Of New Year’s and fish stories

It’s almost 2013 and I wonder where 2012 went. It flitted across my consciousness like a wraith or like those wispy mists you see on a summer’s morning, hanging just about eye level, barely there.

It wasn’t an unhappy year, although it was filled with anxiety for much of the time while Glenn was ill. There were some ups and some downs and lots and lots of activity. There were moments of quiet joy and others of deep dismay, but that is normal for all of us.

But still, how did the year slip away like that?

When you are very, very busy, it is hard to hold on to time. I live always in the future, it seems; one event is behind and another already looms on the horizon, but what I really want is some time to dream.

I would like to lie in the warm grass in a quiet place with a good book and handful of raisins to munch on, savouring their sweetness one by one, slowly, so make them last all day.

That is what I used to do as a girl when we lived high in the East Kootenays where there was no sunset, only light followed by darkness as the sun dropped behind the mountain. I used to long for the prairies then, never glorying in the pure, cold water that ran down the mountainsides in rills and brooks and by our house in a roaring creek; or in the sweet black cherries that dripped from the trees of a deserted but fruit-laden orchard that yielded other treasures such as crisp apples, warm pears and fuzzy peaches. The pattern for my life was already set then — living in one paradise and dreaming of another.

Now I long for that mountainside where I used to take my book and blanket on a hot summer’s afternoon and lie beside the brook with its waterfall, listening to the soothing sound of insects buzzing in the sun-burned grass. It smelled of home.This small clearing that faced the afternoon sun reeked of the wonderful, wide open spaces that had been imprinted on my heart as a little girl. I knew then, at 13, that home was where the sky meets the earth like an upside down bowl of blue and where, if you stood on a knoll, you could see forever. I knew I would come back here to live or I could not live at all.

But for their brief time in my life, the mountains slipped into my psyche and I dream of them every now and then; of the channel we children dug through our yard so that a rill that disappeared underground when it came to our property would run through the garden on its way to the creek. Our digging was done fruitlessly, I am afraid, the water having a mind and a path of its own; this was an early lesson in gardening that I wordlessly absorbed. There were wonderful wild things there, too. Devil’s club filled us with terror lest we get scratched by what the local kids told us were its poisonous thorns. Hemlock, we were told, could kill us without provocation if we touched it and then our mouths. We believed all these things and they added delicious fear to our everyday existence.

We learned to fish in the cool streams there. My sister and I would take our fishing rods and our golden Labrador, Buster, for early morning adventures, telling our Mom we were going to catch trout for dinner. And often we did. Once though we were having a hard time living up to our promise. The fish were just not co-operating. We tried all the usual spots but with no success. Then we came across a still pond above a little rapids in the creek. Swimming aimlessly in the pond was a very large trout, much larger than the usual eight- or nine-inch youngsters we usually caught. Legend had it that these trout were spawned in some lake further up the mountain beyond where the road ended, past the deserted gold mills, further even than the glacier that fed the creek its icy temperatures.

We immediately set our hooks for this beauteous fish but neither of us had any luck. Still, I had another plan. I had read about fish tickling and I thought perhaps we could apply this delightful trick to the catching of our heart’s desire. Being the eldest, I tried first, confident in my superior abilities due to a 15-month earlier entry into the world than my little sister. But I tried in vain. No matter how still I kept my arms in that chilling water, and no matter how close the fish swam, I couldn’t make the final connection.

“Let me try,” sang Carole and, of course, I  yielded, if somewhat contemptuously. How could she do what I could not? Within a minute she had the fish flipped out onto the gravel beach, flopping and flapping furiously as it tried to regain the water.

“Get the crutch, get the crutch,” she shouted, meaning the “Y” of a branch we had cut earlier to string our fish on when we caught them. Holding the fish at the short end of the fishing line, you skillfully ran one side of the fork through the gills and, if you were lucky, you could extract the hook without ever having to touch the fish. But this time there was no fishing line, only my foot to hold the fish down and the subject was not taking this imposition without objection. Getting the crutch through the gills was turning out to be a difficult task. To subdue it, I stepped down a little harder but, instead of controlling the squirmy little beast, it squirted out from under my foot and right back into the water — this time not into the pool where it had been trapped, but straight into the main stream of the creek and away!

We went home fishless and dejected after many hours of pointless labour. Mom was frantic with worry because we had been gone to so long. She was not amused or convinced by our story about the fish that got away.

As for Carole, she never forgave me. Who could blame her?

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One thought on “Of New Year’s and fish stories

  1. Alice Hogue says:

    Love this story! Alice

    The 3 H’s Hard Work / Honesty / Humbleness

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