It is a regrettable, but still all-to-common practice, for people to put unwanted dogs out on the road in Central Georgia and elsewhere. I am sometimes able to rescue these animals and most of my present crop of Whitehall “hound dogs” were roadside pick-ups. Returning from the recent Conference on Ecological and Ecosystem Restoration (CEER 2014), I saw a young guy with a white plastic bag filled with his things standing by the side of I-65 near Bay Minette, Alabama. It was obvious what was going on, and I stopped to give him a lift.
We Southerners talk, and during the long drive towards Montgomery Will Hamilton’s life story unfolded. I had heard many similar stories before. He grew up poor in Texas, dropped out of high school, got his GED, went into the Army, got out on a Compassionate Discharge to care for aging relatives, sold his part of a small landholding that his parents owned, moved in with is brother, had a falling out and went on the road. His present plan was to go to South Dakota to experience America. A few days before in Bayou La Batre, someone had taken his backpack with his IDs, glasses, cell phone, money and personal papers.
He had worked in food service and construction, but nothing above a minimum-wage job. He had managed a little college, and what he enjoyed most was an art appreciation course where he could more fully express his artistic side. He had sold a few found-object assemblies, but never had the tools, equipment or time to see where his talents might take him. He also liked to write poetry and fiction, but had never completed anything substantial. For a time he even experimented with his own band where he did original songs on keyboard instruments. In brief, here was a 30-year-old with unrealized creative potential, but with few solid skills whose life had taken some recent hard hits.
His most immediate adverse physical circumstances were that he could not see beyond a few inches without glasses, had one broken tooth, another that was rotten and was about half-starved.
If I take in stray dogs, could I do less for a person? As a 72-year-old widower who lives alone, has an active creative life with a house and hunting land to keep up, I could also use some help. There was the potential that we could help each other do some things together that neither of us could do nearly as well alone. I needed a younger man’s physical labor. He needed a place he could call a permanent residence, a roof over his head, time and some long-term guidance on reassembling his life. This was a possibility. Would he be willing to accept help and stay put long enough to discover what he wanted to be/do and make plans so that something positive could happen?
Some 30-minutes outside of Montgomery, he accepted my proposition. He would stay and help me, and I would do what I could to help him with his immediate physical and paperwork problems. Immediately on arrival, I made contact with the Sandersville, Georgia, Lions Club who said that they would help get him glasses and also with my dentist to have those bad teeth extracted. Will had been attempting to medicate himself with snuff, alcohol and over-the-counter cold medicines. His previous lifestyle had led to binge drinking and heavy smoking, a not uncommon situation for young men, or even for me at a younger age. After being relieved from constant pain, these needs were hopefully going to be reduced.
Nearly 30-days later progress is being made. Will now has glasses, and the two bad teeth have been extracted. We are starting to get some real physical work done clearing my hunting roads from the debris caused by an ice storm and getting the property ready for this hunting season. Advances are also being made towards reestablishing his identity with a new driver’s license, Social Security card and other items so that he can get a job, vote and act as a normal U.S. Citizen.
Will has produced one painting, a Phoenix, which is particularly appropriate for what he is trying to do with his life. As a writer of some 15 books, blogger, videographer, speaker, broadcaster and comedian, I can expose him to a large number of possible creative activities and see which seems to offer the most potential as a future hobby or business. As in all life, the outcomes are uncertain. Nonetheless, Will, like my hound dogs, will have a fighting chance. I cannot give him a life, but I can help out by providing him with the time and opportunity to find his own way.