When I frist saw my Grandpa's stream, it was wrong.
He led me proudly to the creek -
it was on his land, after all, and land was the pride of these old,
who had watched their land blow into dusk then recede
in the rearviews of a model A.
But to me, in these high sharp mountains for the first time,
the water was all wrong.
It was too shallow and rushing, too temporary.
It startled my familiar southern lake, jarred the dark sluggish streams
I had learned, flooded some rich marsh-stinking bays I knew.
I couldn't believe that a fish would live in it.
I couldn't cope with this water. It was out of my sense,
like it must have been to see restless seed blown out of fields
that had always make grain, to have parching wind whittle your traditions to an edge.
But Grandpa sat by the tree, an old farmer jealous of shade,
smiling and comfortable.
He knew nothing of fish but his experience included young
boys with narrow hopes.
He let me eddy there a moment, then got creaking to his feet
and began wading the grass, striking with his hat at shadows.
I couldn't notice that. This hasty river defied my will to try.
I looked deeply at it and saw nothing in my line.
Against the cliff wall was deeper water, but impossible,
surging in sudden planes and bowls,
curved over here and there in stationary stacks.
that stand and tumble in the speed, and in the margin at my feet
it courses in wheels of whirl along river-rounded stones.
There were no fish in it at all, and I was doomed to an empty summer.
I turned to where my grandfather had gone insane. He lurched and
staggered in the meadow grass, flapping with his hat, now crouching,
grasping, cured; straightened again and walked to me
bowlegged, really a stranger, this quiet man of thrift and difficulty.
He walked up to me and showed me his hands, dry and brown,
crossed with the shadows of old scars,
nails ringed like curling chips of hardwood -
then from a fist emerged a grasshopper.
He held it gently, walked to the river, and tossed it in.
It bounced along past us, then curved around a breaking stone,
and in the flashing silver splash that took it,
and that grasshopper opened my summer up
and cleared my eyes to the value of people who have done things
and would love to show you how.
We'd team up. Grandad would beat through the dusty grass,
batting down grasshoppers with his steady hands,
not quick but patient, and there are enough grasshoppers for that.
He'd bring one to me and I'd hook it through,toss it out,
and sometimes catch a trout from those wild rushing creeks.
Sometimes we'd sit and talk about things he'd seen,
about how the land had blown away, how his father had sung
as they left Kansas, how his grandfather, exhausted by picking lettuce,
had laughed when the children first saw an orange growing on a tree.
I didn't listen enough, of course; I was there for the fishing, and
12-year-olds have little patience for stories
when brown trout are taking grasshoppers.
~ Dave Motes