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Rifle Season on the Beach


Outdoor columnist Ben Smith ponders what kind of man his sister was marrying that would agree to have their wedding on the opening day of rifle season in Mississippi.

It’s come to my attention that I have entirely too many people running my life these days. And forget work, I’m not even counting that. I’ve always taken pride in doing things my way… for the most part, anyway. Lately, I find myself taking orders at every turn. 

It all started several months ago with a single phone call from my sister in Birmingham. She called to let me know she was getting married. At that moment, I knew very little about the guy she was marrying but he seemed to make her happy and that’s all that mattered to me. I could feel the excitement in her voice when she called, and it brought a big ole smile to my face. Then she dropped the bomb on me.

I asked if she’d set a date yet and she replied, “November 18th.” I was driving down the road during the phone call so I couldn’t pull my calendar up, but the date sounded awfully familiar. I kept racking my brain during my drive trying to figure out the relevance of that date until I made it to a stopping point. I opened my calendar up and sure enough, there it was. November 18th was the opening day of rifle season in Mississippi. 

Now, I’ve only missed one opening day of rifle season in Mississippi in the last twenty or so years and that was last year due to COVID. I would have gone anyway had I been able to walk more than thirty feet without giving out. Now that she dropped this on me, I had all kinds of crazed emotions going on. First, I was aggravated for being asked to give up opening weekend, but then my mind wandered even more. What kind of man was my sister marrying that would agree to have their wedding this weekend? I barely even knew him, but I already disliked him. That sounds pretty selfish, doesn’t it? Of course it does, because when it comes to hunting and fishing, I’m the most self-centered person I know.

I messaged my sister to let her know that I’d be cheering for her from the friendly confines of a tree somewhere deep in the woods. You can imagine how that conversation went over. In my defense, my stepdad wasn’t too happy about the date either, but he and my mom got married during deer season too, so his argument is null and void. It only took about ten minutes and my dad called me to let me know that I would, in fact, be at the wedding. With regret in my brain, and hatred in my heart for my new brother-in-law to be, I begrudgingly agreed to attend the wedding.

The wedding was to be held at the beach where my dad lives, so my cousin and I started working on a plan to make this worth our while. We figured we’d at least get some sort of fishing trip in while we were down there. We decided we’d do a little spearfishing the day before the wedding to ease the sting of not being in a tree that weekend. We had one little problem. The seas did not want to cooperate. The waves were a little higher than we wanted them to be for spearfishing, and the water clarity wasn’t going to be great, either. Friday rolled around and he got called back to work, which probably worked out in the end. We’ve had plenty of boat sinking stories without adding another one and jeopardizing my promise to be at the wedding. 

Saturday, the day of the wedding, arrived and the weather was perfect. You really couldn’t plan a better weather day for a beach wedding than this. Clear blue skies, about 72 degrees, and a gentle breeze. Admittedly, I enjoyed the ceremony. My baby sister was beautiful and beaming as she shoveled through the sand to join the groom. All three of our daughters were in the wedding and I watched them look at their aunt with twinkling eyes. They love their Aunt Amanda, and she loves them with every fiber of her being. During the ceremony I glanced around at all of the friends and family that came all of the way down to Perdido to attend. My grandmother, almost 88 years old, was just a couple of seats down from me. For as long as I can remember, Grandma has always been taking care of someone else in need. She probably missed out on a lot of things she’d much rather have been doing, but she always put others first. I immediately felt regret for initially being so selfish to want to skip this in favor of hunting.

Everything went about as well as it could go for a wedding. The ceremony was perfect, the food was great, and the chance to visit with family and friends was a blessing. My only complaint was that the DJ played the Cupid Shuffle way too many times and the thought of drowning him in the pool might have come across my mind once or twice. I almost forgot to mention, but my new brother-in-law actually seems to be a good guy. I’ll know for sure after we get him in a boat one day, but for now he’s okay in my book.

My Thanksgiving week column is usually reserved for me to bash the traditional meal of turkey and dressing and provide readers with an alternative. However, once again I’ve got someone else running my life. My wife told me that I couldn’t write about that for the third year in a row so here we are. Go ahead and eat your turkey and dressing. As for me, I’m heading to the woods to get something different.

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