Jesse Brumfield’s never caught or killed anything that he hasn’t earned.
I thought I had it easy when I was growing up in the 1970s and ’80s. Boy, was I wrong. Young people today have it made compared to any of the generations that came before them. Want some ice? Theirs magically comes out of the refrigerator door.
Want to do some research? Theirs magically comes right into their homes from their computers.
Want something to eat? Theirs magically comes wrapped in cellophane from a cardboard box.
The funny thing is, though, that many of these kids who get their every want and need met just as quickly as it arises have no idea just what it took to make these things so available.
This point was made abundantly clear to me not too long ago when my 5-year-old son asked me if hamburgers came from cows. After I assured him that they did, he went on to ask how they make them.
He knows that hamburgers come from cows, but he can’t comprehend that hamburgers are cows.
Franklin 15-year-old Jesse Brumfield doesn’t have that problem. He knows exactly where the meals he eats come from because he either killed it or caught it then cleaned it himself. And, more often than not, he even cooked it himself.
In fact, this Centerville High sophomore does a lot of things for himself. At only 15, he subscribes to the age-old philosophy that the sweetest-tasting tomato is the one you grow yourself.
“Jesse is the kind of person who could survive if the entire world stopped running,” said Jesse’s dad Bart Brumfield as he was searching through an old video for a particular piece of frog-hunting footage. “If it ever came to a situation where people had to go out and fend for themselves in order to survive, there’s no doubt in my mind that Jesse would be at the top of the food chain.”
Brumfield rewound the tape as soon as he saw what he was looking for. He cued it and made sure my full attention was on the television screen. As soon as he hit play, I realized just what kind of young man Jesse is.
The footage was of Jesse hunting frogs with his dad running the airboat while rolling footage with a hand-held video camera. Jesse was standing on the front left corner of the boat, and before I could really make out what was going on, I saw 7-year-old Jesse Brumfield leap off the boat and into the air like Superman. He disappeared in a splash of Q-Beam-illuminated water, and almost just as quickly came back into the boat with frog in hand.
“There aren’t too many things that Jesse is afraid of other than a back-to-school English essay about what he did last summer,” Brumfield quipped. “But he is a hard worker, and he takes care of himself. I had him in the shop (Franklin Small Engines) with me since day one, and he does my service work on Pro Drive motors and Ex Mark mowers.”
The one lesson that seems to have made an impression on Jesse is that a little sweat never hurt anybody. Putting in a hard day’s work and playing even harder after the sun goes down is a way of life in South Louisiana, but Jesse takes it one step farther. He puts in a hard day’s work just so he can play hard after the sun goes down. Besides helping his dad work on small engines, Jesse tends his own garden.
“My grandpa, J.C. Viator, got me started growing stuff,” said Jesse. “I grow cucumbers that I sell to a local supermarket. I just walked in with them one day and asked the man if he wanted to buy them, and he said to bring them in. I also grow cantaloupes and watermelons that I just sell to anybody who wants them.”
Jesse’s driving force behind his small enterprise is to earn the money he needs so he doesn’t have to ask his mom and dad to buy hunting and fishing supplies for him. In fact, Jesse makes more money with his garden in two weeks than many kids would make with a summer-long job. Some of the hunting supplies that Jesse’s garden has helped him acquire are a $1,500 Super Black Eagle II and a 270 Browning gold Medallion.
Like most other kids who are hooked on the outdoors above everything else, Jesse went to the woods and to the water with his dad while he was still in diapers. Brumfield can recall several times that he had to change his son’s diaper on the hood of a mud boat.
“At first, he just liked to go out and kind of play around in the mud,” said Brumfield. “I guess he was about three or so. He eventually got a little Snoopy pole, and from there graduated to bigger and better things.”
Jesse started taking his own shotgun when he was about six, and his dad recalled the first time he ever shot his gun in the marsh.
“He pulled the trigger, and that gun knocked him clean down on the ground,” said Brumfield. “He got up with a tear in his eye and a cut on his cheek, looked back at me and told me to give him another shell.”
Other than his not being afraid of work, Jesse’s determination and willpower have transformed him into something of a local legend around Franklin. Let’s put it this way: When Brumfield’s adult friends and neighbors want to get a hot tip on a fishing spot or where the ducks are, it is Jesse they call on, not his dad.
“I’ve been around adults all my life,” Jesse said. “A lot of the kids I know who are my age don’t do the kinds of things I do. They would rather come home and peck around on their computers and watch TV rather than go outside and do some work. I’ve never even had a Nintendo — I don’t even think I could turn one on if I had to.”
Jesse’s mom, Phyllis Brumfield, vouched for Jesse’s lack of interest in typical teenage things, and went on to say that Jesse’s hands are the proof of his personality.
“He just got in with some good kids this past year that are into some of the same things he is,” she said. “But take a look at those hands. How many kids do you know who have roughed-up and calloused hands like those?”
The reason Jesse works so much, though, is so that he can hunt and fish. While he is a master of fishing the marsh, he admitted he would much rather be in a duck blind than anywhere else.
“To me, duck hunting is a little more challenging and exciting,” he said. “You also don’t have to sit in one place too long on a duck hunt. I think my favorite part about it is watching the birds and learning the sounds they make so I can use it against them the next time they get too close to my blind.”
In fact, it is Jesse’s love of duck hunting that keeps him from seeing most of the deer that walk out under his tree stand.
“There are a lot of times when I’m sitting in the marsh on a deer stand watching ducks circling,” said Jesse. “And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten out of the tree stand to go shoot some ducks — like with my 8-point that I shot recently.
“I was watching a pair of mallards in a pothole, and decided to go get them. I was just about to get out of my stand when this deer walked out. Even with that beautiful deer, I’d have still liked to have those two ducks. That’s just the way I am. If I see ducks during a deer hunt, the deer hunt is over.”
Jesse’s duck hunts don’t stop when the bird is in the blind, though. He cleans all his own ducks, and he even does a lot of his own cooking. He most often wraps them in back with a pepper and some cream cheese, and throws them on the pit at his family’s A-Frame camp or house boat. Sometimes, though, he hands over the ducks to his mom for a gumbo.
When he isn’t hunting, and sometimes after he hunts, Jesse can be found throwing spinnerbaits and plastic worms for bass and redfish around East Cote Blanche Bay. Whether he’s catching bass or redfish depends on where he’s fishing.
“I like to go down toward the bay and try to catch a limit of reds then move three or four miles north up the canal and try for the bass,” he said. “I usually stick with the spinnerbait or a Texas-rigged Baby Brush Hog because I can catch bass and reds on both of those lures.”
The effort it takes to do all the outdoor things that Jesse does isn’t lost on him, though. For him, hunting and fishing is about more than killing a duck or deer or catching a fish. He feels he gets more out of it by being involved in all the little things it takes to get to the point of actually pulling the trigger or setting the hook.
“When you put the time in to do the little things to make a hunt or fishing trip successful makes those meals taste so much sweeter,” he said. “Some people think you just go climb in a stand and hunt, but it takes year-round effort in the form of making trails, building stands. That’s the stuff that even kids who are hooked on the outdoors don’t spend much time doing.”
Brumfield echoed his son’s thoughts, and added that he thinks some parents get so caught up in making sure their kids get interested in hunting and fishing that they go out of their way to make it too easy for them.
“What you get out of something is what you put into it,” Brumfield insisted. “So many dads today put their kid in a stand over a feeder and tell them which deer to shoot. The kid didn’t put anything into that hunt other than pulling the trigger — everything was already laid out for them, and little sweat gets on their brow.”
With that in mind, every time Jesse and his dad invite other kids to go hunting or fishing with them, they make sure to involve their guests in the entire process.
“Kids who come with us have to carry their share of the load,” said Brumfield. “It takes extra effort to do that and show them the right way without fussing at them all the time, but that’s what these kids need. Too many dads go to the hunting or fishing camp to get away from their families. I want to teach people that it’s much more fun to bring them with you and to share in the work involved to pull it off.”
All of the Brumfield’s hard work was wiped out, though, when Hurricane Lili came through in 2002. Lili wiped out 15 years’ worth of work, but Jesse and his family rebounded and rebuilt their stands, trails and blinds. Then came Hurricane Rita.
“I was ready to throw in the towel after Rita,” Brumfield admitted. “I had a buyer for our houseboat, and I came home and told my wife that I thought we should get out of our life on the marsh. She agreed, then told me all I had to do was convince Jesse. I sat him down and told him — he started crying. I immediately changed my mind.”
“That would have been like getting rid of your house,” Jesse said. “I couldn’t stand the thought of not being able to go stay at the camp so I could go frogging, hunting or fishing. I told Dad we could rebuild. We couldn’t be afraid of the work involved in rebuilding. Like he always told me, though, a little sweat never hurt anybody.”
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