my birthday long ago

I had a relative by marriage who was a hunter and a roughneck. One year on the occasion of my birthday he wrapped up some deer legs with the hooves still attached in gift paper. I was probably about ten years old. Someone snapped a picture of me opening the gift. On the picture my nose is wrinkled up in disgust but I am smiling. I grew up believing I should never offend anyone. I was thoroughly turned off by the sight of those deer legs that were still bloody on the ends that had been severed, but I felt it was impolite to express how I really felt. When I look back on those years, I realize that this person was a tyrant and a bully. He controlled what was said in his presence with his anger, and he made decisions for the extended family about things that were none of his business. He drank and caused all sorts of trouble in the community. Nobody ever answered him back. When I look at that picture, I wish I hadn’t smiled.

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