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Blue Collar Cane, Part 3

Excerpt from: Crosscurrents by James R. Babb
Published by The Lyons Press
123 West 18 Street, New York, NY 10011
Phone: (212)-620-9580 Fax: (2120 929-1836

"I hate to sell these rods, but I gotta get parts for the skidder and get it back workin' 'fore mud season's over. This here's the best of 'em," holding out a pedestrian eight-foot Orvis six-weight built indifferently from a kit. When I didn't appear interested he said, "It's a two-piece; I don't care for them three-piece rods much, but I got a bunch if you wanna see 'em," dragging from the bedroom an armload of aluminun tubes.

I looked through them quickly: half a dozen ho-hum Montagues, and old Chubb some ten feet long, a Bangor Leonard salmon rod, a well-used Bristol F-12, an ancient rod with hand-turned ferrules, tunnel guides, full red intermediate wraps, and a silver reel seat signed Jay Harvey.

I was after usable trout rods, not collectibles, so I selected a nine-foot five-weight Goodwin Granger Victory, and eight-foot six-weight Sewell Dunton Anglers' Choice with a fancy walnut reel seat and Super-Z ferrules, a high-end nine-foot Montague Red Wing from the 1030s that seemed unused, the scent of tung-oil varnish rushing from the opened tube like ghosts from a mummy's tomb.

"How much for these three?"

He named a figure that sounded high to me, and I set them aside.

He kept bringing out rods, reels, flies - as anxious as a ten-year old to show off his collection, to have me admire his stuff, to see what he'd picked up over the years. The idea of parting with any of it clearly saddened him, but old fly tackle doesn't put meals on the table. A working skidder, in this corner of Maine where self-employed logging is about the only job left for the nonconjugators of verbs, the nonmanipulations of data or peddlers of real estate, that's what puts meals on the table.

"Ya wanna cast them rods?"

We walked out into the dooryard, rigged up the Granger and the Duton and the Montague, and began casting and talking. He had the easy fluid stroke of a natural and sent perfect candy-cane loops sailing across the field.

"My dad and I fished together 'bout every day when I was a kid. He always fished cane, never liked them plastic rods. Said they didn't have no soul. Said cane was good enough for his dad and it was good enough for him. There rods here," he said, picking up fifty feet of line and sending it sailing out with a flick of the wrist, "they got a life to 'em. When I cast these rods I feel somehow like I'm still fishin' with my dad."

"I know what you mean," I said. "You two still fish together?"

"Nope. He got killed at the mill when I was twelve. You?"

"Smoked himself to death about ten years ago."

We continued casting for a while, saying nothing. As the sun began to sink into the hills I finally cased the three rods, wrote him a check for the asking price, shook his hand, wished him luck, and drove slowly back down to the coast, finally shutting of the windshield wipers when I realized it wasn't evening fog blurring my vision. ~ James R. Babb


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