The spring sun shown warmly through the leafless trees
causing sap to course within the branches to nourish the
developing leaves. A broken branch was like a dripping
faucet as the sweet elixir steadily dropped to the ground,
and honeybees, fresh from a long winter's torpor, eagerly
sipped the fresh supply of nectar.
By Neil M. Travis, Montana
In the shaded places small dirty piles of a late winter's
snow were melting into muddy puddles. The tentative sound
of the first spring peepers emanated from the low spots
along the river, and skunk cabbage leaves pushed their
bright yellow candles upward toward the warm sun. Pussy
willows were decked out with coats of fuzzy white and gray
catkins, and in the dappled shade of the woods, trillium
flowers nodded in the breeze.
A robin, recently returned from a winter sojourn in the
bayous of Louisiana, hopped jauntily across the lawn
turning over dead leaves, and stopping occasionally to
cock its head as if listening for the sound of the first
worms of spring. A quick lunge and he pulls back with a
large juicy meal firmly grasped in his beak.
Down a barely discernable path, an old man, clutching a
cane, and bundled in a heavy coat with a wool stocking
cap pulled down over his ears, makes his way toward the
river. His tread is slow but steady for he has walked this
path many times. He had lived his four score and ten within
a stones throw of this river; he had floated on its breast,
waded its depths, and feasted upon its bounty. Except for
a short period of time when he tramped the countryside of
France and Germany during the Great War he had rarely strayed
far from this place.
Like so many other springs, too numerous now to bring to
memory, he had tramped this path to the river, but today
it seemed the path was longer than he remembered. He paused,
listening to the sounds of the awakening woodland, his nose
taking in the smells of earth and water blending together
with the aroma of life, his eyes still sharp enough to catch
the nervous shuffle of a cock ruff grouse walking across the
path and slipping quickly into the underbrush.
At the streams edge he sat down on a bench. Made from cedar
planks that he had ripped himself from an ancient cedar that
had once stood on this exact spot the seat was worn smooth
from years of wader clad bottoms that had slid across its
surface. The bench was positioned to give the seated angler
an unobstructed view of the beckoning pool just upstream and
the broad flat just below. Here, in the cool of the evening
or at the dawn of a new day, one could see the entire sweep
of the grand pool and flat in a single glance.
For 70 years he had ridden this bench, watching the sweep of
stream hurry passed, his eyes keen for the most subtle rise
that would signal the presence of a rising trout. Clad in
waders, wearing a vest festooned with pockets bulging with
boxes of carefully hand-tied flies, and a rod of the finest
Tonkin cane lovingly cradled across his lap he had sat on
this bench. Today he wore no waders, no fly vest hung from
his shoulders, and he carried a walking cane and not a cane
rod. He settled back against the aging boards of the bench,
the spring sun warm on his shoulders, and the sound of the
stream a soothing balm washing away the dreariness of winter.
The old man dozed in the sun nodding, his chin falling down
on his chest. Unnoticed, a small olive mayfly, freshly hatched,
settled on the old man's trouser leg, and a mottled caddis came
to rest on his wool cap. A trout rose, its nose breaking the
surface just a few feet from where the old man sat dozing. The
robin flew up and perched on the back of the bench just inches
from where the old man sat. He cocked his head, and hopping closer,
he plucked the caddis fly from his cap. The stream flowed on as
the old man dreamed in the spring sun of days now only memories
and faded photographs.
The sun had slipped to the horizon when the robin returned to
perch on the bench next to the old man. The robin cocked his
head and clucked softly, but the old man did not move. His
chin rested on his chest, his hands folded peacefully in his
lap, and a slight smile creased his lips, but he did not stir.
Somewhere on a stream where the sun never sets and the evening
rise lasts forever the old man stepped into the eternal stream
and slowly waded across to the other side. Looking back he could
see an old man sitting on a bench his head resting on his chin.
Dream time he thought, just dream time. ~ Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona
From A Journal Archives