I'm 65. And hear as good as I used to. But that's no problem. All I have to do is talk a little louder and can hear if what I'm saying is the same as what I'm thinking. Not a problem for me at all. My wife Lois seems to feel differently. Mostly when we're in quiet public places like a movie or church. You see I've got this sense of humor that has no sense of common decency. Death and moral depravity strike me as the ultimate punch lines. Especially death. And when my mind gets going I can make myself at home in some odd, twisted place most people would never conceive of and blurt out a full description in living color. Usually when that happens my intention is to whisper. But Lord knows I ain't. I'm excited and want to share. And then Lois gives me the look. And tells me to hold it down. I blame it on being in Vietnam. When you've seen your share of unnecessary death the world starts to look a little different. Truth is that I've always been that way. Being 65 years old has given me plenty of time to hone my skills. I count it a good thing that I don't spend a lot of time in church. Not so much for me but for all those innocent ears who enter with the intention of being uplifted, not offended.
Whether or not the above rant is supposed to go anywhere constructive is yet to be seen. I'm hoping some vague form of concept will come to mind and bail my ass out. What I'm working around to is lunch in Walker, MN. And maybe the idea that a couple of burritos, with rice, beans extra and two Dos XXs shouldn't come to twenty bucks on the lunch menu.
And that it's a mistake for me to sit with my back to the restaurant. Maybe that's what happened to Wild Bill Hickok. Probably sat facing the door so's he'd be reminded he was surrounded by polite society, in a drunken frontier sense, and should watch his tongue. One time he's forced to sit the other direction, speaks his mind, offends some civic minded Tea Party soul and the next thing he knows there's holes through his body.
It's an election year. In a passionately divided nation. And I was sitting at a table of tolerant Republicans. Actually I know for sure that Larry and Ryan are. Larry doesn't push his agenda and Ryan seems at least to lean over the edge of the road's middle. Don't know about Eldon. He has his opinions. No doubt about that. But they're closer to home than the war in Afghanistan or gay marriage. Me, I was born in Humphrey-land and Vietnam bent me quite a ways to the left. And I speak loudly. And my back was to the room.
Don't recall exactly what I might have said. But I kept getting the feeling someone I couldn't see was getting ready to cold-cock me with a beer mug. Or maybe it was Eldon. If so, I'd have deserved it. I ride him way too much. Maybe because he was an acting-jack desk sergeant MP when he was in the Army. Maybe my rant on the pointless war in Afghanistan was offending one of the 4th of July parade, draped in flags and leather, Harley riders. Don't even get me started on Michelle Bachman and how if you take her seriously you should be put away. One of these days I'm gonna have to stuff a sock in it. There's a fine line between intelligent commentary and being an old man frothing at the mouth about nothing much in general. Hope I haven't already crossed that line.
The beer was good and the lunch about what you could expect in a town sixty miles from the wrong border for Mexican food.
Back on the street we headed for the cars. First job was to rehitch the canoe trailer. You see, Walker mostly has diagonal parking. So the trailer had to be detached and given its own parking spot or it'd be blocking the street. I kinda liked taking up two parking spots. Also liked that our canoes were the only ones we saw on the water or the road. Seeing another one on the top of a car is like a reunion with someone I don't know. That's life up near the cabin this year, last year, any year. Almost like the only legal spot you can float a canoe in state is up in the Arrowhead. It's an odd life, eh?
So, the question was, where were we goin' fishing this afternoon? Of course there was the plan. And the others usually let me make the call. I think that has to do with not wanting to be responsible for a skunking. I don't like to be fishless either but have come to accept that as part of fishing. You watch the pros and the fishing shows and are led to think that the big boys never get skunked. And they rarely do. Factor in the fishing guide they're with, who's on his home turf, and tape editing, and you get the real picture. Like the old saw, the fish are always there; sometimes you catch 'em and sometimes you don't.
The weather was changing. Dark clouds rolling in. A good sign for success. My choice? Another trout lake. Simple drive from Walker. Seven miles of pavement. Four of gravel. Four more of good sand. Three without passing room. A left on a decent two-track with a few mud holes. And finally, the usual brush scraping down the side, slow down for rubble, coupla road ponds and we were there.
Makes my day when Eldon says, "How the hell do you find these places?" Truth is that it's easier than it looks but there's no way I'd let that out of the bag.
Then it's ten minutes of look at the lake, pee in the bushes and get the gear unloaded and reloaded. While that's going on the clouds are getting darker. And then the rain starts. The three tenderfeet from down south all have their rain gear. I'm impressed. And have none myself. I'm dressed for indoor lunch and the sun beating down on a bass lake. Totally unprepared. An idiot.
Larry, on the other hand, was more than prepared. Even had an extra rain suit. Honestly, I didn't want to borrow it. But, you see, it was raining really hard. And I was afraid I'd melt. And the flying monkeys wouldn't be my friends anymore. So for the sake of the monkeys, I thanked Larry and put it on.
So how do the lesser gods reward such kindness? Picture two canoes parallel, pointed into a tiny trout lake. The rain has slowed to a freckling on the water. In the Alumacraft on the left, Ryan sits upfront, ready to go. Larry is standing, half in, half out of the boat. Ready to push off. Slowly, like a slug in mud, my brain comes awake, to realize it would be both a helpful and a safe move to lend them a hand. Somewhere in the microsecond between hang and on, Larry, beginning to lose his balance, did a waltzing stumble to his right. Immediately followed by a counterbalance to the left. All the while, rocking the boat. Kind of an I got it, I got it air about him. But he doesn't got it. And finishes with a half twisting, belly flop back to his right. Into the lake. Towards open water, like he'd decided to head out on his own. Six inches of lake ain't enough to make a sploosh. When he hit, it was more of a kerchuck. And successfully manages to dump Ryan and his gear into the shallow water. Eldon, and especially Ryan, were completely taken by surprise. Lucky me, I got to watch it in slow motion. Guess Larry didn't need a rain suit after all. Outside of a brief dunking and a red face, both were okay. Easy for me to say.
Out on the water, conditions were ideal. Had we caught anything they'd even have been better. But we didn't. Once again it was a series of short strikes. We got hits. A fair amount of them. But none were hooked. Slow, wary, seen it all? I was clueless. If we'd been dead into boating fish, worms, split shot and small hook would have been the way to go. Just a guess of course. In my mind, live bait smacks of cheating. Spinners are bad enough but at least we'd have been fooling them with homemade lures. I'll go back with fly rod in hand. Throw a Royal Wulff or an Adams at them. Not exactly matching the hatch but close enough for a buggy whipper like me.