Ken, Casting His Hand-tied Fly.
Promise Kept: Ken returned in the morning as promised. He patched a hole in his belly boat, pulled on his waders, and headed into the cool, early-light water. From our tent, we heard the slurp and snap of his fly line on the pond, and then the quiet anticipation of a well-placed cast. The July sun rose in a cloudless sky over the ridge to the east, and heat filled the still tent air. We stirred. The trout jumped.
He had left his gear with us the night before. A stranger when he approached our camp, but respectful and pleasant, we invited him to join us and watch an osprey dry itself at the tip of a pine tree. With an excited pitch to his voice, he asked if he could use our field glasses. An immediate friend. We offered him jerky, nuts, and the finest in dehydrated lasagna. He took nothing but water, and left us smiling. We agreed to watch over his gear so that he didn’t have to hike back up the mountain with the full load the following morning. That’s what friends do.
“You two want brekkie?” he called in Canadian slang from his pontoon lounge at the pond’s center. He was reeling in a brook trout, and sported a smile that left a shadow on the sun. We had been prepping for some freeze-dried eggs with green pepper and bacon bits, but with a quick glance, we dropped the sealed pouch by the bear can. Neither one of us had eaten trout this fresh. “You bet,” I hollered back across the water.
Cleaned Brook Trout
I met him at the pond edge on a large, smooth blanket of granite rock face. He inspected the trout in the sunlight, drawing attention to its speckeld beauty, the fins translucent and the colors of fire flicker, and, once cleaned, the pink and delicate flesh. He turned the fish over and opened the belly to show me the meat, a trout canoe. His hands shook slightly with delight and years.
Up at the campsite, Ken pulled out a cast-iron skillet and a quarter stick of butter from his day-pack. We were surprised, but Ken gave us a sly smile and asked for low heat on the butane stove. The butter crackled and bubbled up in the skillet, and Ken placed the fish in the center. A rapid sizzle sounded out, and Ken called for lower heat. The sizzle slowed and a savory scent wafted up, a confluence of butter and fresh trout. The fish curved and browned. Brekkie was served to our trio in the skillet with two forks.
We picked the trout clean, leaving only the head, tail, backbone, and ribs, a stripped canoe. Ken and I headed back down to the pond edge. He planned to return the carcass to the center of the pond to foil scavenging carnivores. Then he’d send the fly out again, just for the fun. I decided to chat him up while he slipped the waders on, and tied a Turle Knot around the turned-down eye of a fresh fly hook.
Ken’s Hand-tied Fly Case
Ken had been up the mountain and to the pond before, a few decades back, when he was a teacher in Canada. He had relished the quiet and solitude, and was surprised that no other folks had set up camp around the perimeter of the pond. After he caught a delicious trout for himself, he promised the pond that he would return when he could. A career, the birth of a daughter, white hair, and 30 years later, he was making good on his word. We were the only people camping on the pond now, and we had found the same spot of granite. We shook hands.
As Ken slowly peddled his way out to the center of the pond, I stood and watched him, enjoying the benefits of a promise kept.
Reading to the Author – photo by Daniel Curtis
Greatest Game: I grin every time I talk about it. My eyes widen when I stop to think about it. I wrote songs based on novels by the author who has inspired me most, and he showed up for the event. Hot damn! The man wins the Pulitzer Prize, casts Jack Nicholson to play the lead in the movie, commands the English language as easily as I breathe, builds a lifetime of accomplishments and a catalogue of work Jesus would be jealous of, and then shows up with his family to attend an event put on by us. After the performance, he sat behind a microphone, discussed the event, the songs and music, elaborated on how music influences his writing, and even read a related section from “Ironweed.” His daugther later told me that he hadn’t read from that story in a long while, and that the night we chose just happened to be the 30th anniversary of his first grandson’s birth, and his winning of the Pulitzer. William Kennedy embodies Class. And so do Sarah Clark, Deanna DiCarlo, Matt Durfee, Laurence Scudder, Roger Noyes, The Fattest Man, The Albany Public Library, and everyone that helped turn a gamble, and possibly inauspicious event into a great night, and one of the most memorable in my life. I believe that the night held a generous serving of the undeniable mystery of life that Kennedy writes so well into his stories. Thank you all.
You can watch my nerves peak, my core tremble, and the evening unfold on the Albany Public Library’s YouTube Channel. Stay tuned for further announcements on this project…
Chatting with the Author – photo by Daniel Curtis
From the Low Down: In the last LDR, I mentioned that I was dreaming of summer travel, and I mostly satisfied that desire. Sort of. Well… I was in Austin, TX, throughout the state of Alaska (More on that in the next LDR, I imagine), in the Adirondacks, roaming around New England, and I have a few more plans to travel this year. I am, I admit, dragging my legs along, but the home comforts of fall will rejuvenate. They usually do. Well, sort of.
Much has been going on behind the scenes, and I’ll shout a little now: I signed on to produce Danny Whitecotton‘s next EP, and you’ll hear some of the Rebel Darling fellas on that recording. We’ve got the scratch guitar and vocals down, so more on that in the coming months.
I’m honored to write that the good folks over at Red Line Roots in Somerville and Cambridge, MA selected yours truly to be a part of the second volume of “Locals Covering Locals.” I’m there so damn much, they’ve named me an honorary local. Good news for me, for certain. Read more on that project here… FYI, I’ll be back that way on Sunday, October 5, to record, and for a show at Toad with Red Line Roots honcho, Brian Carroll (I’m hearing that some special guests will be in attendance).
I haven’t yet told you that you can get your own Rebel Darling “Harvest the Heart” T-Shirt. They’ve been stolen by wives and significant others all over New England. They are that comfortable. Pardon the model, but here’s a look at the shirt:
This weekend, I have a pair of festival shows. Saturday is my annual trek up to St. Regis Falls for Beanstock in the Northern Adirondacks. I’m looking forward to seeing you folks, for certain. It’s a family affair, and the family is good. On Sunday, I’ll be down in Katonah, NY for the first Tribes Hill Music Festival, which features the likes of Red Molly, Sloan Wainwright, and a whole host of other talented songwriters and performers. Here’s the facebook event page…
As always, folks thank you for everything. Spread the word and share the song… Forward this email along to others you think would be interested. Definitely share the music, and head on out to catch an upcoming show, be it Rebel Darling with the boys, or a solo show… Your support keeps the wheels rolling. Thank you. See you out there.
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