Opening one eye to check what o’clock it was, I was blinded by the light! A ray of lethal brilliance stabbed straight through my pupil and into the pain center of my puny half-awake brain. Instinct made me jerk the covers over my head, blocking out that damned invasive sunbeam, until I had time to decide whether it was worth the trouble of getting up or if I should just be lazy and catch a few more hours of shuteye. After working 3 straight weeks of midnights, sunlight’s only a distant fond memory. It’s usually twilight by the time I get up and hit the road, and still dark when I head back home; good thing I don’t suffer from SAD! Deciding that a beautiful day was too good to waste I half heartedly talked myself into getting up early and catching a little daylight before hitting the plant.
After slowly easing my head out from under the quilt and shoving the cats out of the way I staggered out of bed and into the shower. 15 minutes of pounding hot water later I was starting to feel half way human and ready to face the world. Dressing warmly, I headed for Recede, the company park, located on the Tennessee River and only 10 minutes from work. That way I could stroll the riverbank to my heart’s content and not have to worry about clocking in late.
There’s something about water that’s always called to me. The sound of a fountain, the vista of any lake or river, the majesty of the ocean; it doesn’t matter as long as it’s peaceful and not too crowded. This time of year there are no campers and there weren’t any fishermen out today, so I had to the place all to myself. TVA always drops the river’s level in the winter so there was plenty of room to walk along the shore, the exposed sand and pebbles showcasing treasures hidden by muddy water the rest of the year. The sunlight was bright enough to require shades but the breeze off the river was chilly, making me glad that I had my work jacket on. All in all, a nice day for a leisurely stroll.
Nickel sized muscle shells crunched beneath my feet, scaring away the mallard ducks who minutes before were busily catching minnows in the slew that borders the side of the park. Oddly shaped chunks of driftwood lay haphazardly upon the sand, smoothed and rounded by the tossing and turning of the river’s current: Mother Nature’s works of art deco. River rocks and quartz nuggets gleamed in spotlights of sunbeams, free gems for anyone who had an eye for beauty.
As I walked I noticed several sets of deer tracks leading down to the water. The largest ones no bigger that those made by a decent sized dog but the smallest ones....... OH! They were so tiny! It almost looked as if someone had stabbed two fingers into the sand; the fawn couldn’t have weighed more than a few pounds (what the deer hunters around here call a “shoebox deer” because when dressed out it would fit inside a shoebox). I could picture Mom and baby deer tiptoeing down the bank, nervous and afraid of anything that moved. Not only did they have to be wary of wild predators, it’s deer season here. Believe me, there are lots of rednecks who aren’t above shooting Bambi. But in movie of my imagination, they drank unmolested and continued back into the safety of the forest; the fawn’s dappled coat blending into the shadows of the undergrowth. Hey, it’s my story and I’ll tell it the way I wanta.
Then my time was up. The setting sun made the temps drop causing me to zip up my coat, peep at my watch, give the river one last lingering glance and then head on out for work to make a dollar or two more.