I have to admit, for having just met someone only a few days before you absorbed the kidding with all the aplomb of a seasoned friend. You know; the type immune to even the harshest of good natured criticism simply because the awareness of your weaknesses in addition to your strengths is what defines you to them. Your wry smile told me that the self inflicted verbal torture you had wrought was understood. Even appreciated.
It never would have occurred to me that someone just met would have an impact on my life. I’m too old for new relationships to develop over any lengths of time. A person gets to the point that your friend’s friends become yours because they’ve invested the time. ‘If you’re good enough to watch my friend’s kids then you’re good enough to watch mine’ sort of thing. That would explain why today is such a painful day for me.
The next time we meet up you’re going to have to tell me all about the big one that got away and the bait you were using. I never did figure out why you chose to cast spinners instead of using the artificial bait we were catching them on. Knowing you were fairly new to the trout fishing I just assumed you didn’t want to bother our fishing to tie the special White River trout rig for you. I know its one of those things best learned on the shore and not from the middle of a flowing river in a tipsy Jon boat, but the call of the trout precluded any bank-side lessons. And catch trout we did, sometimes three at a time and never without the inevitable “It sure feels like a good fish” comments only to arrive boat side where we’d collectively feign disappointment before releasing them. We certainly weren’t bemoaning our fate. As a matter of fact catching fish was more a of side show than a mission. Who can honestly complain about non-stop rainbow action on light tackle in the middle of God’s country?
It was a gorgeous day, picture perfect by even the standards of Ansel Adams: Crisp temperatures, the start of the fall colors and a bald eagle pair circling overhead. The calming sounds of the river were only interrupted once all day and that was by a screaming F-16 on a training run navigating the valleys at tree top level. Near the end of our adventure I saw you entranced by the scenery and I knew what you were thinking. We all were thinking it. “It just doesn’t get any better than this”.
Chuckles came easily that day; the 28 year old running for town council who’s most notable elected position was ‘Running the church bake sale’. Rob’s instructions to toss in the drag chain only to question after the splash if we’d ensured the rope was tied on. Remind me – is panic the first or worst thing to do? I get confused. You sat bemused through the day and silently tolerated our mindless babbling at nothing in particular. And of course the recollection of your first river trip with Rob and your sole responsibility of manning the anchor. You took that very seriously on your inaugural float and when instructed to toss the anchor you more than complied. You’re supposed to let go of the anchor not follow it into the frigid waters. That dry smile and grin of yours told me it was a lesson learned. And it only reinforced the fact my friends are impeccable judges of character.
I hurt for them today; they’ve lost someone as did your family and anyone like me that had the pleasure of your presence, however brief. I sincerely wanted to follow up on our mutual agreement to fish again. Just three like-minded guys out for a day, away from the women and their honey-dos, the politics and the realities of life. Just fishing.
It was a pleasure making your acquaintance Jeff. Godspeed.
Every man dies. Not every man really lives. ~