Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Of Fish and Men

My dad, Don Williams, was born and raised in Wyoming. 

About fifty-five years ago he and his dad taught me to fish swift trout streams in blinding snowstorms.

I fished the Yellowstone River for the first time when I was only four or five. It was January in the mid-1950s, a stiff wind and vicious, blowing snow stung my tender cheeks and scared me. I grabbed my daddy's leg. He briefly caressed my head with his free hand just to let me know he was there for me.

Then he cast that Super Duper lure back upstream and continued reeling in the line.

A monstrous, lazy moose stood about fifteen feet away, knee-deep in the rapid, frigid Yellowstone, chewing on green river plants and looking at me with scant interest. The nearly-frozen river, the icy wind and snow, didn't bother that moose in the least. Certainly, he had no fear of me.

My dad, Donald, and his dad, Lester Williams, fished with a religious fervor.

For one thing, it was the only way they could hope to enjoy fresh trout for dinner. More than that, though, they embraced God's challenge that they provide for themselves and their families and be grateful for His bounty.

I loved my dad and grandpa. I wanted to be like them.

I'm a California kid just trying to hold onto family traditions. Yet, I occasionally have to jettison them when they no longer serve a practical purpose. 

My son liberated me from fishing nearly thirty years ago.

Jeremy was about six or seven. I took him camping into Northern California's Plumas-Eureka Campground. He had caught his first fish there when he was just five, back when he was still anxious to learn from me and to please me with his effort. 

(He still is and does, of course. I'm just sayin'...)

By the early 80s -- just a year or two after his fish harvesting experience -- he was thinking for himself:

"Dad," he said seriously and with no hint of sarcasm, "you know we can buy fish at the grocery store, right?"

He was right, of course, just as my dad and his dad were right in their time and place. 

We have all been right together, forever.

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