Chapter 29 - "I'm a role-playa'"
Worms. We needed worms. And there was only one place to get them. The General Store. The same place where I was loaned a perfectly shredded pair of long johns. The same place we shopped for stew, soft baked cookies and coffee. The same place that you would go to if you wanted anything from handguns to handsoap. Anything from leather chaps to topographical maps. Canned beans to Wrangler jeans. This place is like no other. A wonderland of gadgets and widgets, knickknacks and flapjacks, memorabilia and paraphernalia. Its unique culture is ineffable.
But we needed worms, and my friends at the local General Store did not disappoint. We asked for two dozen, and two dozen we received. At the check out line, somehow we started talking about the spiking prices of grain and the owner of the store unexpectedly let a concealed cat out of a proverbial bag. He informed us that he had 20,000 dollars of grain left over from last year. The clincher was that last year it was only worth about 3, 000 dollars. You could see the “I’m-a-little-kid-in-a-candy-shop” smile fill his wrinkled face. Almost like he had outwitted the crop market by his own sheer prophetic instinct. Really, he just got lucky. Either way, whether by luck or by pluck, he was a holly jolly old man eager to cash in on his ingenious procrastination.
I grabbed the Styrofoam cup holding our slimy, squirmy fishing enticements and headed out the door to the borrowed Chevy truck. Guss was already in his truck poised to lead us to the serious angler’s nirvana. We put the nose of our truck up the butt of his, and followed him about 25 minutes to this obscure section of the Sun River. It was a location the Indians used to run Buffalo off of cliffs in order to harvest their furry coat and lean meat. Thousands of buffalo would mindlessly be driven off a 70 foot cliff down into a stony gorge that served as a slaughterhouse and a graveyard all in one. It was in this shallow canyon that the river deepened and created dark holes/homes for hearty brown trout wanting to be caught by neophytes like myself. The water was ice cold and aqua green because of the spring algae being stirred up by the melted winter’s snowfall.
The section of river we were fishing was tucked in a serpentine ravine surrounded by red rock face and desert-like brush growing out of the side of shale-layered cliffs. It was romantically gorgeous too-good-to-be-true moment in my life that I will never forget. There were moments when the beauty would so overwhelm me that I would catch myself in a zoned meditation staring off into the blurry cross-eyed distance, entranced…enchanted. I would snap back into reality, or whatever you call it. I wonder which is the deeper reality, or the deeper magic as C.S. Lewis calls it.
Guss gave me a 5-minute crash course workshop in trout fishing and then put a pole in my hand. I stood there with the pole in my hand half doubting whether I was ready yet to cast my line in and provoke these gloriously intelligent fish into biting my bluff. I watched him cast a few times, put the worm on exactly like he showed me, and then performed my first cast.
To quickly contextualize this moment, you must know that I’ve been invited to fish on several occasions with promises of innumerable fish being caught only to spend countless hours essentially “watching paint dry” in disappointed boredom. I’ve often wondered if I’m beleaguered under a fishing curse and have cautioned inviting parties to be forewarned of my historical effect on fishing expeditions. Forewarned is forearmed, so they say.
So this fishing trip, though promising a hearty catch, was being attacked by my psyche something fierce. Even so, I decided to up the ante by imagining myself in the olden days, as my daughter refers to them, needing to catch fish in order to feed my starving family back at the homestead. It was this role-playing that intensified the experience causing my heart to race with a self-imposed expectation that if I didn’t catch anything, my family would die the death of starvation. I felt my masculinity kick into overdrive, and my pulse quickened under the weight of that mock-responsibility I imagined upon myself.
I can’t believe I just let it out that I’m an in-the-closet role-playa’.
I just found it adds a shimmer to an already pretty good shine.