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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

No. 14 "The sweetest sound in the whole world"

Dallas Daniel Guthrie (“Dak” to his contemporaries) was a fixture of life for boys who grew up with me in our neighborhood. The same age as my brother Mike (ten years older than me), he helped to tend his father’s store. By the time I came of age, many afternoons were spent there, along with a score or more of other neighborhood adolescents. Dak could entertain us for hours telling stories of what he had heard from the parade of shoppers who had come in and out his store in the course of a day.

One day he shared with us an account of a conversation he had followed some time earlier with several of his friends. As related by him, the subject had arisen as to what was “the sweetest sound a man would ever hear?”
Dak had been the first to offer his opinion. An avid hunter who kept a large array of hounds in a nearby kennel, he maintained that the sweetest sound he had ever heard was “the special bark and howl of bird dogs as they locked in on the smell of a deer in the woods.” That special sound alone would arouse the thrill of the chase and hunt that was soon to follow. “Nothing,” he explained, “could ever be sweeter than that.”

His cousin and neighbor, “Peter” (Weldon Edward Willis), who lived nearby, was the next to chime in with an opinion. “No,” he interrupted, there was something even better than the sound of dogs on a chase. For Peter, a waterman through and through, the sweetest sound in the world was the one that could be heard only on a calm summer evening when “setting a mullet net” around a shoal or rock in the marshes off Shackleford Banks. If everything went just right, in the stillness of a moonlit night you would hear the a chorus of “swashes” that meant a school of mullets had just hit your net. “That,” he argued, “was the sweetest sound a man could ever hear.”

Listening nearby was a somewhat older friend (who shall remain nameless) who had built (and earned) quite a reputation as a rounder. He had paid close attention as the younger boys gave their take on what sounds aroused the fondest emotions a man could imagine. “You’re both wrong,” he explained as he stood to his feet and prepared to head out of the store and back into the real world. “The sweetest sound in the world, and believe me I know, is to be in the woods at night, waiting for a woman who has agreed to meet you ---- and finally hearing the leaves begin to rustle!”

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