Monday, March 7, 2016

Black Sheep Boy

Editor's note: I have some talented friends. Chad is one of them. Below is the first of a three-piece series from my buddy east of the Big River. His guest posts last year (here, here and here) were well received and different from what you typically find on this blog. I hope you enjoy Chad’s work and style as much as I do. 

He takes 2 hours to go to the dump which is 10 minutes away.  He shows back up sheepishly.  He told you he was going to stop for a couple casts. 

He washes up in a gas station bathroom and liberally slathers his wind and sun burned skin in aftershave.  He changes into presentable clothes and arrives late for the family dinner.  How was fishing?  It was good.  A bald faced lie. 

He can always rig up something to fish from what is currently stashed in his car.  While on a reasonable binge, the gear in the car has a much, much greater resale value than the car itself.  But not so when valued in emotional currency since this car has taken him on many roads and many of them ended at waters where he’d fish.  On this plain the gear and the car have equal value.

He can’t drive by water, any water, without wondering what fish swim within it.  His wife will grab the wheel and panic as the car drifts over the center line on a back road as he gazes out at a distant farm pond.  What?  He says, No one is using that side of the road.  He thinks about bass bugging.  If he hasn’t been near it, he grows cross and short.  He feels bad about this, and even if he says what is wrong with him others can’t really understand.  He gets distant; it’s a fickle mistress and tempting.  Always game in the field, not always on it, a bitter pill, to the black sheep boy.

For it is the only place he finds true quiet in an utterly incomparably loud world.  Where he finds his piece of the peace.  You wouldn’t understand unless you found it out there too.  Throwing the lines into the waters, it ain’t never the last cast until it is the last cast. 

He will fish for literally anything in whatever hours he can get to do so.  It doesn’t matter if it is going to be good fishing, it will be good.  If it is good fishing, it is fucking insanely awesome.  It doesn’t matter, but to be near water after all.  This is the thing that must be kept in the sights, not to lose sight of what is really important.

Sunfish, crappie, dace, pike, carp, suckers, eels, or perch.  Stocked trout, fine.  Strip them a streamer. Bass?  Of course.  Fish them a bass bug near the green weeds when the sun sets down.  Stay there through full dark when the negative space is full of nothing but possibility and the night animals come out.  A rustling comes in the underbrush, alone with the owls.  The kids at home are asleep anyhow, he thinks.  Now is my time.

Midsummer swims in the trout stream, letting the water envelop him as he wades in from the shallow shoal of gravel to the chest deep heart of the hole, then falling forward into the blessed cool.  He thinks of the fish and is glad the stream still feels so cold in the slow dripping humid days, true to this.  He dives down and they hide beneath rocks.

And always it will be, the mistress will stay true to him as it will to so many others.  And make them black sheep boys who are late for dinners.  Who need short leashes when the real other life comes calling with its obligations and deadlines.  Putting them off in the fall to watch maple leaves drift in the wind, to touch down on the flow of the trout stream.  Such brilliance and grace with the rod laid out across the resting knees.  Such eloquent silence.

It has carried him through the worst of the worst, and blessed him through the blessed of the blessed. It has always been there and will always be so.  He’ll pull on waders over his work clothes for a half an hour and show up for work an hour and a half late after it’s over.  He’ll be out there in the dark casting mice patterns for predators.  In the winter he will open it up with a drill to get to the water below where he will drop his chances down into the cold water like precious coins into the wishing well. 

He’s the child in all of us who wants to explore the shallows, to dive into the depths and swim down to see what is found there.  He’s just as fickle as a child, and for it all he is also just as beautiful since he is always exploring and delving deeper into what he inherently is.  He is true to this and if it makes him a black sheep boy who smells of the field, wood smoke and beer and fish, so be it. 

He will pass it down to his children that they should never be lonely, nor bored.  That they could learn new knots with which to tie their hopes and dreams and drift them down the current like small burning ships and carrying with them all that will be.  Go on, be a black sheep boy.  Fly them.  May you also know the eloquence of that beautiful silence.

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