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  #121 (permalink)  
Old 08-24-2013, 05:32 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

In one of those "spur of the moment" sort of impulses, I decided to spend the night at "Trail's End" earlier this week-- me, the cat, a stack of letters and the next journal in the late Montgomery Jackson's epic work of detailing my life as seen through his eyes. With the gentler company of this household taking a couple of days for themselves before Jesse's return to school, I was left in the position of fending for myself, and said position soon found me standing on the porch at the old cabin.

The locking mechanism in the lock on the front entrance gave way in accordance to the wishes of the old-fashioned "skeleton-style" key, and it wasn't long before the wide, heavy wooden door swung wide and welcomed yours truly back into the fold known as "Trail's End." Measuring over 42 inches in width to accommodate easy access to the place, no matter the particular load-- furniture, wood, etc. --and properly cut and hinged to ease in its opening, the door itself is a fine example of hand-crafted workmanship, very much in keeping with the traditions held in esteem within the aging cabin.

It's amazing to me still how quickly the interior of the place takes on the "aura" of years past again, even after only a few days of being closed up. As I put a match to a small stack of oak in the fireplace, the sight of the first flickering flames brought with them a few of the memories and the "smells" of past years that had long ago permeated the log interior of the cabin. The place still is a reminder of fine tobacco, myriad dogs, and a time and place long past.

And, as I sat on the old couch in front of the fire, with nothing but an oil lamp for reading light and the cat off doing her usual "exploration" of the place, the finality of the judgment rendered earlier in the week hit home. The "threat" to "Trail's End" had been put to rest, and the last wishes of the late Montgomery Jackson had been verified beyond a shadow of a doubt. The issue was now closed to discussion.

With the satisfactory realization of closure, I went through the letters sent to the group that once called the cabin "home" in the late-summer and Fall months. Come the first colors of October 2013, "Trail's End" again will play host to the small lot of the "old gang" of members/friends of the late Montgomery Jackson. A few of us "young bucks" will guide them in their "north country" pursuits one last time, be it fly-fishing or upland bird hunting, and at their own pacing of the weekend's events.

And, at the onset of the evening hours of that weekend, I will be privy to the stories of the men who once shared this special place in much-younger forms. It will be a gathering for the books, as some used to say, one that will be locked away in my own memory banks for years to come.

Who knows? Perhaps, one of them will be able to help me solve the riddle of the little key and the hidden "nooks and crannies." That is, if I can wait that long... As the late Montgomery Jackson wrote in his journaling of yours truly, I've long been given to a big dose of curiousity about what lies around the next bend...
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Old 08-24-2013, 07:35 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Jerry,
I recently found this thread and have greatly enjoyed the story you have so graciously shared with us. Thank You!
Rich
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Old 08-24-2013, 11:26 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Rich,

I share my comings and goings to the old cabin of the late Montgomery Jackson-- and now me --because I choose to believe that everybody needs or should have a special place such as "Trail's End." It's as much a mindset as it is a log and cedar-shake, hand-wrought physical sort of place, one where traditions, ethics and a certain amount of due respect still rule as firm commitments that all are part and parcel of the overall approach to the outdoors by those who frequent the cabin. In essence, "Trail's End" represents an era still held in high regard by a few men that are like-minded souls.

Now, some might say that the philosophy that is "Trail's End" is out of step with today's world, an old-fashioned wooden cliche' that time has somehow passed by and left in its wake. Me? I'm of the opinion that runs counter to that point of view. The true strength and beauty of "Trail's End" lies in its ability to hold its ground in its beliefs in the best aspects of our shared time astream and afield. If a sense of respect and reverence for all that is ours whenever we venture outdoors is somehow now antiquated and out of date, consider me among the "antiques." To this day, I continue to "dance with who brung me," as they used to say, and I'm proud of that fact. And, "Trail's End" continues to remind me of my "sporting roots" with each and every visit.

So, let the nay-sayers take their best shots. Those who remain steadfast in their belief of what "Trail's End" truly stands for will always find a ready "stump for their rump" around the firepit, as the late Montgomery Jackson was fond of saying, and a welcome place on the front porch or at the dinner table whenever the trout and upland bird seasons come calling. Those, too, are "Trail's End" traditions that I fully intend to carry on...
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Old 08-25-2013, 06:57 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

It sits some 40 or 50 feet from the edge of a well-used gravel road leading to one of the many public landings on the AuSable River, yet the little path remains largely undiscovered by most, despite the impressions left by a fair number of boot-prints. Winding its way through the lowlands and uplands of the surrounding woods, it follows the ever-changing course of the river as it traces every switchback and horseshoe bend contained within the make-up of the river's own track of choice.

As a rule, the path is a Fall/Winter/Spring favorite of yours truly, particularly when I can make the walk at first or last light with a Coleman lantern in hand, and sharing the company of a four-legged companion-- these days, "house guests," mostly. Rest assured, another "permanent" canine addition is in the offing, just not quite yet.

This morning, I broke from my self-imposed Summer exile from the path, undertaking the "lanterned" walk just as the first light was starting to come on. The forecast for later today has the temperatures pushing 90 degrees, but the morning air was picture-perfect along the river's edge. And, with the company of the neighbor's dog at my side, I gave in to my "around the next bend" urges and pushed the walk a little farther than the norm. And, now, as I sit here comfortably back within the confines of home and hearth, it's become obvious that the "woods wandering" was just the elixir that I needed to kick off this Sunday morning.

If I was to cite one thing that I liked best about my occasional meanderings along the river's edge, it still would rest in the definition of one word-- "discovery." Though I'm intimately familiar with the twists and turns of the little path, it seldom fails to surprise in that it tends to offers up something new with each and every journey along its course. Tracks, both old and new, or previously unnoticed landscape contours and features predominate each journey and are duly acknowledged during the walks, all appreciated to a greater extent merely by the sight of them.

This morning's "river walk" again drove home a point of fact that I once was guilty of taking certain things for granted. Having been back among the "sighted" community for just over four years now, I occasionally suffer still from being a little lax about the gift of "sight," despite having to endure five years of tumor-induced blindness before the "miracle surgery" that restored my vision in late 2009. Rest assured, the walk this morning served to up the ante on my appreciation of life and its many gifts on all fronts. It blessed me with its usual wealth of discoveries, not the least of which being a reminder that our senses, especially sight, are precious gifts, indeed...
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Old 08-25-2013, 08:17 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Jerry: This has been very enjoyable reading, thanks for sharing this with the rest of us!

Larry
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Old 08-27-2013, 06:11 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

I watched a man die yesterday, a peaceful cessation of life as we know it and the passing of another good soul from this Earth. One of my closest friends for over 35 years, I stood with Mark's family as the tubes were removed and the EKG slowed, then stopped registering any sort of heart or lung activity. The attending physician made the official call on the time of death shortly thereafter.

The last two months have been difficult, to say the least. After his collapse when a main artery ruptured in his brain, the coma and life-support measures were immediate. It took just over a month for the specialists to determine brain death had occurred and that all that stood between Mark and him taking his leave was a group of machines operating quietly in the background. It would take his wife, Susan, almost as long to come to grips with Mark's condition and to make the ultimate decision-- for Mark, for her, and for all who'd known and loved the man. Having stood in that exact same place, I knew the crushing weight that was her's to bear.

So, how does one decide, or even advise a friend, on when it's time to let go? The truth of the matter is that such decisions aren't really made solely in the mind. They're as much a provenance of the heart as well. Once the mind realizes what is best and what is needed/wanted by the affected party, the heart then begins to deal with the pain of loss. And, in the days following such a decision, it's inevitable that the flood of emotions will vary greatly.

There is no wrong or right answer to the question of "When is it time to let go?" It's entirely up to the individual to truly know when it's the right thing to do. That said, as sure as the sun rises in the East, the heart-aching loss one day will eventually become tolerable. In such instances, it's often the best that we can hope for.

Come tomorrow, I will set afloat a small slab of initial"river wood" carrying a fly that I think Mark would have liked, as well as his initials roughly cut into the wood. And, with its release into the currents of the river, I will send him off to a better place in grand traditional fashion, from the banks at the bottom of the hill below "Trail's End."

You see, I'm of the opinion that the best time to let go of the pain is whenever you're ready. As for the memories? If the mind and heart are willing, hang onto them for all you're worth, as they're often all that remain to sustain us when the nights grow dark. Memories should be hoarded like the golden moments they are...
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Old 08-28-2013, 05:15 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

It is finished and "river ready." Just after 11 pm last night, I put the last touches to the floating memorial that will be released to the currents of the AuSable River later this morning, just as the rising sun tops the eastern treeline. And, for as long as I am able to see it clearly, I will watch its downstream journey until it disappears from view around the next bend in the river. In its release, the small piece of river-wood with its hookless fly mounted topside will carry with it a lingering final memory that I'll gladly add to my growing list of "remember when's..."

In tribute to my late friend, I tied and mounted a large lake streamer, as Mark was not given to stream wading, creek hunting, or tying on small dry flies. Instead, he preferred stripping line from the confines of his small Boston Whaler and a lakeside setting to my own preference for tree-lined river valleys and "short-arming" 20-foot casts along brush-choked "off the grid" tributaries teeming with smallish trout. Therein rested the true strength of our long friendship.

To some, it would have seemed a rather odd pairing, given our individual tastes in our fishing styles. Mark liked to pick clean the shelfs of myriad sporting goods stores while I preferred to tie my own flies, or on really rare occasions, build my own rod. I enjoyed getting my waders wet and explore a river, and he liked to slide the Whaler into the water and travel around a lake until the boat's electronics clearly stated "Fish Here!" Once such a destination was reached, we each took to our fishing in our own way-- me with a sinking 6-wt. line taking a streamer or nymph down deep, and Mark with his spinning gear and jigs/spinners.

Yet, despite the differing styles, the shared conversations always were non-stop, and seldom were the topics of said chats limited in their scope. From family and friends to our favorite college football teams, the chats easily filled in the moment that lingered between rods bending toward the water's surface. And, only on rare occasion, did the talks ever take on a serious tone-- most often, when Mark inquired about my health. He worried more than he let on, as any good friend will do.

So, within a few hours from now, I will say my final "Good-byes" to my longtime friend, wishing him well and God-speed, and knowing that he's joined a rather elite group of men in a place to which I aspire, though the jury's still out on that one. And, while I won't be there when his ashes are scattered some 10 or 12 states away on his family's old homestead, his friendship is a memory that will live on. It will reside alongside the likes of my grandfather, "Doc" Holship, my father, "my kids," and the late Montgomery Jackson, when a photo of the two of us in that Whaler joins the "Wall of Fame" at the little cabin known as "Trail's End..."
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  #128 (permalink)  
Old 08-30-2013, 05:12 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

The knee-high understory of ferns around "Trail's End" have yellowed early this year, one of the first signs in Michigan's north country that Fall's ultimate arrival rests just around the corner. The color transition was duly noted on my walk down to the river's edge yesterday, the purposes of which were to release the floating wood-and-fly memorial to my late friend, Mark, and to simply "remember..."

The currents at the horseshoe bend took control almost immediately, sending the small piece of river-wood gently out to mid-stream and starting its journey down-river to points unknown. And, as I watched it being carried off, I recalled something that the late Montgomery Jackson used to say on such occasions... "Living long is both a blessing and a curse-- you're blessed with the addition of years, but cursed with the passings of so many friends..."

His words carry with them a great deal of truth. In my own approach to life, I've battled hard to "stay vertical," and in return, I've been fortunate to have had more time with family and friends, and more chances to fish this or that river, and re-acquaint myself with myriad coverts of ruffed grouse or woodcock. Those hours in and of themselves truly have been blessings, indeed.

Yet, there has been something of a cost, in terms of personal losses. Our "collection" of daughters has been halved by the premature passings of two of our girls, and because my friends have long been a rare mixed lot of young, old and similar ages to my own, their roster has grown much smaller with my own increased longevity among the living.

Given what I know now, would I alter the course of my own history if I could? I might tweak it a bit, but change it completely? I don't know... The ebb and flow of life has taught me much along the way, and the knowledge and perspectives gained might be lost if things had played out differently. And, I would be much less than the man I am today...

Instead, I'm going to continue doing as the late Montgomery Jackson advised in one of his journals detailing his observations of yours truly-- "Live, my young friend... just live! Everything else will work itself out in the wash... Today begins yet another chapter to be written by my own hand...
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Old 09-02-2013, 02:34 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Change is an inevitable and inescapable facet to our lives, a sort of "the sun will rise in the East and settle into the Western horizon" point of fact that we all know or will come to know in our lifetimes, no matter our particular status or station in our daily existence. As the saying goes, "All things change..." And, to that, I would add... "They must, if they are to survive...

As a group who tends to spend its time living outdoors, I believe that we anglers and hunters tend to be more in touch with the omni-present " aspects of change." Every year, our lives turn with the changing of the seasons-- Winter to Spring, Spring to Summer, and then Summer into Fall before the eventual return to the cold months that started off our year outdoors.

2013 will go down in my own personal ledgers as a remarkable year of "change" that tipped the scales heavily to the "good side" of things. Thanks to the long-distance power of this forum, for example, I met a lot of good folks and made quite a few new friends who are of the "like-minded" variety. Even the man who berated his sons early on in the trout season has come to be seen as another "plus point" to the year as it has been to date...

Another occurence or two from the calendar of 2013 that will long be memorable was the anticipated delivery of the late Montgomery Jackson's "collection," via his grandson, the reading of his first 14 of 25 journals that chronicle his take on me and my life, and the life-altering gift of the keys/deed/title to the "castle of the outdoor kingdom" known as "Trail's End." It has proven well-suited to the task of keeping a man-- me -- firmly grounded, and with its "journaled roadmap," courtesy of the late Montgomery Jackson, has shown that the little cabin holds sway in its power also to keep me deeply in touch with my own sort of personal change some years ago.

Proof positive of life altering the flows in the currents of this one-time "Lad" to the late elder Jackson came from the first pages of Journal #15, the one that takes a look at the first months after my diagnosis of a brain tumor. I'd always thought myself the kind of guy who looked at life with that "glass half-full" sort of mentality. According to the writings of a longtime friend now gone, such an outlook was always there, just under the surface, but difficult to find during the early "dark days," as my first year or two of cancer have come to be known. Fortunately, as the late Montgomery Jackson went on to say, I regained my "balance" and allowed the glass to again become "half-full," but only after a few good swift kicks to my backside from those who cared, and those I proudly called family and friends...

Now, as I look back at the observations of the late Montgomery Jackson, I realize that his honesty only became that of the "fatherly" kind when he saw it was warranted, and that "change" for the better was necessary for me to survive as the kind of man he believed I'd always be. And, I can't thank him enough. These journals of observations borne of caring and concern, and this journey of "self-examination" through the eyes of another have helped to facilitate even more "change,"-- hopefully, for even better days ahead, and all spent within the walls of the small cabin known as "Trail's End." At "Trail's End, "change" loses its hold of inevitability, and all things often are possible...

Here's to the next 10 journals of the late Montgomery Jackson, no matter their content...
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Old 09-04-2013, 06:30 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

The parade of traffic coming up the two-track toward "Trail's End" was a short, but soul-satisfying array of vehicles, each following the other with great care as they manuevered their way through the small twists and turns with a certain air of familiarity. Make no mistake about it... They'd all been at "Trail's End" on myriad occasions.

The arrival of the group marked the first full gathering of the late Montgomery Jackson's "Trail's End Gang" since his funeral, and the first time that any of them had returned to the hilltop cabin next to the river in a very long time. To them, it was a place of memories, almost all of them good, and their return to said "remember when's" was a task that I'd chosen to undertake.

I was amazed at how much of the spry strides and obvious agile carriage still remained in the surviving members as they all departed from their trucks and cars. Most of them wore familiar faces while a couple of the men were new to me. Still, all were welcome, as it was as the late Montgomery Jackson would have wanted it.

After the mandatory "walk around the old place" inspection, re-introductions and a streamside visit for "old times sake," they settled around the table in a fashion that would best be described as an almost "pre-assigned" seating chart. Once seated, a few gestured accordingly, and it took but a second for me to realize that they all expected me to take the chair at the head of the table.

"Back in the day," said chair had been the place forever saved for the late Montgomery Jackson, one from which he watched over this group of "river-wading, woods-walking" collection of friends. Now, I was being asked to carry on in his stead. It was a moment of being approved by this lot that I won't soon forget.

The afternoon sped by in the blink of an eye. Stories were swapped almost non-stop, a drink or two were poured and consumed, and "Trail's End" soon took on that certain "air" about it that spoke volumes about good cigars, fine pipe tobaccos and a lot of "fish talk" and dog stories. As the youngest member of the gathering by a good 20 years, it was enjoyable, to say the least.

As quickly as it all began, the gathering soon started drawing to a close. Some men had a fair distance to travel, and I knew better than to argue with my own respect for my "elders." Before rising to leave, however, they all paused and said a silent prayer for those missing from their group-- a lot of three, if my counting was correct. After finishing, they made for the exits, but not before taking one last look around the cabin.

As is my way when it comes to visits to "Trail's End," I lingered awhile before making sure that the place was secured. Taking one last look around and re-checking things, the angle of the setting sun cast an odd shadow on what appeared as a ripple in the tongue-and-groove cedar wall between the kitchen and the living room.

It didn't take my hand long to detect one of the late Montgomery Jackson's patented "nooks and crannies" hidden squarely in plain sight and brilliantly disguised. The small key worked the lock that rested behind a removable knot in the wood, and I pushed on the door, as I knew my late friend's preferences for the old-fashioned "push-release" mechanisms.

The door swung open to reveal a sizeable cardboard box, one filled with empty wooden cigar boxes of mixed parentage, but all made by hand in countries far from here. Over the next few days, I will inspect them all more closely, as I've always been a soft-touch for things made by hand.

Do I believe that the discovered compartment is the last of the late Montgomery Jackson's "secret caches?" Not hardly! Knowing him as I did, the best may be yet to come...
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