The Haunted Waters

Today continues my posting work from the past.This one is from July 2009.

Norman Maclean writes in A River Runs Through It that waters haunt him. I know waters haunt my father not by fright, but by longing. Of a father and three brothers now dead, of simple times, of emotions felt but not said, of the pride of not just the catch but also the time and of the river. For my dad water, yea, fishing is a pastoral exercise that cleanses his soul like the newly baptized. The sun in its setting glory silhouettes my Dad as he casts and reels, casts and reels off the dock at his house. My mom says some days he just grabs the reel even before he comes in the house. In his brown shoes and khakis, he stands. For this is not a moment of idleness and if he sits, he might miss what is in the wind, in the water, in his blood.

            The same cannot be said of me. I was too fidgety as a ten year to understand the mediation of the cast and reel. I enjoyed the strike and play with the fish. For some fishermen, the waiting is a means to an end. For me, none of it mattered. But for my father, the means was the end. He’s not a sport fisherman. He fishes small quiet lakes that old men haunt with their spirits hanging in the air and floating on the ripples. Places where dead trees make for good beds of birth in the Spring.


My Dad tried to pass this love of fishing to me. With the strength of one man, he would load me and the two man plastic johnboat we used, tempting me with cans of Orange Slice or knock off codas. We would travel through rolling farmland his beach ball blue Chevy S10 slowly taking each curve. The boat jutting out over the tailgate, looking as if it had dropped from the sky and landed in the bed of his truck.



We would unload the boat into the water from the bank. My Dad would push off with a paddle and use the trolling motor to bring us to our spot. The Minnekota trolling motor only had fifteen horses of power, so even the getting to the fish was an exercise of patience. Before I long I would set my pole aside and fish through the ice for a drink or the singular candy bar. I grew tired of lines, tangled, caught and twisted or maybe I had lost my tenth worm to a fish smarter than me. My Dad was patient. He wasn’t here for the fish. My Dad was there for me, to share with me something few saw- himself. But the water was not in my blood. I would not let it drip into my veins like he had as a boy on the banks of Dugdemona.

My Dad still reminisces about the cokes and the worms, the tangled lines and the boy who couldn’t sit still. He still pats my back and says, “Remember that Memorial Day weekend when we caught over a hundred fish.” But my Dad never really talked when we were in the boat. He just sat and looked. He would move the boat away or closer to whatever dead tree the fish were bedded on, and every so often he would say something about fishing with his Dad. His words then seemed just words, but now seem like a man caught between the past and present. I would talk and talk in that green plastic johnboat, but my dad preferred the silence. Perhaps he heard too many voices already.


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