. Smith said about how you couldn’t get any dumber.
I know that right now, at your age, your biggest worries are the copperheads and the cottonmouths on the ridges and the river. You need to know that you should throw lawyers and politicians in with them someday… and judges who once were lawyers. They are people who prey on the unfortunate, the little people, the commoners. As someone once said in the Bible… “the truth is not in them”. But one thing they are good at is making lots of money and getting rich.
The “truth” that seems so sought-after in your youth will be hard to come by as you grow old. That television your grandparents just bought is a wonderful thing. I know how excited you and your cousins were when you watched Davy Crockett and Gunsmoke for the first time. I hate like heck to tell you this, but that old Devil the preacher talks about so much at the Brown Hill Church will someday find his finest tool in that new invention, which will warp and deceive lots of kids and adults way down the road. But he has lots of tools, like those huge nationally-owned newspapers and something called the internet, which you don’t understand now, and won’t understand ever.
The 50¢ an hour you are making now guiding city folks on fishing trips down the Big Piney in your old wooden johnboat seems like a lot of money now, but as hard as this is to believe you will be making 75¢ an hour as a guide by the time you are 15. Reckon that ought to make you as happy as sinking the eight ball in the corner pocket.
It is a fact that there isn’t a 12-year-old in the whole country who can paddle a johnboat better than you. And shucks, I’ll bet that as far as 12-year-old snooker players go, you are in the top 10 percent.
I know that isn’t much comfort for a kid who wishes he could play basketball and football, but here’s some encouragement. None of the kids you know playing those sports will ever make any money at that after they graduate. Some day you’ll make quite a bit playing pool and snooker. But, uh, like football, playing nine-ball for money is a good way to get a concussion eventually so I am awfully glad you will finally give that up. Gambling, too, destroys a lot of people. It is like donuts and pecan pie, it gets aholt of a kid before he knows it.
I am disappointed that you lack any social graces, because it probably would be a good idea to go to the school prom someday. But then, you are a little on the homely side, and you can’t dance, and you are terrible when it comes to talking to girls. It is likely a good decision you will make about camping on some Big Piney gravel bar instead.
It is good to avoid girls altogether when you aren’t any smarter than you are and have no more money than you do. I know those cheerleaders look good now but boy you won’t believe how quick they get fat and homely. Statistics say that there are more divorced cheerleaders in their 30s and 40s than hornyhead chubs on a Big Piney shoal in the middle of April.
Enjoy life while you are a boy. Catch bullfrogs, hunt squirrels and set trotlines. When you are grown, that creek you and your cousins swim in on Grandpa McNew’s farm will be dried up and the Piney will be polluted. Many springs will be gone, the big trees in the woods you hunt in will be cut down.
But those old timers you sat and listened to; the good men in that little church, and your dad and your grandfathers… their memories and teachings and the common sense they taught you, will serve you well all your life. Seek out folks like them, stay away from those places where men live like a great herd of cattle.
Find a place where there remains the old-fashioned ideas and values that you learned as a boy, and never ever make your decisions in life based only on money. You will find that some of the most miserable people are those who have big bankrolls and some of the happiest folks are those who just keep a few bucks in a can under the bed. Avoid like the plague a man whose greatest goal in life, whose very happiness when he gets up in the morning, is the gaining of one more dollar.
Listen to God when you are deep in the woods, and go there often. Don’t get proud of yourself, and don’t be ashamed of yourself, because the little talent and ability the creator gave you is enough. Do what God put you on earth to do.
Try your best to be a gentleman, even if don’t ever own but one tie. Stand up for the weak, the oppressed and the less fortunate; don’t ever watch women or children or animals be treated cruelly without trying to do something about it. Be proud to let everyone know that old-fashioned, masculine men can still be devoted to the words and teachings of Jesus, and even if they fall down a lot and often make dumb mistakes, they can still be constantly trying to follow Him, just as men did in the old days.
Don’t worry about counting the stars, or understanding the sun. Just put your trust in the One who made them and your life will be blessed beyond comprehension. Thank Him often for that.
And no matter how perverted and sick and evil this world becomes, get away from it and retreat to the good earth and good people who are still there, off to the side of the main stream, like the caves and sycamores still sitting silently along the Piney. You are a little like Peter, the fisherman who stumbled a lot and had to wait until he got old to be worth anything. Someday he might just tell you where the best fishing is in heaven… and where there might be an old-time pool hall.