The alarm of the cellphone balanced on the dash rouses Clint Walker from an uncomfortable sleep. Brushing away empty coffee cups and food wrappers, Clint unfolds himself out of the pickup truck and zips his camouflage jacket against the icy wind blowing across the Mississippi Delta. Ty, his yellow lab, bounds out of the truck and runs excited zigzags in the darkness. Clint collects his Browning Silver Hunter from the shotgun rack and grabs the duck blind, a device that looks like a little camouflage tent, from the truck bed. Whistling for Ty, he sets off across a farm pond, the mud from the flooded bean field sucking at his boots. Daybreak is about two hours away. “I may not get any ducks,” he tells me, “but that’s all right. I’ll get to see a sunrise and spend time with friends.”
Clint and I are having this conversation about duck hunting, and what a duck hunt looks like after I confess to him I know zero about the subject. It’s in the context of self-care, and what he does to unwind outside of work. These days Clint needs the occasional day off more than ever. Earlier this year, one of his co-workers was diagnosed with colon cancer and Clint is hoping he’ll be back sometime early in 2021.
Another co-worker tested positive for COVID-19—the pervasive fear in the deathcare community these days—and is in quarantine for at least two weeks. That leaves just Clint, his boss and a part-time director to field the average of seven calls the Robert Barham Family Funeral Home in Meridian, Mississippi takes on a given week.
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