The Man Who Loved the Open Space.
By Hilary Thompson
"The inside of my head is a broad open horizon. I see it that way when I relax; I like and need that feeling of unbounded space opening before me in all directions. It is a perception that has often led me to feel creative and open minded, to forgive the trespasses of others and to forgive myself as well. I suppose this mental image is a product of growing up on the edge of the everglades in South Florida. I always felt a relief and a thrill of joy like a small electric shock when I emerged from a hammock, or from the city and returned to the open grasslands." Arculo crumbled the page he had written the above on. The crumpled sheet joined the pile of crumpled sheets on the floor of his camp. He was struggling to write a bio sketch his employer, a tackle shop and guide service in Marco Island Florida had requested of him. The camp was a shack on stilts in the glades west of Copeland. It stood above standing water all through most years. It was essentially a screen room with an awning to keep out all but the most driving rain. A flytying bench and a bookshelf took up one entire wall of the screen and both could be covered with a tarp. He stepped outside. He could not write the requested paragraph today. He might not be able to write it at all, but he could try no more today. Looking down at a piece of paper instead of out at the open glades gave him a slight claustrophobic and sick feeling. He swung himself down into a Seminole canoe carved from a cypress log and stood in the rear of it and poled away from the camp, out away from the line of trees that formed Fackahatchee slough a mile behind the camp. He poled out into the open 'glades and lay in the bottom of the boat staring up at the cloudless sky. After he had calmed down by imagining himself a tarpon rolling free in the green depths of Florida bay, he stood again to pole down to Jimmy Jumpbuck's chickee near the airboat tourist stop on the Tamiami trail. Old Jimmy Jumpbuck liked to play the dumb Indian. A lot of the white tourists found it fit their expectations and saw him as 'charming'. Jumpbuck was a fox, observing the whites like a hidden animal while they screamed at their children and bullied their wives. He felt no superiority; he felt he had lost his own kids to whiskey and drag racing and his grandsons to crack cocaine and guns. Arculo was his inheritor, his white-boy protťgť. Arculo had never discovered why or how the old man learned all he knew, but Jumpbuck knew more about flyfishing than anyone Arculo had ever read, talked to or even heard of. Jumpbuck had been in England before, during and after the Second World War. He knew how to tie salmon flies and had fished in Canada. Jumpbuck returned to Florida in the '40s and settled in among the ruins of his tribal family on the outer margin of the populated areas of South Florida, making a living as a fishing guide for Northerners down to see the tropical wonders. He was in this late part of his life, a contented man, balanced in his feeling for the arc of time in his life and the lives of those things and persons and other beings around him. Filled with acceptance of the rightness of things, he would sometimes blindside Arculo with his wide reading. He would quote the writings of some little known English Christian mystic, 'All will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well'. The wrinkles in the corners of his eighty-year old eyes hid secrets. Jumpbuck was sitting on his porch cutting the back meat from alligator gar, rolling it into neat rolls and piling it on a tray for his smoker. When he saw Arculo poling up he waved a piece 'Hey captain, a guy in Marco pays me $3.00 a pound for gar smoked! He sells it as smoked lobster for $9'. A broad grin lit his face. Arculo nodded and smiled in silence. He spoke, as a rule, not at all. Jumpbuck was fond of that; he hated to be interrupted. Having an attentive listener that profited so well from his words had made him as proud and as happy as if he were Arculo's father. Arculo secured his boat and pulled himself to the porch to sit beside the old Indian. Arculo poked at the armored back of the gar. Jumpbuck looked carefully at Arculo. "I wrote that bio for you", Jumpbuck said. He had divined Arculo's problem from long experience with his inability to connect to the world outside his head. "I was over in the shop the other day and they told me to ask you what to say. I gave them a little bio for you. You know they want some kind of hoorah horseshit to make the tourists think they're going out with some flint-eyed hero". Jumpbuck looked up at the silent Arculo, and saw Arculo fixing him with a comic 'flint-eyed look'. The old man broke up and laughed hard. The sound of it was like the dry sawgrass in the wind. Arculo's brief connection to another melted away. " Got to run over there anyway, to take the batch of gar that's ready, want to go?" Jumpbuck asked. Arculo assented with a nod not looking at Jumpbuck; "We need to check if there's a trip booked for you." Jumpbuck had on a clean Seminole shirt as he settled cross-legged in the boat. Arculo poled the short distance to the back of the run-down Seminole village tourist stop on the Tamiami trail. The tourist stop was awash with squealing kids, bedraggled moms and bored dads. Tommy Jumpbuck, the old man's son was dressed in full traditional Seminole gear and was trying to herd his charges onto the big airboat for a swamp tour and a stop on the edge of the reservation to see real Indians. Tommy waved as the tour roared off. The roaring didn't stop after he left as a primer-gray Camero rolled into the white coral rock parking lot spraying dust and loud rap music. At the same time another arrival: a new Toyota landcruiser in white, father and 18 year old daughter. "Bad medicine Kimosabe" old Jumpbuck side mouthed in a stage whisper to Arculo, who did not seem to notice the joke. He was talking about Billy Jumpbuck his grandson. He also caught in a quick glance the flyfishing cap of the father or the lithe grace of the daughter as they emerged from the landcruiser. Young Jumpbuck swaggered as he got out of the car and came toward them. His body language spoke aggression, trouble without provocation. "Hey old man" he yammered, "what's up? How's your white dummy?" He reached toward Arculo but his reaching hand was gently deflected as one might deal with a child. "I'm looking for my old man, he owes me money". "He's out making money right now' Jumpbuck indicated the empty dock. Billy turned his full attention to the young girl from the landcruiser now walking, long tan legs full of grace, arms swinging, across the parking lot. "Hey want a tour, little missy?" Billy started his moves like a snake that first sees a little bird. "We're looking for someone named Arculo " the father said, "The FlyWays shop said we might find him out here". Arculo moved toward the man and nodded. The man stepped forward and extended his hand, Arculo grasped it and nodded again. "We booked you for tomorrow, Thursday and Friday, three days". The girl was ignoring Billy, and had fixed her attention on Arculo. Billy fixed a poison glance on Arculo. Arculo seemed to ignore everyone, looking at no one. "Where will you be, down at the Sportsmen's Club?" Jimmy Jumpbuck asked, the man nodded, "OK we'll pick you up at six, tell Maria in the kitchen what you want for lunch tomorrow when you go back this evening". The daughter still regarded Arculo with fascination, and Billy had faded into the background. "Have we got a shot at Tarpon tomorrow? I've never caught any Florida fish, but I hear that's the one not to miss" the father said, and looked at Arculo expectantly. Arculo was silent, fixing the man with an odd graze as if regarding an indecipherable inscription on some ancient wall. "He's a good tarpon guide" Jimmy Jumpbuck broke in, jumped two 80 pounders when I was out with him last week, good time of year to go out here, especially with somebody like Arculo, he got a feel, a nose for where the fish are". The father nodded, shook hands with old Jumpbuck and said "well great, looking forward to it, see you in the morning then". After an unrequited expectant look in Arculo's direction Father and daughter got back in the big car and headed off to Everglades City. Arculo had his back to the departing car, watching Billy. Billy was behind Jimmy and Arculo, two of his friends had gotten out of the back of the Camero and joined him, and they slouched in a threatening group. Arculo thought of the weasels in 'The Wind in the Willows' storybook that Jimmy Jumpbuck had read to him when he was a child. "Hot little bitch, huh?" Billy said, stepping forward so that his face was close to Arculo's. He smelled of bad teeth and a sweet smell of drug smoking. He reached down and pulled back up his T-shirt and showed Arculo the butt of an automatic pistol in his belt. Billy postured, now brave with his friends and gun. Arculo did not give body signals to people, as most all of us do. Long ago, when he wandered away from the car wreck that had killed his parents on Alligator alley and Jimmy had found him, he did not speak or seem to notice when others were near him. "Autistic" the doctors had told his parents. "The part of the brain responsible for interacting with others is abnormal, you'll have to work with him a great deal to get him to interact, he may be of normal or even above average intelligence, but he will not be easy to raise". His parents had died speeding to take him to a state hospital in Pembroke Pines. His mother was not able to bear never receiving a response from her child. Jumpbuck had never quit talking to the 12-year-old boy after he had found him, he taught him to fish. It had been when he was 14 that he had first spoken to Jumpbuck. Jumpbuck had been teaching the boy to flyfish for more than a year and the boy had finally said "roll cast" clear as day when they were backed up against some brush fishing for bass. Jumpbuck almost fell in the water when the boy spoke; he had thought he was dumb. Long used to the boy's profound silence, he was as shocked as if his old dog had spoken to him after all those long years. The boy was Jumpbuck's and Jumpbuck was the boy's. No one ever came to look for the boy and the Sheriff and the Indian agent never got any reports. Arculo did not exist except in the open world of the 'glades. His education was being read to constantly by old Jumpbuck. Alone together in the chickee at night Jumpbuck read to the boy by flaring kerosene lantern. Over the years they read Winnie the Pooh stories and "Wind in the Willows", then on to the Bible, and the Book of Mormon (dropped off at the Indian reservation by two nice young men on bicycles many years before), and graduated to fishing literature, Haig-Brown, Skues, Bergman, Walton and Joe Brooks. Jumpbuck pointed out the words as he read and Arculo learned to read and eventually to write. Once he started reading he never stopped. No telegraph, no tip-off, no body language, just fast movement. Arculo had the gun, had ejected the clip into one hand and flipped both gun and clip into the water behind him before Billy could even pucker-up his backside. As soon as he could move, which was well after Arculo had come back to his rest and ready position, Billy sputtered insanely lurching toward Arculo. All his energy was not wasted, Arculo used it to good effect, by grabbing Billy's shoulders, dropping his hips and swinging Billy in a strong judo throw out over the canal after the gun. His friends, bad Seminole boys that they were, were still Seminoles, so they laughed, and laughed long and hard. Billy sputtered out of the shallow water, glaring at Arculo. He didn't do anything else; he had been around with Arculo before and knew that that he couldn't beat him face to face. It would take a bullet in the back maybe someday when he caught him out in the right place. Pink lit the sky before dawn. Long before the sun rose Arculo was packing gear into the canoe to pole to Jumpbuck's so they could run his old Dodge truck to pick up the guide boat and the clients. At the Sportsman's club, Fred Stanfield gently shook his daughter Melissa awake. "C'mon hun," sleepy himself, "get up and get ready to go out fishing". The girl bounced up, full of excitement and occupied the bathroom as Fred called for room service coffee. In a run down apartment on the edge of Naples, Billy and his associates waited with drugs and guns for the guys with the money. "You know", Billy scratched his sallow cheek, "I think I feel like a little jet boat ride today after we get these jamoke's money". His big friend nodded as he crushed another rock of crack, and fired the propane torch under the glass pipe. As the sun first hinted that it would rise into a clear sky, Arculo and Jumpbuck had the boat trailer behind the old pickup and Arculo went into the dining room to pick up the lunch Fred and Melissa had requested the night before. The old women that cooked mornings had a soft spot for the taciturn Arculo and gave him his favorite special lunch free of charge, a cheese whiz sandwich on white and Oreo cookies. Arculo and Jumpbuck lounged in silence at the truck until Melissa leapt down the front steps of the old building just as the sun cleared the trees. It struck her clear face, framed by blond hair like a new minted coin. A currency that could be legal tender in that silent place that was Arculo's heart. Jumpbuck looked over at what he thought might be a slightly thawed look on the boy's face and smiled a small smile that was larger inside him than outside. "Maybe there are cracks in the armor," Jimmy Jumpbuck thought. In the boat, idle out through the marina, past shrimp boats, commercial fisherman, and motor yachts, a turn and down a channel into a maze of waterways. Arculo knew his way and when to come and go to have the tide in favor of fishing and travel, this place was all he paid attention to, he rarely even went to Miami or Naples. He breathed it in silence and it flowed in his veins, a change of tide was felt as naturally as hunger or thirst in his own body. He guided the fiberglass flats boat with its 90 hp outboard and clean casting decks and poling platform over channels in shallows, past tunnels of mangrove roots, and endless turns and choices in the maze. The flow of the tide was beginning to increase at this early hour and at long last, as they glided over a calm flat, Arculo rigged the tackle. He put on natural brown deer hair slider, with lead eyes that made it sink a bit and tailing feathers turned in instead of flared outward (to make it swim right) and handed the 9 wt rod to Fred. "Time huh?" Fred stared at the water not seeing anything. Arculo climbed to the platform and began to silently pole along the flat out from the edge of the mangroves. A gentle tap on the deck caused Fred to look back at Arculo, he was pointing out several rolling baby tarpon that were looking happy, Arculo made a casting motion, never looking directly at Fred. Fred creeped forwards on his backcast and overpowered his forecast without making a hard stop. Arculo watched in silence as the cast went 25 feet and the line piled up on the water. Arculo was suddenly beside his client stripping line so he would see what must be done. The slack was out and Fred continued stripping at the right rate when a baby tarpon struck hard. Fred shouted with joy and struck hard back and that was happily just what was called for, as the tarpon felt the bite of the hook right in the corner of his mouth and took off. The line sizzled in the shallow water as Fred held on. A somersaulting jump followed and Fred bowed to give slack line because Arculo had pushed on his back, as Fred stared at Arculo, Arculo bowed again with a pantomime rod to show what was needed again without looking into Fred's eyes. Fred got the idea. More runs and jumps, Fred bows, Melissa jumps up in excitement, throws off her headphones, portable CD player forgotten and grabs Arculo's arm. He turns and looks past her. The tarpon decides closer to the boat is better, and Fred reels frantically as Melissa claps and does a bit of a cheerleader cheer for her Dad. The tarpon, after several more jumps and runs that gradually slow in vigor, is on top of the water. He is gripped and handed to Fred for Melissa's camera, and then carefully revived and returned. The morning goes on with Arculo's silent pantomime casting lesson, with a slight 'whomp' noise to illustrate the hard stop that Fred needed in his casting arc. Several snook, a huge garfish were caught and five tarpon from 5 to 70 pounds hooked and jumped with one big and one small fish are landed and released. Arculo looks up to the sky between the mangroves and sees a swallow tail kite, he dreams his waking dream of being an animal, an animal free of ever hearing the spoken word. After a lunch stop in the boat with a bit of shade from overhanging mangroves, Arculo looks up from his bag of cookies, and from appearing impervious to Fred's excited assessment of the mornings fishing. There are Oreo crumbs on his chin; Melissa looks at him over her Lolita sunglasses and wipes them away with a tender gesture. Arculo turns to look at her, in surprise at being touched. The girl thinks his look is like a spoken word rich with meaning and tender surprise. He turns from her and listens again. Finally Fred and his daughter can hear too, it is the roar of a powerful motorboat winding through the channels around them. It is Billy and his friends in a borrowed jetboat, looking for Arculo and his clients. Arculo begins to pole; he turns up one small channel after another until he poles into a broad open area. His stratagems seem to have brought them closer to danger rather than farther away as the roar of the overpowered boat, and the spray of water it throws on the mangroves in the narrow channels is now very loud, very close. Arculo does not crank the outboard, but instead poles swiftly across the open area. At the last quarter of the distance across the lake, the boat bumps on a shallow mud bar. Arculo walks to the front of the boat and herds Fred and Melissa onto the front deck, poling from the front deck Arculo bumps the rear of the boat over the bar and stakes out right at the edge of the mangroves. He sits down on the poling platform and eats another cookie as the roar grows louder. Fred fidgeted nervously and sat with Melissa close to him on the edge of the front casting deck, quickly jumping up as the red, low to the water jet boat roars into the small lake not 50 yards from them and closing fast. It was throwing a roostertail of mud and water, and the screams of the wild stoned Indians aboard could be heard over the roar of its engine. Fred hugged his daughter to him and finally hit the bottom of the boat throwing himself protectively over her. Arculo sat still. The red jet roared down on them. Melissa swallowed her chewing gum. Arculo sat still. Billy's wild eyes came into Arculo's view as the speeding boat bore directly down on the staked flats boat. Then Billy's boat hit the mud ridge. The engine fell silent as the Indian was jerked back, and out of his seat pulling the kill switch. The boat was airborne. It sailed over Arculo and his boat and his huddled clients and landed with a loud 'whomp' in the top of the mangroves above them. There was no sign of where the boat passengers had landed, or indeed whether they were stranded in the boat slowly rocking and settling in the dense mangrove treetops. Arculo pulled up the pole and stopped to pick up a plastic bag from the water that had fallen from the boat above them. Fred rolled off his daughter and looked up. He saw, in his own silent awe, the hull of the speedboat stuck in the tops of the mangroves above them. He and Melissa lay on the bottom of the boat, slowly becoming aware they were uninjured, and finally sat up. Billy's wild ride that ended in the mangrove tops had spooked all the fishing places Arculo had intended to try. He cranked the motor and wound his way back and throttled up as they hit the main channel and he saw Old Jumpbuck and the sheriff's boat, blue and red lights turning, waiting at the dock. "They're looking for Billy", Jumpbuck said as he took the line and tied up the boat, looking at Arculo as he helped Fred Stanfield and his daughter from the boat. Fred babbles at Jumpbuck, Melissa dances in excitement. Arculo steps to the dock and walks up to Kiel Watson, the sheriff. Kiel nods and Arculo hands him the bag he had taken from the water. Kiel looks at it and punches a visible button. The GPS indicates with a flashing display the last position of the boat before it had risen to new heights. Arculo taps the display and turns away from Kiel. Then turns to the boat to unload his gear. Melissa imagines again that he had looked at her with a talking tender look. ********************************************************
Little Hat and Thunder Chicken


Danny C. Walls

"Iím plum wore out, Hat", the short thin man said. " I just donít know what I gonna do, them women is gonna be the death of me, mark my words Hat, them women is gonna kill me dead"

The tall plump man known as Little Hat, because constantly affixed to his head was a derby hat two sizes too small for him that he had found in the Paducah Kentucky bus station in 1962, said, " Listen to me TC you got to leave them women alone, just leaveíem be, they takes yer money, drinks yer whiskey and leaves you a broke up hulk of a man. I knowed a man oncet had two wives, now if that ainít one too many I donít know what is," he paused to spit tobacco juice over the porch rail where they sat in front of Uncle Toms Tavern, then wiped his mouth on the back of his faded plaid work shirt, " them women just wore him out, broke him all up is what they done, he done wasted away till he didnít hardly know hisself in the mirror. I tell you TC, women is pure bad luck, why I heard a fellow say oncet that if they didnít have," he glanced over his shoulder to see if anyone else was around, " if they didnít have a Ďyou-know-whatí, theyíd be a bounty on Ďem." He spit again over the rail and wiped his mouth on the other arm for symmetry.

TC, short for Thunder Chicken, an appellation the smaller man had carried for over half a century for reasons no one could actually remember, twisted in his rocking chair and put both feet on the rail. " Now, now Hat, they ainít that bad and you know it, you just still mad Ďbout that ex-wife of yourn. I known she done you bad, but you shouldnít outta talk thataway, you just shouldnít do it. Folks might think you donít like women. I like Ďem myself, " he smiled wistfully , " Lordy I do, I just need me a rest from them Iím a fooling with is all. Iím plum wore out, " he repeated, "trying to take care of them, if you catch my drift, " he said winking at Little Hat, he took a swig from the bottle of beer in his hand and set it down by the rocking chair leg.

Little Hat sighed, "Well, I guess yer right TC, I donít rightly reckon I hateíem, not all of Ďem leastways, just the one you know. I sorta hope she rots in hell though, " he added. He took the depleted chaw from his cheek and tossed it over the rail into the dirt road that passed in front of the tavern, then pulled a plug of Country Gentleman from his shirt pocket, a well worn Case knife from his jeans and cut off a fresh chaw and put it in his mouth. When he had it properly worked up and positioned in his cheek he said, " How many of Ďem are there this time TC? For a short skinny runt you sure do seem to git around, " he chuckled.

" Well, " said TC, "thereís Merlene up to the Slop N Stop, I see her mebbe 2-3 times a week, Lordy is she a healthy woman. Then thereís Allie May works up to the dollar store, it ainít no secret how she got to be a widder two times over, she like to kilt me the last time I was up to her place, I see her 2-3 time a week and ," Little Hat interrupted, " Jesus H. Christ boy, no wonder yer wore out, you got to rest yerself, you got to get aholt of yerself."

" I do, Ďbout 2-3 time a week", TC chortled slapping his thigh in glee.

"Iím serious TC you gotta take a rest," said he big man waggling a finger in TCís direction.

" I guess yer right Hat, I need to get away from them women fer a spell. What say you and me go fishin fer a few days, we could go up to old man Ferlowís place and ketch us some trout fish in his crick.

"By jingos TC that is the first sensible thing you said all day, lets do it. Why Iíll even learn you to do some of that fly fishin."

"Fly fishin," TC said looking skeptical, " whereíd you learn to fly fish Hat, you been drownin minners and worms as long as Iíve knowed you, nigh onto 35 year I reckon. Just when did you get to be a big shot fly fisherman?"

Little Hat lifted the ever present but decidedly seedy derby and mopped his bald head with a meaty hand, " Well TC, you recomember when, last August or maybe it was September, well sometime Ďbout there, my ,cursed-be-her-name-ex-wife-to-be, wanted to go down home to visit her old mama and I had to carry her down in Dubís old ford truck, you know, the one with the fence post for a front bumper, well, " he paused and spit clear to the center of the road, nearly hitting a skink scouting for insects, " her cousin Jimmy Earl, you member him, the one went to prison for stealing them pigs, he was there too. He had a jug of shine and when we went out side to ease the pain a little," Thunder Chicken interrupted ,"What pain Hat, you ainít been sick a day in yer life."

"The pain of having to be in the same room with cursed-be-her-name and her mama, thatís what pain TC. Believe me true TC, you donít know what pain is till youíve had to sit at the supper table with them two. Why that woman is older'n Methuselahís mama and meanerín a two-headed snake and her daughter takes after her perfect. Well, anyways me and Jimmy Earl was sippin on that shine, durn good stuff too, come from old man Stoger, I hold that old man Stoger makes the best shine in 5 counties, why I mind the time he,"

"Whoa there Hat you done slipped the traces, get back to Jimmy Earl," interrupted TC.

"Oh, yeah , well seems Jimmy Earl had been doing some handyman work for the widder Terwilliger up to her place and he said he wasnít gonna be able to do it no more on account of he had to leave town sudden like, " " Probably more pig problems, " TC said helpfully.

"Well anyway he said I should go up to see her and see if I could take his place.", little Hat paused to spit and mop his brow again. " So thatís what I done, and I been handymanin for her ever since, when she needs some roses planted or some paintin or stuff like that.", he spit again successfully hitting the skink finally. "The last time I was up to her place she had me movin furniture all over that place, its a durn big pace too, lots a rooms, and stairs, Lordy that place has got stairs just to get to the stairs. I mind the time I was moving furniture fer my old mama, God rest her soul, and," " Hat, yer driftní again", said TC looking sternly at him.

"Oh, yeah, well I swan, that woman has got more furniture than the Sears and Roebuck and she musta had me move ever piece of it twicet. We was in the room old man Terwilliger usta call his study and the old lady started showin me all a his fishin stuff. Seems he got the fly fishin bug not long afore he passed on and he bought all this here fly fishin gear, he had fly poles and reels and flys and a whole bunch of other stuff. And all of it pert near brand new cause he passed pretty soon after he got all this stuff, Miz Terwilliger thinks it was this fly fishin what kilt him, he was comin home from a fishin trip when his car run into a tree, kilt him right on the spot. So anyways she ast me if I would like to have that fly fishin stuff, she didnít want it in the house no more, and I said yesíum I would so I got it now.", after so long a speech he spit a giant stream into the road and took a pull on the beer bottle in his hand.

TC looked at him disgustedly and said, "Sweet baby Jesus, Hat, how in the world do you manage to chaw and drink beer at the same time, it ainít natural I tell you, it just ainít."

Ignoring the barb, Little Hat said, "Tell you what, meet me at the feed store at 6 oíclock in the mornin and weíll go to the crick, and Iíll learn you to fly fish."

"OK, Hat, Iíll be there," TC said smiling to himself.

The next morning Thunder Chicken was in front of the Southern States feed store armed with his fishing accouterments, minnow bucket, two K-Mart spinning rods with Zebco reels, a cricket box with two dozen crickets he caught before breakfast, a 5 gallon plastic bucket which served as tackle box, fish carrier and lunch pail, and a lawn chair. Hearing a distinct clattering sound emanating from the dirt road, TC turned to see an ancient Ford truck with a black locust fence post for a front bumper coming toward him.

"Hop in TC,," Little Hat said as the truck halted with asthmatic coughing and sputtering, " Dub said I could borry the truck sos we donít have to walk."

"Why thankee, I believe I will," TC said and opened the door, but came to a sudden halt when he saw Little Hat, " what in tarnation are you wearin Hat, you look like a giant sausage. By gum if youíd a just told me we had to dress up to go fly fishin Iíd a wore my Sunday-go-to-meetin shirt."

Sartorially resplendent before him in piscatorial garb sat Little Hat, in neoprene waders, teal vest and an assortment of flys stuck into his derby, "Shut yer mouth and git in the truck", the truck amazingly took off with little complaint, but much smoke from the rear. "This here stuff is all fly fishin stuff, this here is a fly fishin vest to carry all the flys and reels and sech as you might need."

"Looks like somethin one of them fancy-boys might wear," TC said with a grin.

" Well, " Little Hat said looking down at the vest with a frown, " I ainít rightly partial to the color myself, but Miz Terwilliger said you had to wear it if you was to fly fish proper. And these here is called neopreme waders, they is for walkin in the water, but I got to tell you TC a feller would have to stay in the water all day if he wears these things cause they sure is a mite warmish." He wiped the sweat off his brow with a faded bandana and continued, "She give me the old manís hat too but I didnít take to it, it was too big", meaning it fit perfectly, " I just took them flys off of it and put Ďem on my hat. I ainít rightly sure why you got to have flys on yer hat to fly fish, but he done it so I guess you gotta."

" Now how long have you been doing this fly fishin stuff Hat, I donít think I ever seen you do it afore."

Little Hat adopted a sheepish grin and said, " Well, I guess you could say I ainít rightly been atall before, I guess you could say this here would be my first time."

"If you ainít done it afore, just how the heck do you Ďspect to learn me to do it?", asked TC incredulously.

"Cause I read the book, smarty pants, thatís why."

"What book you talkin about, I ainít never seen you read no book."

Little Hat reached under the truck seat and pulled out a paperback book and handed it to TC, "This book TC, it tells how to do it, it donít seem so hard to me. Everthin is in there too, how to cast the fly pole and when to use certain ones of them flys and lots more."

TC stared at the cover and began to thumb through the book, "íFly Fishing for Dummiesí, well leastways she give you the right book", he said grinning , "she knowed who she was dealin with".

"That donít mean nothing TC, its just a gimmick to sell more books, Miz Terwilliger says theys a whole bunch of books on different subjects with that Ďfor dummiesí in the name."

"Great, then thereís hope you yet Hat, mebbe you should getíem all."

"Just give me the book back, I done read it ainít no need fer you to, Iíll learn you , it donít look hard atall. Heck even a old dog like you can learn a new trick if you just stick with me".

The old truck wheezed and clattered to a stop next to a beautiful small mountain stream. The water was swift , clear and home to both brown and rainbow trout that the locals usually fished for with live bait. This particular section passed through the farm of Cecil Ferlow and had not often been fished and never by a fly fisherman. The two old friends got out of the car and began to collect their respective fishing gear. "TC, I got me a little problem.", said Little Hat, " I got to pee and these here waders ainít got no zipper."

"Well mebbie next time youíll wait till you get to the water to put them things on, sounds like you missed a page in that book donít it?", laughed TC as he got his tackle bucket and chair from the truck and walked toward the water. He sat his lawn chair in the shade of a sycamore tree and began to rig his line. He tied on a size 4 crappie hook, a couple of split shot for weight and baited the hook with two fat crickets. He cast the rig into the water up stream and sat down in the chair as the crickets drifted downstream to a deep hole in the slack water where it hung in the slight current and danced enticingly for the hungry fish. "Lordy, Lordy, Hat you a goin fishin or a picnicin?" TC asked. Little Hat, having relieved himself finally, was approaching the water, added to his vest and waders was a wooden landing net hanging from a belt around his waders a willow creel carried by a shoulder strap and a fly rod of 9 feet in length, TC continued, "have you got the book with you just in case you ferget somethin?"

Looking insulted Little Hat replied, "I done read that book, I donít need it. It donít look too hard, and fer yer information this ainít no picnic basket , itís fer holding the fish you catch and I reckon on fillin it up".

"What kinda fly are you gonn tie on? Got any that looks like a nightcrawler?", TC chuckled.

"Hesh up TC, I done got me a fly tied on here and Iím about to catch me a bigíun", he said and he gingerly stepped into the stream. He carefully waded out a few feet and began to saw the fly rod through the air attempting to feed line out with no visible success." Dang it!" he swore as he dunked the reel under water reaching for the fly dangling just out of his reach at the tip top. Finally he grabbed the fly and stripped off several feet of fly line. "Now weíre cooking with gas", he said as he began to flail the rod through the air again. The fly was slapping the water on both the front and back casts, TC piped up," You amin on catchin fish in front of you or behind you Hat? "

"Hesh up you, Iím just gettin the rhythm, OUCH , GALDANGIT!", he yelled as he picked the fly out of his ear, "Keep yer mouth shut TC", he said preemptively, "it werenít nothin." He began casting again, only to hook a small tree on the backcast near where TC sat.

"Hat, I believe youíll have better luck fishin in the water, why I ainít hardly ever caught nothin outta that tree afore", he giggled.

"Hesh up! I said, and get that dadblamed fly out of that tree for me!", he said turning slightly red. When the fly was retrieved from the tree he began to attempt to cast again, in very short order he had several feet of fly line wrapped around his neck. "Donít you say nothin, donít you say a dadblasted thing," he said to his guffawing friend. "I just ainít used to no pole this long, Iíll whip it in a minute." While attempting to free himself from the line around his neck, he inadvertently took a step forward and immediately fell down.

"Iím glad to see them neopremes is keepin you dry Hat", TC cackled. "When you gonna learn me to do that?"

Fuming Little Hat picked himself up and unwrapped the line from himself. Ignoring his friend he once again began to wave the rod through the air, only to hook the same tree again. "BLAST THAT TREE TO PERDITION!", he screamed, "keep your smart mouth shut and get that fly outta that tree!"

"Want me to cut that sucker down fer you Hat, it ainít read that book and donít know its supposed to leave that fly alone", he offered helpfully.

"Never you mind, Iíll just move up stream a mite and get outta its reach", he had taken only a few steps when a rock rolled under his foot and he went down again, only quick reflexes kept him from losing his derby as it attempted to float off down stream. Spitting water he quickly righted himself and glanced at his friend who was doubled up in his lawn chair biting his lip trying not to laugh out loud. Little Hat, pretending all was right with the world, faced up stream and once again began to cast, on the third back cast he hooked a rock, when he turned around and jerked on the line the fly came loose and shot by his head causing him to duck suddenly to avoid a fly in the face. When he turned back upstream he saw the fly hopelessly tangled in a tree 15 feet off the ground. He didnít bother to look at TC, he just began tugging on the line, but the fly was firmly held. He pulled harder and harder, bending the rod into a tight 'u' shape over his head. Suddenly there was a gunshot loud crack as the tip section of the rod exploded, the instant release of the pressure pulling against him cause him to fall backward into the water. "DASH BLAST THE GOSH DANG BLANKETY HECK!", he screamed rising from the water broken rod in hand. "DANG THIS FLY FISHIN TO HELL, and donít you say nothing, you just keep your mouth tight shut!", he spluttered as he stomped out of the creek. It was a useless admonition because his best friend, Thunder Chicken , was prostrate on the ground having laughed so hard he turned his chair over .

"Iím takin this stuff back to the widder Terwilliger, I know what kilt her husband now. It werenít no accident!, " he yelled, "he done it hisself, he run into that tree on purpose!"

TC, having righted his chair, watched his still fuming friend drive off in the smoking truck and said to himself, "Well, I reckon he wonít be readin no more books fer a spell."


The morning sun shone brightly on the horizon as he rowed the boat into the cove on the still waters so prevalent at dawn. He guided the craft silently into position and then ever so gently lowered the anchor. Breathing deeply, the spring air was fresh with the smell of blossoming dogwoods and the dampness of the surrounding pine forest. The man reached over and picked up the 5 weight rod, and like a maestro conducting an orchestra, he began to write a medley in the air with rod and line. A foam spider drifted feather like towards the surface of the lake and softly kissed the water and abruptly its landing was greeted by a hungry bluegill sipping it in. He set the hook and the fish attempted to dart towards cover, but was over come by the rod and soon it was resting in the palm of the man's hand. "That's how it's done!" he said, "Do you want to try it?" "Okay," she replied. He gave her the rod and she attempted to imitate him lifting it upwards and then bringing it down with a force that drove the rod tip into the surface of the water and slammed the forearm against the gunwale of the boat. The foam spider was the last to encounter the lake, the area now devoid of fish as the message signaled from the intruding tip sent the gills towards the safety of the bottom and the weeds. He chuckled under his breath so as not to hurt her feelings. "Here, can I help you?" He knelt behind her and cupped her hands in his and together they brought the rod upright and began again to move the rod back and forth, gliding the line through the air and gently landing the foam upon the water. After a few minutes, the shy little bluegills returned to their nesting sites and began to charge the surface to remove the alien from their territory only to become captives and eventually released. After every few casts he would ease his grip upon her until his hands barely grazed her skin, and then suddenly the moment of truth, his hands were at his side and she became the maestro. The rod rose on high, the orchestra of line was about to commence the concerto and the performance was played out into a final crescendo of the foam spider effortlessly touching the surface with no distrubance. The lake exploded, the spider disappeared, the rod bowed in a deep arc and she struggled to hold on. "Do you want me to help you?" he questioned. "I can do it," she retorted stubbornly. She held on tightly letting the power of the rod bring the fish to submission at the side of the boat. He reached over and lifted the 12 inch bass aboard. The sun was high in the sky now and he suggested they stop for lunch. He reached down and opened the basket and placed a cloth across the center seat in the boat and fixed the plates for them. He watched as she ate and reveled in the expression on her face. Her eyes were filled with mischief, joy and expectation. She looked at him and said, "I like fishing, can we do it some more?" His heart felt like it was about to burst and a tear came to his eye. With loving action he had delivered a gospel more powerful than the words of any evangelist and made another convert to his religion of the rod. He knew today would be burned into the pages of their minds to be read, reread and savored forever. "I love you grandpa," she said. Copyright 1998 Copyright protected by: 1 grumpy old man 1 grumpier junkyard dog 1 straight shooting 44 mag. ************************************************
Secret Creek by Bob Wiegers
Ahhh, a creek tumbling thru Pisgah, gurgling, speaking, laughing, caressing mossy boulders scrubbing granite gravel. A creek ducking under deadfalls dancing below the laurel hiding among hardwoods high above surreal topiary. A creek to shelter darting trout and given sanctuary among bears. A creek to draw you closer to God. Bob Wiegers 1998 FF@Fiction Contest Entry Copyright (c) 1998. *********************************************************
To The Honey River Turn Out by Richard Frank
Coffee steam, paper cup, filters up past amber, green, radio beams. Heater pumping over Waylon pumping too, Just To Satisfy You. In a breaking light, last night, dropped cream, velvet, thigh-high stockings. But, baby, we weren't talking. we were only longing for a honey river dream. River runs behind some moon. some rock, some tune - not far from here, but far enough away to lose these blues For a moment, then, Loveless sings, You Don't Seem To Miss Me. Ha, stings. On I drive, I drive on, still missing you. Honey River's here. It's here. Rod tubes clanging hard, clear and hollow - echo loss to cry about - seems that I hear Patsy singing Sweet Dreams at the Honey River turn out. **************************************************

Fly Fisher's Will by Dwyne Patrick
Now when ere I'm laid to rest, Let me wear again my fishing vest. It's patches and worn cloth, Stained and scratched, but loving soft. And in it's many pockets let only lie, My favorite box and one best fly. The rest of them, I declaim, Give to those who stopped and came, To see me off this mortal coil. Standing firm on God's own soil. While I so ever gently be, Sent sailing down my stream to sea. Set for me my eternal place, Lain round to save my every grace, Don't cast my ashes in waters pure, Or lock my flesh with stones so sure, Within my ship, my own canoe, Set me sail to see it through. Cast me then as I have cast, No thought for future or for past. I'll play my lie upon the stream As fits the end or starts the dream. This journey last is turn about, Now I am bait and food for trout. *************************************************
The Saga of FF @ by Dave Bonkovich
ĎTwas a Saturday morn and the season was ending. The fishing year flopped, there was no use pretending. My neoprenes hung by the chimney with care, Reversed and inverted from recent repair. My family still snuggled all warm in their beds While I envisioned salmonids finning their redds. So I loaded the car and donned cap and fleece And drove the river for comfort and peace. I parked on the bank and stared through the haze, Remembering dozens of long, fishless days. A splash broke the morning with hopeful surprise - Then dozens more mirrored that tattletale rise. The fish were all feeding with reckless disdain, Dimpling each slick in the river like rain. So the gods and the fates and the fortunes all smiled, Atoning a season begrudged and beguiled. I hastily readied and strode to the stream, Selected a pattern and entered the dream. Though skeptic at first, soon my confidence grew As a fish rushed the fly on cast number two. And thus it began on that pinnacle day As strike after strike after strike came my way. First ten fish, then twenty, then thirty, then more! Somewhere near sixty I stopped keeping score. Then all of a sudden the river bank clattered, The solace dissolved, my solitude shattered. For whom to my bewildered eyes did appear But Murphy and Drew hauling cases of beer. A knot gripped my throat, my chest became hollow, Knowing the army which surely would follow. A dreaded, unthinkable flash caught my eyes, Parading like lemmings up over the rise. First Kreutzer and Watson, then Petti and Perry, A tall one named Ross, a short one named Jerry. Came Eppinger, Whitman, and Smithers (that coot), Freaner and Tucker and Barron to boot! Perkinson, Church, Schudlich and Frank, Woolacott, Miller, Werner and Henk. Hector and Thompson, Martin and Clower, Tefft, Dell, and Fry with Steve Stillabower. Then Baglo and Kell Kim - all invading my haven. Lamborne and Manno, DiCerbo and Clover, Ann and Gregoire; when would it be over? With Bonney and more they stood at attention, So many to count, too many to mention. I silently quipped through their ranting and waving "There ought to be laws Ďgainst this Damn Yankee Claving!" And once all assembled a sole figure came. They honored his presence by chanting his name. He grinned upon hearing their excited calls, The Fishmaster General, Listmaster Walls! He spoke not a word as he slid off his back A heavy and somewhat irregular pack. He removed an aluminum tube with his hand And issued a stern and compelling command: "All hush and pass out these rods given to us, of M-5 performance bequeathed by Dave Lewis. Now Weilenmann, Burns, Blumreich, and Hiner, Put down your cane rods, M-5 is much finer! Hurry now, hurry, thereís no time to stall, So string them up faster - and cast away all!" And when the mundane distribution had ended The hoard turned and down to the river descended. "The morning is lost, what more could they ruin?" I muttered as Les dipped the first wading shoe in. Now knowing the season was finished at last, I lifted the rod for one final cast. The line gathered speed and let out a whistle And distantly shot the fly out like a missile. The fly softly lit an ephemeral pose, And all gasped in awe Ö.. when the massive form rose. My destiny flashed in that split-second pause When the fly disappeared in those giant white jaws. A flick of the wrist drove the barbless point home, And the water erupted in fury and foam. I prayed half aloud "Oh tippet donít break" As a huge speckled dorsal knifed through the wake. A porpoising surge in the downstream direction Bowed modulus carbon to utmost deflection. The battle continued with zigs and then zags While I stumbled on rocks and wove through the snags. I pondered what peril could add to my plight When over the hill danced Rainmaker Knight. I watched gray thunderheads materialize As flashes of lightning arced through the skies. The r ugh to the core While the audience laughed in their Supplex and Gore. Ignoring the river, the weather, and crowd I coached myself throughout the skirmish aloud. But minute by minute the beast came to tire, If not by my skill then by luck and desire. And then when the moment was finally ready I led the fish into a backwater eddy. And thus did the river relinquish her loss, Beached on a cushion of emerald moss. The mob gathered Ďround with half-dollar eyes, And all took turns guessing the weight and the size. 20 pounds? No more - 25 in a pinch! Harry Steeves eyed his tape at the 39th inch. A feeling of wholeness encompassed me when I pictured the mount on the wall of my den. But keeping the prize was sure desecration In front of a throng who preached liberation. So one flick of its tail sent it back to the deep, And my trophy was left for the river to keep. In unison everyone let out a cheer, A truly fine climax to salvage the year. And there as I knelt I took time to seize Upon visions of friends and lifeís fond memories. Then I grinned ear to ear as it dove out of sight With eight smaller ones creeled - for dinner that night!