Chapter 24 - "mannawood"
After we had our fill of the wild, we made our way back to the truck. Our stomachs were telling us that it was chow time and we needed to collect firewood down by the river before the sun set behind the mountain range.
Our firewood was dead driftwood carried from deep within the Rockies left high on the rivers edge from the burgeoning waters of the early spring thaw. This driftwood is almost white, debarked and naturally kilned by the mix of prairie wind and summer sunshine. Collecting firewood felt like we were harvesting manna left delicately by God. It lay there on the ground perfectly prepared for a woodstove, dry and broken into 12-16 inch pieces by the violent current smashing them into stubborn rocks acting as sledge hammers. It wouldn’t take but 10 minutes to have the truck full of flawless firewood. Manna, indeed!
We decided that after we collected our one and only source of energy that evening, we would try our hand at fishing. We didn’t have the best equipment and we certainly didn’t know what areas of the river were teeming with hungry fish dying for a tasty metal fishing lure. But if you know anything about a rookie’s crapshoot, you know that the possibility of luck can make you do some pretty outlandish things. So we casted into the fast moving water hoping to hook a trout for dinner.
I know less than nothing about fishing, and even less than that about fishing fresh, cold, western rivers with a spinner for brown trout. I do, however, know enough to know that you don’t just take a worm and a bobber out there and expect to catch anything more than flack from seasoned fisherman and a good cold. But I was banking on humanistic luck or otherworldly providence…it just felt like something that God would make happen just so that he could laugh really hard if nothing else.
After about 30 minutes my hands were so cold I couldn’t even feel the reel anymore, and when it came time to pull weeds off my lure, I lost the nerve endings necessary to perform such a task. I would end up hooking my own finger and not feeling it. The only thing that let me know that I hooked my own digit was the blood flowing down my wrist. So I opted to pack up the pole and call it a day. Doug was making his way to the truck as well, so I guess this wasn’t going to be the day for a “fish story”. Dang.
We made our way back to the cabin and stoked the stove. It took an hour for my hands to thaw, and along the way to that thawing there were moments of sharp stinging and throbbing pain that made me want to cry out as with the pangs of childbirth, not that I know what that sort of thing feels like.
We cooked some food and ate next to a lamp in the dark. The sunset left behind a reddish hue glowing along the edges of the mountain range. There is something so surreal about watching the day die off leaving you with no option but to go to bed. We didn’t have much lamp oil, so we couldn’t afford to deplete that. At roughly 9:30pm we climbed into bed and lay there listening the howling wind whistling just outside the rattling windows. I couldn’t sleep even though I was well beyond Webster’s definition of “tired”. I just lay there rehearsing the events of the day, reliving the ones that I didn’t want to end. I also wondered about the days to come. Time was going fast and slow all at the same time. Every moment lingered leaving indelible impressions that would never be forgotten. And yet moments were whisking by like blurry yellow lines on a two-lane road telling you that you’re free to pass that slowpoke in front of you. I remember trying to count those blurry yellow lines when I was a kid. My face was pressed up against the cold glass window as my eyes darted back and forth trying to keep up. My eye muscles would hurt after a while because they weren’t made to do that. I would fall behind after about 14 if dad was going faster than 60mph.
It felt like I couldn’t keep up with all that I was experiencing, and yet it felt like I was living in slow motion just the same. It’s this sort of phenomenon that lets you know you’re living.