My dad owned a house, a cabin as he called it, Near Milford, PA. Back then, he would always ask us to go there with him. My sister (she was in her early thirties then and focused on her career) dreaded the trip. Living near New York City, civilization as we call it, anything across the Tappan Zee Bridge was considered another world. Rumors abound about what the world was like outside of the Tappan Zee Bridge but few would investigate. My dad was asking us to go even further, past the Tappan Zee Bridge to the Delaware River valley. My rebellions, dissident, adolescence would have none of it.
But still, I ended up there. Yes, the mountains were beautiful. It was a fishing trip which taught me the beauty of the area. I had no idea how to fish. My dad bought fishing gear at Kmart, bought worms on the side of the road, and cut the man short (the one who tried to tell him in a pleasant way we were not prepared enough to catch anything but Carp). Later I would learn, from a country very far away, that Carp are a symbol for masculinity.
We spent three hours fishing on the side of the river. It was very warm and humid. Neither of us wore shorts. We thought of ourselves as civilized fishermen, I guess. The water was calm and we kept our lines in the water. There was little conversation between us, didn’t want the fish to hear us.
It was then that I saw a bird. I didn’t think that it was a rare one. Found out later that it’s called a Bald Eagle. It was after I saw the bird and our conversation about fishing didn’t really matter. In fact, I hardly remember our conversation, mostly because it was shallow and revolved around the temporal scene. The bird, for me, was kinda scary but it had a presence that cannot be denied. Anyway, it was only for a few seconds and then the bird was gone.
The next trip up, we drove separate cars. I could drive by then and refused to give up my independence. Ironically, my dad refused to give up his independence as well as he left me the second day we were at the cabin to go visit some guys.
Being independent (after all, our country was founded on independence), I went fishing alone. I went to the same spot on the river. There were about a dozen men fishing. After tossing my line in the water, I watched them fish. Forgetting my own line. They had wading boots on, walked into the water, cast their lines, pulled them back, cast, pulled back, moved around, stood in place, and walked around in the water. Seeing that, I pulled my line out and cast again, pulled my line out, and cast again.
“No, No. You’re doing it all wrong”. I remember this conversation, odd. An old man walked up to me. “You cast the line, wait a little, dangle it some, and then pull it out. It does no good to keep pulling it out of the water. You will scare the fish.”
He introduced himself as Barney and he talked about fishing. I didn’t understand everything he said. In fact, maybe a tiny fraction was comprehensible by me. It was nice. He was nice, friendly. He talked to the other men fishing as well. Fishing stuff I didn’t understand. They were all friendly and seemed to work together. Amazing, considering that they were all trying to catch the same thing. I felt very welcome.
I could see and hear their pride, pride of the river, fishing, and themselves. They were proud to be there together. Yet, when one of them left, he left calm and without saying a word to the others. They all had different rods, bait, and ways of fishing. I didn’t catch anything that day. I watched the men and listened to Barney. I felt very comfortable.
Before going back to the cabin, I saw that bird again. I believe it was the same bird, the Bald Eagle. Again, it had that presence. It was only for a few seconds, and it was gone again.
The next trip, my dad and I went fishing together. Same spot and the same men were there. Barney was there, too, but he didn’t seem to want to talk to me this time. My dad asked me where I learned to fish, and so I told him about Barney and what he had taught me. He continued to fish the way he had. No surprise when I caught a fish and he didn’t.
When I pulled the fish out of the river, Barney looked at me as did the other men. Dad helped me get the fish out of the water. With the aid of MacDonald’s paper napkins, he held the fish in two hands. He was amazed and disgusted at the fish. I guess he never really wanted to catch a fish in the first place. I didn’t know what to do with the thing either. And I was surprised when my dad said, “Let’s cook and eat it”.
The other fishermen went back to fishing and Barney turned away. We went back to the cabin and Dad put the fish on the grill. I thought it was going to get ‘cleaned’. Even though, I had no clue what that meant. I watched the fish turn black and then dad cut it open and pulled out some meat. He put some of it on my plate and then on his. I felt bad for the fish. It tasted good though. Dad seemed to like it, too.
Leaving and driving over the bridge, over the river, the water seemed more elegant. The trees seemed to have more pride. And I’d swear I saw that same bird again.