Daddy, how do you get mistletoe down?
I asked that question one cold day while we were back on the mountain. Daddy had just pointed out mistletoe growing way up high among the branches of a leafless tree.
Christmas was near. And up to that point, the only mistletoe I’d ever seen up close was the plastic bit with red berries Mamaw hung in the den doorway every year.
Come on, punkin. I’ll show ya.
That might have been the first time I noticed the parasitic plant growing in the tree tops. I can’t recall.
But I do remember walking back to the house so Daddy could grab a rifle.
Gun in hand, Daddy guided me back to the tree with mistletoe bunches sprouting from its limbs. He made me stand way back as he took aim.
I closed my eyes and plugged my ears.
The sound of the gunshot echoed off the mountains, and the smell of gunpowder burned my nose.
When I opened my eyes, I found Daddy on one knee, gathering up the fallen mistletoe. I rushed to his side to help.
We walked back home, hand in hand.
Mamaw gave it a good soak. Then, Daddy and I walked around the head of the mountain and dropped off pieces to family and friends.
Anytime I spot mistletoe growing in a leafless tree, I think of that day. Which is often this time of year.
I’m looking up at a bunch of mistletoe in an old oak tree a few houses down from ours right now, and I’m wondering: do other people shoot down mistletoe, too? Is it a Southern thing? An Appalachian thing?
I’m not sure. But one thing is certain – it’s a memorable thing.