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  #111 (permalink)  
Old 08-01-2013, 03:12 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

If one was to sit beside me at the tying desk and start delving into the personal journals of "The Streamside Life & Times of Montgomery Jackson," one would quickly realize how astute and observant the man truly was of his surroundings at any given moment. Make no mistake about it... The late Montgomery Jackson WAS one heckuva fly fisherman, among the best I've ever shared a river with! And, he also was the best kind of lifelong friend imaginable...

Today, as I drew near to the bottom of box #2 of the late "Montgomery Jackson" boxes sent my way, I re-discovered bits and pieces of another part of the man as well-- his love of a good upland bird covert, come the first week of October, and his journaling of such. He loved his trout and the beauty of their favorite haunts, but he also thoroughly enjoyed following a good bird dog when the river valley colored red and orange, and the woodcock migration was on. To him, the smell of a good tobacco properly packed into a small "vest" pipe was best savored in the October air.

After reading a few pages of the two leather journals held together by a nice piece of belted strapping, I found myself wishing for another gunning season of my own behind an English setter who once owned my heart. "Shadows" embodied the will to win out over abuse early on in her life, and a fluid and athletic grace and style in her work afield. Plainly put, she was the best bird dog to ever lay claim to me.

So, come the second week or so of the October yet to be, I'm making plans for a "reunion tour," of sorts. I've started contacting the aging membership of the "A&A Brotherhood of the Spent Shell" for a few days of the infamous "Cast and Blast" outings, all launching from the confines of "Trail's End." We'll do it up right, with morning hunts, afternoons of fly-wrangling, and cool twilights on the front porch at "Trail's End" before retiring to spots near the woodstove or the fireplace. The place will pulse with life again, much the same as it did during the last season we all shared in its comforts with the best host imaginable-- the late Montgomery Jackson. He'll be a tough act to follow...

Oh, the "A&A" part of the name? The initials stand for "Alders & Aspens," two of those unique places favored by our dogs and their birds then and now, and coverts known to a small group of guys who all will pay due respect before the first hunt, and remember fondly the man who brought us to that most special of places-- the small cabin known as "Trail's End..."
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  #112 (permalink)  
Old 08-04-2013, 06:18 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Though Sunday has long been acknowledged as a "day of rest," today will be anything but lacking in workload. With the temperatures forecast for the upper 60's to low 70's, family and a few friends will gather at "Trail's End" early this afternoon to finish up some of the "ready for Fall" chores that are in need of doing, in order to make the small cabin fully prepared for the months that lie ahead.

Collectively, the chores will be split up to play on each participant's strengths. One "fishing cronie" is a wizard with engines and the like, and he'll give the old power-generating unit its final "once-over" before topping off the fuel tank and running it for a short while, just to make sure it will fire up when needed. Once finished with that, he'll turn his attention to the old tractor, going over it from "stem to stern" before taking it down the two-track and using it to haul the last trailer-load of fire wood back to the cabin.

At that point, stacking wood will become a group exercise. We'll lay in a face cord or two along the back wall of the front porch within easy reach of the door, top off the wood box inside the cabin, and then stack and fill the spaces left in the wood shed. After re-checking the window caulking and general integrity of the place, we all will sit and watch the sun settle behind the western treelines.

And, as the last of the trucks leave, me and mine will settle in for a night at "Trail's End." The lights will be lit, and I'll put match to paper and let the fireplace roar to life, taking the chill off the cabin's interior and adding even more illumination to the old place. Dinner will be something of a "meat and potato" kind of thing, since my own cooking skills fall far short of anything more than that.

It will be good to be back for more than just an afternoon of "sweat equity" or an hour or two of twilight enjoyment. And, as the shadows grow long, I will resist my urge to read any further in the journals and do a little more "cubby-hole" exploration before no doubt dosing off in front of the fire. Who knows? Among the late Montgomery Jackson's "nooks and crannies," I may come across new discoveries, and find my "tomorrow thoughts" again pondering the fact that "I Met Myself-- Again --Last Night..."
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  #113 (permalink)  
Old 08-06-2013, 05:07 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

As the twilight hours of Sunday evening gave way to the coming of nightfall, the temperatures dropped accordingly, taking on that certain sort of "Fall" coolness that makes a man glad to have a sweatshirt or sweater nearby. It had been a productive day, and it showed in almost every corner of the small cabin property known as "Trail's End." Firewood was stacked and wood boxes had been filled, final "summer" chores were now put to rest, and there again were the sight and sounds of life inside the old place.

With the darkness settling over the river's horseshoe bend below, I left the front porch for the friendlier confines of the cabin's interior, intent on putting a match to the stack of split oak that rested on the grate inside the stone fireplace, just to take the chill off. As the fire roared to life, the move was greeted with enthusiasm by The Speaker of the House and our youngest daughter, Jesse. Apparently, the "gentler" members of this family don't share my enthusiasm for cool night air, preferring instead inside temperatures that do not require "layering" for warmth. So it goes...

As it has long been at "Trail's End," I planted myself on the old leather couch in front of the fire. There is something magical about losing oneself in the warmth and flickering flames of a good fire, much the same as there is a soft glow to be found in the light of an oil lamp or an old gas-light. They all offer illumination by pushing back the shadows... but only to a point. Beyond the rings of light remain mysteries that only are discovered by moving said lantern or ramping up the gas feed to the lights.

The girls retired early in the evening, opting for the aging "feather-beds" rather than the over-stuffed leather couch and leaving me to my "trip of recall" through the many times that I had been so positioned on the couch, and squarely placed in front of a fire. And, though I'd promised myself a little "exploration" time, the eye-lids grew heavy as the wear-and-tear of the wood-stacking duties started catching up with me.

I awoke in the very same spot, early Monday morning. The fire had nearly burned itself out, and the chill again was taking over. Pushing aging bones back into a vertical position and acknowledging the fact that I had soreness in spots that I never realized could be "sore," I began extinguishing lamps and buttoning things up while the girls finished loading the few things into the "Fish Truck." The fires out and the front door secured, we eased along the two-track leading out, then hit the main road for home.

And, as I drove, I thanked the powers that be for the old cabin. As the late Montgomery Jackson was fond of saying, "Everybody needs a place of retreat like "Trail's End..." Amen to that, old friend... Amen to that...
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Last edited by hairwing530; 08-07-2013 at 05:09 AM.
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  #114 (permalink)  
Old 08-10-2013, 05:38 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

The pages of the journal made little sound as I finished the chapter in question and closed the covers of the book. Written at his old roll-top desk during one of his last Fall evenings spent visiting "Trail's End," it was both typical Montgomery Jackson in its scrolling, artistic hand-wrought penmanship, and non-typical in the depth of heartbreak and sorrow that the words would elicit from any reader, but especially yours truly. The writings could only be described as a form of gut-wrenching, soul-baring brutal honesty in his last days.

The chapter-- the first of the four remaining in this last personal journal --portrayed a man rich in friends, yet deeply lonely in his final hours. Long estranged from his only son by his son's own doing, it was clear that the late Montgomery Jackson held to deep regrets about not being able to overcome that one hurdle in his lifetime. Having known the man for 50+ years, his son was the true loser in that scenario.

The rest of his work in that chapter was intensely personal and more down-trodden than any side of the late Montgomery Jackson I'd ever known, and I won't betray his trust in me by airing his laundry, so to speak. Given our long friendship, it just wouldn't sit right with me. Suffice to say, his words gave me pause for quite awhile last night...

As I write this short addition to "I Met Myself Last Night," I realize that every man needs some company when he's standing on the rail tracks of life and facing down the last oncoming train. That said, if you know of a friend standing astride the rails or just in need of company, please take the time to visit or just to let them know that they're not facing that last train alone. The really good friends will always make sure that you're pushed clear of the wreckage, even in the final moments. After all, the late Montgomery Jackson did so for me...
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  #115 (permalink)  
Old 08-11-2013, 05:08 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

The tool box felt light in the hand and carried easily by comparison to the usual collection of massive "catch-all" old-style Kennedy tool caches, the likes of which normally inhabit the back of the "Fish Truck." As I come from a long line of "tinkerers, fixers, builders and craftsmen"-- the jury's still out on me being able to lay claim to wearing some of those hats --I tend to be something of a "projects" guy. Show me almost anything that others claim is beyond all "help"-- spelled repair --and I'll gladly step up to the plate. Just ask The Speaker of the House about my ever-increasing stockpile of fixables...

And, as mentioned, I come by this trait naturally. I grew up around men whose hands were skilled and their attitudes heavily tilted in the direction of the fine art of "reclaim and restore." Having come through the difficult periods of our history like the Great Depression, they had a deep and firm understanding and appreciation of the longevity of something made well, and how to extend said years of service. Their talents taught me a whole new meaning to the phrase "shelf-life."

So, in keeping with that tradition, I spent a few hours yesterday replacing parts on the old gas lights and a few of the aging oil lamps that reside at "Trail's End." Gas orifices were changed out or cleaned, and some of the oil lamps now boast a new wick here and there that should last quite awhile. And, when I was finished and the "test runs" of the repairs had been verified, I again found the same sense of satisfaction that I believe was once part and parcel of the men who steered me to this point in life.

As I closed the tool box and got ready to leave, the changing of the sun's position in accordance with the last month of summer illuminated a small corner of the cabin, shining a light on a bagged collection of old sporting catalogs, some reaching back nearly 55 years. Today, I will read through the group, seeking even more insight into things as they once were, and striking a comparison or two to the very same things as they are today-- if they still exist at all. Once finished, I hope to come away from the hours spent in "research" with a better understanding overall, and the courage to finish up the last few chapters of the personal journals of the late Montgomery Jackson. What I'll find remains to be seen on all fronts...
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  #116 (permalink)  
Old 08-14-2013, 06:35 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

After a "Fall-like" day in the north country yesterday-- we split a lot of wood --I finally shut down the splitter, tarped the old tractor and eased into evening with the front porch now darkened some by a growing stack of firewood for the coming winter. The ever-changing make-up on our enclosed front porch drives the cat to the point of distraction!

With the dinner hour long past, I sat down with the late Montgomery Jackson's personal journals and picked up where I'd left off, curious to see what the following pages would bring. And, now I'm glad that I did...

Following the last "dark" chapter, I wondered-- OK, feared --what the pages would hold. I shouldn't have been surprised by the fact that the writings perked up in both mood and content. Between the lines, I picked up hints of resolution of his pending fate, but also a strong air of hope and expectation for those who would follow in his footsteps. It gave rise to my own aspirations for the years ahead, and it was all because the man's thoughts and wishes had been vintage Montgomery Jackson in every way...

Who's to say how we all will react when we know our own fates have been sealed? No one can predict what their reactions will be, nor can we ever truly prepare ourselves for that moment in time. Still, I can tell you this... From what I've long known of the late Montgomery Jackson, he faced fate with uncommon courage and dignity, and carried to his grave an unyielding love and devotion to those who were closest to him.

To the end of my days, I will be forever thankful that I was one of the chosen few...
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  #117 (permalink)  
Old 08-15-2013, 06:40 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

The small key sat wrapped in an ultra-thin piece of the same paper used in the old Mustad boxes to prevent rust and preserve the hooks. It had been placed between the mid-pages of the chapter that comprises my current reading of the personal journals of the late Montgomery Jackson. Beneath it sat one small piece of paper that simply read "Have you found the hidden doors yet?" Under my breath, I'll admit to uttering something that I can't repeat here...

Like my grandfather and his "challenges" via the occasional puzzle, the late Montgomery Jackson held true to form in that regard. Just when the target of said "challenges"-- me --gets comfortable with things as he perceives them to be, the proverbial "wrench" is thrown into the works, and another quest to find the answer begins again. And, if you were to ask for an honest observation, I'd have to admit that I'm enjoying such puzzles more now than ever before.

To understand the whole "hidden door" aspect, one would have to be familiar with the interior makings of a northern Michigan cabin of vintage age. Back in the day-- and even now --tongue-and-groove cedar was a favorite wall covering, as it tends to lend a certain warmth and beauty to the walls, especially when stained and sealed properly. And, if the builder was good with a fine-bladed saw, the doors to any array of cabinets, closets and "nooks" easily could be cut in and fit in such a way that it would avoid easy detection. Obviously, it has escaped notice by yours truly during the recent months.

So, come the end of the front-porch "firewood duties" around here, the two-track leading back to "Trail's End" will again play host to the tires of the ol' "Fish Truck," and the "scavenger hunt" of sorts will be back in play once more. What "discoveries" still remain is anybody's guess. For now, however, I'm just going to relax and enjoy trying to solve another one of the late Montgomery Jackson's never-ending "puzzles" of the best kind...
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  #118 (permalink)  
Old 08-16-2013, 07:23 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

When a man-- me --reflects on 50+ years spent astream and afield, he comes to realize that the lifelong adventures are really a compilation of "good days," "better days," and grandest of them all... "best days." The closing chapter to the personal journals of the late Montgomery Jackson lent credence to this fact.

Written as my elderly friend was approaching his final "curtain call" on this earth, he again stated for the record a belief that we'd both long shared in our respective and collective lives-- There are NO bad days on the river, or in the coverts of October! Truer words have never been spoken, nor written down as a reminder of how blessed we all are to be fly-wranglers, bird-hunters, or just fanciers of the Great Outdoors. A river valley in full October color is, indeed, an outdoor, open-air cathedral without equal...

Last Fall, before the passing of the late Montgomery Jackson, we enjoyed what he had deemed as one of those "best days," a grand afternoon spent just floating countless miles of the AuSable River system in a vintage AuSable riverboat. The colors were full-on along the riverbanks, and the fly rods never left their cases. Instead, we passed the hours swapping "fish tales" and pointing out the sights and sounds that changed around every bend in the river. On that day, we were privy to everything from a virtual palette of Nature's finest color array to black bear, whitetails and every form of migrating fowl imaginable. And, in the "jacket-weather" of that day, one couldn't have asked for more.

Reflecting upon that one particular day and the relentless bantering back and forth, the fact really hits home that some of our "best days" astream can be, and often are, those that involve precious little fishing at all...
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  #119 (permalink)  
Old 08-18-2013, 03:36 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

An old editor/friend of mine from years ago once asked me to sum up in two words exactly what it was that I was seeking whenever I was astream or afield. After a moment or two of thought, I answered... Connected tranquility..." A little explanation and further definition might be in order...

I broke down my choice of descriptions in this way: I head outdoors to forever be connected to those who introduced me to the sports of fly fishing and upland bird hunting, the men who impacted my life in the best of ways. Almost all of my best memories revolve around hours spent in like-minded and often older company who taught by example, and gifted me with an appreciation for the greatest outdoor pleasures imaginable.

As for the tranquility aspect of the description? I've long sought the woods and waters for the simple "cleansing properties" of the outdoors. No matter your burdens or the weight you carry, a day spent wandering a new stretch of river or an undiscovered stretch of upland coverts can make it all seem bearable. At least, to my way of thinking...

This morning, the "tranquility" of my thrice-weekly regular visits to "Trail's End" was shattered by the harsh realities of greed and disdain. As I was checking in on the old cabin, two men arrived in a car that came to a halt behind the ol' "Fish Truck." One was a complete stranger. The other? The man I recognized to be Montgomery Jackson II, the "son"-- and I use that term only from a purely biological standpoint --of the late Montgomery Jackson, and a constant source of heartache for the latter for many years. To say that the "son" shunned the father would be greatly understating the split between the two men, even in the late Montgomery Jackson's final years.

They had come to "Trail's End" to evaluate the old cabin's "sale potential" and to gain access to the interior for possible "resale items," with bolt cutters, if necessary. They left without learning either one, instead throwing down the gauntlet of a lawsuit, a variety of threats, and a wealth of "colorful" language. Me? I locked the gate and double-chained it before making the drive back home and finding myself almost feeling sorry for the delusional (insert your own expletive here...)

Had I written this a few hours ago, my "intensity" might have been more fire and anger than anything else. At this point in the day, however, after having two of my lawyer-fishing cronies review the deed, will, et al, my gut churns more with disgust and loathing for so unfeeling a man. He cared little in life for one of the finest men I've yet to know, and now he seeks to profit from his death? How sad and small a man Montgomery Jackson II turned out to be.

Tonight, I will continue my mentoring of another Montgomery Jackson-- this one being Montgomery Jackson III. Fortunately, he is every bit his late grandfather's grandson, and one of my greatest hopes for the generations and years to come, both astream and afield...
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Old 08-21-2013, 06:03 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

As quickly as the storm clouds of "greed" and "entitlement" gathered, they now have blown themselves out. A gathering of two lawyers-- one a relative "youngster" by comparison to his "seasoned" opponent --before a judge of long-standing confirmed what I already knew-- the will of the late Montgomery Jackson and its many directives stands as written. It is, as they say, "beyond contestation." Montgomery Jackson II will not profit from his father's death, no matter the annoying volume of his protests. Not now... not ever. As the judge pointed out in his reading, Montgomery Jackson II is entitled to nothing...

When one gives it a little thought, the word "will" is something of a two-edged sword in its meanings, all connected by an steely thread of pre-determinations. The legal definition of the paperwork is an authored and court-approved document that leaves little doubt as to the last wishes of the man or woman in question-- the late Montgomery Jackson, in this instance.

Still, said document also defines the will of my late friend, his own self-defined course setting in life-- the sheer "will power" to gather and build his holdings from virtually nothing, live life by his own terms, and consequently, met the fates in the only way that he knew how-- his way! And, I greatly respect him for that sort of inner strength, and his trust in me to do right by his memory. And, that is a responsibility I will never take lightly...

It has been said that "to really get to know a man, all you need to do is spend an hour or two across the table from him during a hand of poker..." The late Montgomery Jackson loved a good card game-- any kind of card game --and was infamous among his friends for having an outstanding "poker face," a love of good cigars, fine scotch, and grand bird dogs, fly rods and time outdoors, though the order of importance might vary from season to season. One thing was a constant, however, and that was his understanding and recognition of placing "a solid wager" on those he often called "the best of people." Given his "bet" on me, you'll see me "doubling down" on my efforts in the years to come, to make sure that the "will" of the late Montgomery Jackson comes to be, and that the "winnings" known as "Trail's End" will be properly passed along when my own time is done...
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