Kevin Tate | November 9, 2012
By the light of the moon streaming in through the window, he wipes the sleep from his eyes and quietly moves across the room to the hook where his fishing clothes hang, dons the comfortable jeans and sun bleached shirt, carries his boots with him when he goes. Outside he takes a rod and some gear from storage, puts them in his truck and drives. Asleep in the house he leaves behind people who love him, but this morning his mind is on fishing partners who’ve already gone.
He knows the little ones he left sleeping are anxious to spend time with him on the water, and he promises himself he’ll take them soon. Maybe this afternoon. Maybe next week. Soon enough. This morning, though, he has a meeting on the agenda that can only be attended alone.
When he was a little guy, not much bigger than his own children now, he was the one asking the questions, wanting to be taken along, looking with the same hope toward the next hook down the line. The Old Men who guided him had grown up during tough times, lived through a depression, fought a world war, raised families of their own. Masters of their art on the water, they pursued it with a vigor he’d never fully understood then, but he thought he’d guessed a big part of their reasoning now.
The drive to this meeting doesn’t take long, because the meeting takes place somewhere along the highway, at any place and time, whenever he’s ready to speak.
In the cab of the truck, moving through the last minutes of the dark, headlights on the road ahead, left arm out the window in the wet air roaring past, he thinks of the many drives like this one before. This is where the day begins. Days and destinations with the Old Men always differed, but they all started the same. They all started like this one.
Those days began with anticipation and, generally, ended with satisfaction. In between he and they hauled fish over the gunwale and into coolers following a set of practices as firm as those found on any assembly line. Their methods were all homemade, but honed to an art nonetheless. From the way the lines were baited to the way they were run to how adjustments were made for the weather and the wind, every step had a place and a purpose. The order of the day was the job they had set for themselves. The efforts and the rewards were both all their own. Fishing with the Old Men he learned a lot, including many lessons that continue to reveal themselves even now, half a lifetime later. In those days on the water he saw how well a complex job could be done with simplicity. Now, though the waters they fished have long ago flowed down time’s river, the satisfaction of those days remains the same.
On his last rides with the Old Men he was still a boy, still spoke as a boy from a boy’s perspective. As a man, though, the same words are different because they’re from another person, the one he has become. He wishes he could tell them many things, wishes he could show them his own children as they grow and see them smile, tell them he’s taken up fly fishing and hear them laugh, but the conversations are only one-sided now, so he tells them what he came to say, which is only, “Thanks.” Then he returns in the dark to the house where his family is still sleeping, sees their faces soft in the moonlight streaming through the window, and hopes he can pass along to them the example set by the Old Men just as they once did, one warm morning at a time.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.