Monday, January 20, 2014

Warmer Days

As the cavernous trunk of the old but well kept silver '82 Buick Regal creaked open, the first burn of the dewy daylight slid in and glowed on the stowed gear.  Whispers of "go ahead, get in", as if we'd wake Mom or anyone from the driveway, quietly came out of Dad's mouth.  He tucked the last bag just right, climbed in the driver's side as I slid back in the passenger seat and lounged my thirteen year old frame while wiping the crust out of the corners of my hazy blue eyes.  The engine started softly, all in the theme of calmness.  The windows inched down a touch with a roll of the wrist to let the warm June morning in as we backed out over the long crumpling asphalt.  We were on our way.

Route 17 heading west rolled past.  Tall roadside grass and shoddy billboards shone the sun back from it's eastern stare.  His big wrist with gold watch confidently yet carelessly gripped the worn wheel.  Talk radio, fading out and back in until eventually turned off, greeted the ears with a familiar tinny backdrop.  Not too much was said between us.  Any questions I had could wait.  This road silence between us was, in fact, golden.  My worn Yankee cap with it's tiny cross embedded between the interlocking NY, a la Billy Martin, was tipped slightly low on my brow.  The seat belt strap was aimlessly flapping in the slightly humid breeze, clunking once in awhile against the plastic door frame.  "The Famous Roscoe Diner Just Ahead!" sign told me that we would soon be there.

The sunlight shuttered through the large and rusted steel beams that held the highway up over the old road we wound around on.  The fleeting images of men already at their craft, waving their rods in false casts in the rivers below. The abandoned restaurant, "Hansel and Gretel", which seemed must have held happy if not raucous memories behind it's boarded windows, was finally in sight and just up on the left.  I propped up higher in the big front seat.  The Buick turned and the car crunched it's tires over dirt, dust, and scattered pebbles as it descended the sharp hill down to the paint peeled green and white cabins.  It was now officially morning, maybe 7 AM or so, and the light shimmered along with the breeze through the maples and hemlocks that rose behind the dwellings and atop the banks of the Beaverkill River.  We crept along the makeshift road, sure not to hit the ragged chickens that scratched at the ground.  A big old scruffy brown dog lazily lifted one eyebrow from his perch near the woodpile.  It was his only greeting.  The car came to a stop.  The click click of the engine through the vast metal hood as it made it's first attempts to cool.  "Here we are", he said, "let's get the stuff."

The others had not arrived just yet.  Dad liked to be first.  We made trips like workhorses from trunk to cabin.  It was short work.

Inside was not much.  A bench seat.  A lamp with busted shade or two.  Pull chain type.  A small wooden table and chair with removable square checkered cushions that protected one from the protruding rust colored metal springs that supported the seat and back.  Floorboards that led to linoleum of a putrid yellowish-green that was laid in the tiny kitchen.  A small gas stove with a fridge that bubbled out in front all white. "Fridgidaire" in script along it somewhere written in metallic.  It was clear that these cabins had been here since the 50's.  A bottle of some sort of spirit or other was placed on the counter along with a bag of pretzels.  A deck of cards flopped on the small shellacked kitchen table.  He went to the porch where we had hung the waders.  The screen banged shut behind me as I followed.  His eyes smiled.  A satisfactory type of slow inhale through his nose. And out with, "Might as well get down there, no sense waiting for them.  Get your gear on."

The trail to the river was a tough slope.  He'd keep his eye over his shoulder on me but I showed no trouble.  The few rocks rolled down here and there past his feet.  "Sorry, Dad", I uttered.  I wouldn't fall.  A smirk crossed his lips, for he had been a boy too.  Once our footing was found on the banks of the river, we gazed at the emerald green pool in front of us with the undercut banks in the darkness across.  Golden orange rays of the new day bounced off of the stream as it gurgled and gushed.  Soft bulbous clouds in the lush blue sky way over the mountains marched slowly along like tired soldiers.  You could see forever in each direction.

His fly rod pointed out from his arm and he made a slight circular motion with it.  "In there", he said as he nodded me along, "Careful wading.  Cast the way I showed you in the yard at home."


I stepped into the stream and took a few awkward steps.  "That's it", he exclaimed, "get in there."  A slip, a correction, and on into the river.  A number of steps more.  The water to my knees.  Another glance over my shoulder at him.  With an approving nod, I took the fly off of the hook holder.  I pulled at the line from the rod tip until the fly line was out.  I raised my rod as the current sang it's melody of gargles and plunks and trickles.  I stripped the neon line as I brought the rod back and forth.  "That's it", he said convincingly, "Atta boy."

I let go of the line and watched as the dry fly gently touched across and upstream.

"Beautiful", he said.

These were warmer days.