Editor’s note: At the 2016 SEOPA (Southeastern Outdoor Press Association) Annual Conference in Lakeland, Florida, this story, entitled THE VEST by J. Wayne Fears, was awarded first place in the SEOPA Excellent in Craft – Magazine Short Story category. The story was originally published in GunHunter magazine
Many times on bitter-cold morning rabbit hunts, my dad would reach into the vest and pull out biscuits with chunks of country ham in them. I never saw him put them in the vest.
It hung on a nail on the back porch always ready. As far back as I can remember it was old looking, a little thread bare in places, faded from years of being used in all kinds of weather. I’m sure it started out a brown color, but since my dad used the old Montgomery Ward hunting vest for all his hunts it now looks more a dirty tan than brown.
The old vest had a smell about it that, to me, had a smell of adventure. It was a blend of odors – a mixture of sweat, dried possum blood, squirrel hair, sassafras root, fresh cedar, shot shell powder and Red Cap pipe tobacco as my dad smoked a crooked stem pipe loaded with the Brazilian tobacco most of every day. Many said that smoking that strong tobacco would kill him and I guess it did as he died one winter morning when he was 97, after knocking the ashes out of his pipe.