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My Brother’s Keeper

By Katie Sloan
In Bayou Outdoors
Jul 31st, 2017

As I sit here preparing this month’s article, I do so with a very heavy heart.  A couple of weeks ago, I received a call advising me that my only brother.Steve, had been in a car accident.  He had suffered a seizure which caused him to black out and wreck his truck as he was on the way to work.

Upon completing the CAT scans, MRI and other tests, we were informed that he had a growth on his brain which was causing the seizures.  This led to where I sit today as we wait patiently as he undergoes surgery.

Yesterday, we spent some long overdue time looking at family photos and talking about our lives, kids, parents and the good old days.  It made me remember the thousands of trips I have made hunting and fishing with my brother.  It also brought home how precious these times are and how we get so busy in life that we forget the really important things.

My brother was my hero.  He was a typical big brother.  I said one time that I think he started hitting on me when I was in my Mother’s womb.  He was the skinny one, and I was the chunky one.  He wore slim pants, I wore huskies. I knew that even though he terrorized me for the most part, he was also my protector.  The thing we shared that rarely caused a fight was fishing.  Steve (we call him Speedo) was a good fisherman.  But my brother, true to his nickname, was not as patient as I was, as he was usually in a rush to get from one place to the next.  As we grew older, Speedo became one of the best crappie fisherman I had ever been with in a boat.  His favorite place to fish was the Ouachita River in Lake DeGraffenried, on the south end of the river.  The boy could catch crappie, when no one else could.  I, on the other hand, liked the challenge of bass fishing and pursued that as hard as I could go.  But Speedo was always there to support me.  When I did a television show, he was always willing to help run a camera or just go along as part of the crew.  He let me shine and stood in the shadows with an encouraging word or support in any manner I needed.  .He was always there to just help his baby brother.

You never would catch Speedo anywhere and still won’t catch him without a knife on him.  I’ve been cut more times than a filleted fish with accidents from Speedo’s knives.  He always kept a sharp one close.  The other thing he was never far from was his trusty 30.06.  Speedo is an exceptional deer hunter but, again, did not gravitate to the same hunting sports I enjoyed.  He has only duck hunted a few times with me but is willing to do just about any kind of hunting as long as we are together.

I remember as kids, we would get on our bicycles and strap Zebco 33’s on the handlebars and head to our favorite fishing hole.  The times I remember the most are ones where it was just my brother and me.  It was always a contest, as it usually is with brothers.  Who can throw it the farthest, catch the biggest or race to see who got to the fishing hole first.  We both loved the outdoors but at our house that only happened after chores.  I remember when he became a teenager and those trips became fewer and farther in frequency.  Then as he became independent and married, we rarely saw each other or spent much time together.  But ironically when we did get together, there was a connection I cannot explain.  I automatically knew what he was about to do or say and he was the same with me.  That genetic connection that no one but siblings can understand is alive and well.

So as I sit here in this hospital and fight this huge lump in my throat, I remember those times and try to overcome the deep feeling of regret that I feel.  It is so easy to forget what is important.  So easy to get so busy with life and forget the very one who shares your DNA and how that person is and should be the most important person in your life.

I remember one trip when my brother turned 15 and got his driver’s license.  We finally had our freedom.  Daddy let us borrow his truck and boat, and Speedo and I were headed to Spring Bayou on our first camping trip by ourselves.  As most greenhorns do,  we didn’t consider our needs as well as we should.  By the end of the trip, we had not caught “our supper.”  We were so hungry, cold and miserable.  But there was no way we were going home and accept defeat and the ribbing we would get from our Father.  So we toughed it out.  We were baiting our lines with crawfish, so we took soda cans and boiled our own supper.  I have to say they were pretty nasty, but we survived the night.

I remember one time where we were going to rabbit hunt with some friends from church.  Again, ill prepared and not knowing what we would face, we embarked on a memorable trip.  By lunch time, I don’t think I have ever been so hungry.  To make it worse, I got lost.  I can still remember the feeling of relief when I looked through the woods and saw my brother, all alone, looking for me.  He never said a thing or chided me for getting lost.  He just put his hand on my shoulder and walked me back to the camp.  Their camp was on an old school bus.  There was a old Cajun lady there cooking rabbit jambalaya.  To this day, I can remember how good that tasted.  I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much.  But to my brother’s credit, he never told our hunting buddies that I had gotten lost.  They were all teenagers like my brother, and he knew they would really pick at me if they knew it.  Another save by Speedo.

But we all get older and develop various afflictions.  My prayer right now is that he has peace and knows that the Great Physician is with my brother right now.  I can take comfort in knowing that he knows he is loved and that part of me is right there with him as he faces an uncertain tomorrow.  My advice is simple.  Love your family while you can.  None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.