The boy and my fly-rod ! short story.
I knew the man only so well , I had heard him many a nights, the yelling at his wife and the kids , or her yelling , I had given him a ride from the old Dugway road turn-off to his house as often , he would be ambling along the dirt shoulder on the side of the pavement . Sometimes he would be staggering a bit , most times though , I could smell the alcohol on his breath or his clothes . Or maybe it was just something that oozed from his very flesh as alcoholics sometimes do .
Don't get me wrong , He was a hard worker , had a helluva' reputation for physical strength , a construction worker by trade he was well known as a pretty good man , but I believe that the condition of the home that they owned was a tell tale sign of how the family lived . the fading old yellow painted clapboards , the tar paper patched roof , the tall grass of summer hardly ever mowed . Just another one of those old Scotch - Irish families , a passel of kids . An old car or truck parked in the yard that only ran from time to time .
One of the boys in particular though , I would say about twelve years old always seemed to catch my eye . Him and his dog were always ambling along around the fields , along the river bank or walking down the old road to the railroad trestle by the way . He seemed friendly enough as he would wave as I passed by him on the road and yet sad a strange way . You see he was always alone ! While the other kids in his family came and went with friends or the occasional girl friend this one never seemed to join up with anyone .It wouldn't be unusual to see company at the house of a few of the local kids playing sawmill slat baseball in the field behind the house , yet seldom was this one boy with them .
I do know that the family did had their share of trials though , one of the boys ,an eight year old was killed right in front of their house by a hit and run drunk driver . At the time , a lot of company came and went , the yard was full of cars for awhile and I even made my way into the awkwardness of a tragedy to pass along my sympathies . I'm sure now that this act of inhumanity by that driver may have played havoc on the overall health of this couple and their family . It was said that the young boy that seemed to isolate himself from everyone witnessed the whole thing . I know that for quite a while the police cruiser would stop by the house and he would go away with policemen for a while .
And yet the incident that finally introduced me to this young boy would happen in the privacy of the railroad bridge where I would often go to spend an evening fly fishing the white-water riffles on that very river . As it happened I had walked the mile or so up the old dead end and over grown road-bed . As I approached the old "three mile" swimming hole beneath the bridge , I thought that I had heard a moaning or wailing sound ! Yet I wasn't even sure what I had heard . But , as I cleared the path way out of the trees I saw the young boy there . He stood with his shoulders slumped , and every minute or so would throw a rock as hard as he could across the river to the granite abutment beneath the bridge ! And yet he was crying ,
screaming , and then sobbing quietly right there in front of me , my first instinct was to turn quietly and go back down the path . But , I couldn't !
Behind him and to his left , I had almost missed his brindle mutt of a dog standing powerfully poised and watching me approach . I immediately got the feeling that the dog was really watching the boys back as his ears began to pin themselves back in alarm. so I just kind of skirted my path away to the edge of the river to give them plenty of room, In truth , It was a rather painful thing to watch as the boy had not yet seen me approaching . I felt horrible though and was contemplating just what , if anything ,to do.
And , just then an idea came into my mind , What if ? What if I just took out my fly rod and started fishing ! Could I somehow find a way to connect with this boy ? Was there a pay- off in just reaching out ? And so that is just what I did , I removed the rod and tied on a black "whooly bugga " trout fly and began a side rolling cast , in truth , this cast is actually kind of magical to watch .........if performed by an expert .Which by the way , I am not .! After a few moments and a couple of side glances towards the boy twenty yards or so away , I could see that he was aware that I was here . But I just pretended that I hadn't noticed him yet . And I certainly didn't want to embarrass him in by making him realize that I had heard his little breakdown .
"Excuse me sir , is that a fly fishing rod ? " he asked and by now he was standing just a few feet away from me ! And I thought ...........I've got him !
"Well yes it is son , that's just what it is ! Except I not very good at handling it ."
So that's when I turned and looked into the saddest face I think I've ever seen on such a young soul ! The young boy seemed to actually have age lines on his cheeks , around his eye's and
the eye's themselves seemed so hollow and just so sad looking , I actually felt a catch in my throat and thought . "I've got to handle this just right "!
"I've never seen anyone use a fly-rod but I have heard of them before ", he said and I could tell there was a wistful tone to that statement .
One more side roll cast and I think that I could just about have this boy smile, I thought as I rolled the number five line along the riffles beneath the brush on the river bank . As I turned to him I saw that he was mesmerized by the line spiraling across the river and the fly on the end of the line just dancing to a new spot yards away from where it had been and then just feathering itself down to the waters surface .
"How did you do that "......... he asked in a small excited voice , and it was then , just then ! , that I knew I could give something to this lost little soul and maybe , just maybe , I could give one small saving grace to someone who so desperately needed one tonight !
"Well would you like me to show you how son ?"
And just as I turned to see his response , I realized that he was no longer standing twenty yards from me but ......he was right there beside me . And as I reached to show him how to hold a fly-rod , I saw one small , very small smile begin to form on this old , old , and yet very young boys face . And I knew right then that this night would begin a long series of years even , of evenings on the river where we would share thoughts on the river , on trout , on family, on old dogs and yes .....even on friends !
The end .