When Pop introduces me to folks he tells them that instead of a Labrador retriever I’m a Labrador receiver. There’s a reason for that.

When I was a pup and eager to get Pop to throw something for me to fetch, I figured out pretty quick that even though there was a stick here and there, rocks were everywhere here at the ranch. So I’d bring a nice rock (still do) and Pop would chunk it up in the air so I’d see where it went. Of course with me bein’ such a speedy fella, I’d keep my eyes on the airborne target and try to catch it. It didn’t take but a couple of throws for Pop to figure out that this was a bad idea, especially after I got whacked on the noggin. I now have a cool scar over my right eye from gettin’ hammered by one of those rocks. Pop says I’d have made a good defensive back and might’ve picked off a ball or two. He says he can just imagine the other DBs hollerin’ “oskie” after I snagged an interception.
Pop’s got some scars, too. The most prominent came from his days on the plains. Everybody knows that Harrison Ford has a dandy chin scar that he got in a car wreck before he became an actor. Pop’s ain’t as bad but it’s in the same place and every once in a while somebody asks him about it. I think most folks just figure it’s a wrinkle. Then there’s the one on his forehead, one on the back of his noggin, and one over his eyebrow from nasty helmet to helmet collisions. He even has a few tiny pieces of Birmingham’s Legion Field turf stuck in his elbow. (That old first generation Astroturf football field was flat as a pancake and hard as concrete. Eventually it weathered, got brittle and would break off after it wedged in your skin.) There are two fang marks on his wrist he got from a feral cat at his grandma & grandpa’s farm when he was little and a shrapnel scar on the back of his neck from a friendly fire incident (artillery short round) during his Marine days. There’s one from a slice on his left hand that goes from the bottom of his ring finger to the middle of his palm – right next to one or two from an errant oyster knife, and one on that index finger from being careless with a knife on a moose hunt in Alaska.         

Surgery scars don’t count but there’s a few others that folks mostly can’t see and Pop don’t talk about. They conjure up the internal scars that came along with the pain inflicted by some bad people during Pop’s days in the military intelligence gathering business.
Folks jokingly say that “chicks dig scars” but I kinda doubt that. Those kinds of scars can get doctored and, for the most part, eventually don’t mean much. It’s the internal scars that come along with ‘em that sometimes need lifelong treatment and some folks just don’t make a big deal about those. It takes serious emotional integrity to deal with memories of injuries involving life threatening incidents.
I reckon there are a bunch of folks that have scars, inside & out, that tell a story about their lives that most would just as soon prefer to keep to themselves. The lesson for the rest of us is that, whether scars were acquired as a warrior counting coup or as an unfortunate soul in the wrong place at the wrong time, we ought to presume that everybody’s got a scar or two, visible or not. Pop told me about this old Indian chief named Tecumseh who was highly revered as a warrior and philosopher. Some of his wisdom is apparent in these words of advice:
“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song like a hero going home.”

I wear my scar proudly and I reckon Pop does some of his, too. But, like Pop, there are folks out there who also carry internal scars because they’ve paid a price for the blanket of freedom that we enjoy. You can’t always tell their sacrifices by just the visual scars they bear. I reckon a nice lick from me or a smile from folks can be a balm for scars. So maybe we ought to do more lickin’ or smilin’!