When I was a young man I moved to the Ozarks with my young bride. Wonderful place, the Ozarks. Full of winding old roads flanked by deep woodlands. We used to love getting in that old Chevy of ours and following some of those roads. Never knew where they were gonna take us, what we’d see along the way. That was the pleasure of them.
Now, well into my seventh decade, I’ve been down a lot of roads, seen what was there at the end of them, took in what was along the way. Not all roads were wonderful, but all of them were good because they’ve become the fabric of my life.
So, that’s what I want to attempt here with this blog. My intent is not to amaze you with wisdom (not my long suit), but rather just lay down some stories about where those old roads have taken me, what I've taken from them. Some may be true, some I may make up. Gotta allow me that, I’m a fiction writer.
Now, I know blogs go for less than a dime a dozen and I have no reason to suspect this one would fetch a better price. But I do hope to entice you to join me on these journeys to places, people, and events. Maybe you’ll have a little fun reading them. I promise there’ll be nothing too serious. Of course, my ulterior motive is to get you to read (buy) my books. Encouraged, but not required.
Here’s the inaugural journey. This old road started out about seven years ago:
A River Runs Smackdab Through it
I call myself an avid indoorsman. So, when my seven-year-old grandson asked me to take him fishing, I scowled at him and made excuses.
“It’s too hot,” I said. “Fish aren’t biting.” And “Fishing ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. You have to sit still and be quiet for extended periods.”
I figured that last one would quell his enthusiasm, but one of the boy’s talents is persistence. Another is his ability to turn into a human tennis ball and start bouncing himself off walls. Used simultaneously, these gifts can wear you down.
So, I called a friend. Larry and I have known each other since we were fourteen. I lived in town, Larry lived in the country. He grew up learning the great outdoors, gaining skills in hunting and fishing. I grew up watching Andy take Opie fishing on TV. After half a century, nothing much has changed in that regard between Larry and me. I knew he’d be a good guide for us, would succeed in showing my grandson the skills and pleasures of fishing where I would fail. A surrogate, he could be the grampa I wanted to be, and I’d still get credit for taking the boy fishing. Win-win.
We set a date. I told the boy we’d rise early to set out. Not a problem for him. You would’ve thought it was Christmas morning; he jumped on my bed at 4:30 a.m. “Get up, Gramp,” he said. “Let’s go.”
On Fishing Eve the boy and I made a trip to WalMart to provision up. We got an eight-pack of soda pop, some chips, some cookies, some energy bars (a.k.a. PC candy bars), some peanut butter filled crackers, some kind of sour apple drink he spotted, some bottled water. Oh, and some cheese and ham for sandwich makings. Enough stuff to last a week.
We made our rendezvous with Larry and rode forty minutes in his pickup into the hills of eastern Oklahoma. Larry said he knew a spot. The road dipped and rose, curving sharply through the deep backwoods. I got more apprehensive the further we drove, started whistling “Dueling Banjos.”
“Ah, here it is,” he said, sliding to a dusty halt on the shoulder of the narrow road. The spot lay below a bridge which crossed the finger of a small lake. At a bend in the finger, the waters of a rocky stream emptied swiftly into it, the sound of its rapids babbling in its cascade. A well-timbered bluff cast shade across the waters of the pool at the finger bend and the mouth of the brook. If fish awaited us in those waters, it would be a perfect spot.
We headed for the spot down a path winding through a field of poison ivy. First thing off the bat, not five minutes into casting out his line, the boy hooks a fish. “Reel it in! Reel it in!” Larry and I shout, and the boy takes off running backwards dragging the fish to land. It’s a channel cat, about a pound (Larry tells us).
Shoot this fishing thing’s easy, the boy decides. He snags seven perch in the next hour, then the rapids of the creek become too enticing.
Wise to what a kid would want to do, Larry had brought a child-sized float vest. He straps it on the boy, and the two of them ride the rapids of the brook out into the deep pool of the bend. I’m a little nervous, Larry’s in perfect control, in his element. The boy sloshes up the creek, far into the woods, and floats down to the mouth butt first. And then again. And again. He spends more time doing this than fishing. When the sun tops the trees above the bluff drawing back our shade, Larry and I decide to pack it in. The kid voices his displeasure with the decision, sorry he was in league with old men.
On the way home the boy wants to know when we’ll go fishing again, says he’s already itching to go back. I tell him it’s probably the poison ivy.