I don’t remember how i met Brian O’Donnell. All i remember is that we were best friends, had always been best friends. He was the only person i knew, grown up or kid, who wasn’t scared of th’ bayou. So we went places and did things that no one else did. People were scared of alligators, and gar, and snakes and leeches and ticks and mosquitos and water moccasins and snapping turtles and getting lost. These were all real dangers, and we were glad people were scared of them. It meant we had a safe place to go. A place full of magic and wonder, a timeless place where the only law was respect. If you didn’t want to get bit, be respectful. Water moccasins don’t just go around chasing people. We know, we saw hundreds of them. And copperheads too. Don’t tell my mom but we even caught a few. One time there was a particularly fat cottonmouth that was making us nervous, so Brian shot it in th’ head with his pellet gun and killed it. Often when we went to th’ bayou one of us carried a net and one of us carried a pellet gun. Brian was a sharp shooter. I once watched him take aim at a hovering dragonfly and shoot it out of the air. So anyway we killed that snake and decided to dissect it since it was so fat. We cut it open and found a catfish in it’s stomach. We cut th’ catfish open and found four crawdads in it’s stomach. This really made me think about life and death. About how the crawdads died but th’ catfish lived. About how th’ catfish died but th’ snake lived. About how th’ snake died but we lived. About how we will die, but someone else will live. Most kids i knew didn’t talk much about death, our parents sort of discouraged it, thinking it was morbid, or disturbing for kids to talk about it. So i liked it that out here, away from everyone who was afraid, me and Brian could talk about anything we wanted, even life and death. We weren’t disturbed. We weren’t morbid. We were generally happy people, and still are. It’s just that death didn’t bother us. We saw it everyday out here in th’ bayou, and it was sad, but it didn’t seem wrong. It was just a part of everything else that was going on out here. It was good. It wasn’t like th’ death we saw on TV, on th’ shows our parents and other kids watched. That kind of death scared me. It was violent and senseless and random. It gave me nightmares. I never had nightmares about th’ wilderness. Out there we were free from all that.