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  #131 (permalink)  
Old 09-06-2013, 06:10 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

She has a vertical rise of roughly 60 inches, and if you look closely enough, you can detect the blonde stubble that sticks out from the back of her ever-present baseball cap. She's one of those kids who's fascinated with anything that resides outdoors, and when something new is discovered, she sports a smile that is guaranteed to melt the hardest of hearts. She also carries a cancerous and inoperable tumor that will end her short life within the next 14-16 months...

It's taken more than three days for me to work up the courage to be able to put these thoughts together without fear of a few tears welling up to cloud my vision. Emily has been a student of the annual tying classes and one of "my kids" for the last three years, and come this Fall, she again will take a place at the tying table. And, I will fail miserably in my attempts to treat her in a similar manner as I do the rest of "my kids" when the classes kick off later this year.

It was Emily who told me of her diagnosis, an hour or so after she, her parents and her two siblings stopped by the house earlier this week. As we stood on the small riverside dock, she delivered the results of her latest hospital visit in a small but steady voice, one that seldom carried with it any traces of fear, regret or indecision. Her's was the attitude of acceptance of the prognosis, and a decided dedication to make the most of the time that she has left in this world.

So, in a couple of months, me and mine-- and those who help out with the annual tying classes for "my kids" --will have the privilege of spending our Saturdays with Emily again. And, it will be an honor for us all, as the moments in which we are gifted with the presence of such true bravery, courage and unwaivering grace are rare, indeed. Strength of character has nothing to do with age or size. Emily is proof positive of that...
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  #132 (permalink)  
Old 09-08-2013, 07:16 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

With the passing of each day, I'm constantly reminded that a man's "wealth" can be measured in many different ways. Granted, there's the standard considerations of the mass holdings of bank accounts-- at least, as I recall, since mine tends to show much smaller numbers than I remember --or the car he drives, the house he owns, and on and on.

Beyond those common measurements, however, are the intangibles, those things in life that are beyond a price. Most often, they're worth far more than their weight in gold, and more precious than one can imagine.

A fine example of such can be found in the pair of "fishing cronies" who caught up with yours truly last night during an hour on the river. Called in as "moral support" by the Speaker of the House-- aka my wife, Debbi --they opened the conversation with some lame excuse about being "in the neighborhood," which might have been true, had they been named "Lewis and Clark." But, they're not, and so it was easy to surmise that they'd been sent by "she who worries..."

Instead, on the trek to discover my location, they hatched an idea, one that I now believe has real merit. This year's classes with "my kids" will differ a bit from years past. During the upcoming Fall and Winter, class will be held once a month at "Trail's End." One "cronie" will keep the two-track plowed and snow-free, and the other will get the fires started and the place readied for company on the Saturday morning in question.

And, it will be a special treat for all concerned, especially me. The classes will bring alive the cabin's interior, if only for a day each month. After all, I can think of no better place for the late Montgomery Jackson and my "elders" to watch over the class sessions than to hold them on occasion within the walls of the cabin known as "Trail's End..."
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  #133 (permalink)  
Old 09-14-2013, 08:20 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

The early morning air had "bite" to it, as my grandfather was fond of saying, that certain sort of coolness that brings with it thoughts of a Fall season just around the corner. With the seasoned barn coat turning back the chill, I swung the double-bladed axe for awhile before dropping down to the hatchet for some "kindling work." For once, I intended to be well ahead of the proverbial curve, in regards to the status of firewood at home and at "Trail's End."

I was well into my fifth or six log when my right arm went numb, the hatchet deflecting off the log and dropping to the ground from my now-numbed right hand. My first thought was to retrieve it, but the arm was "DOA." Panic soon followed confusion as I tried to get some kind of response-- any response --from the right side, but to no avail.

Still, luck was on my side. "Doc," my former chief oncologist, had chosen a little "manual labor" over chores around the house, and was only 10 feet from my side when the feeling left my right arm. Even at his age, he covered the ground quickly and helped me to my feet before pointing his truck toward Ann Arbor. His years as a physician foretold the cause of the numbness, and he knew the threat it posed to my overall health. Fortunately, he didn't tell me until well after the surgery was complete.

Earlier this week, the surgeons removed a blood clot from my right side, one no more than 9 or 10 inches from making its way into the area between my ears. Thankfully, I'm back home again, and planning a return for an "overnighter" at Trail's End, come this evening. And, no, I won't be swinging an axe or hatchet, as I'm not willing to risk my stitches.

I write this only to let you all know that I didn't forget a one of you, and that my absence was an unintentional sort of thing. I'm home, I'm doing OK, and with luck, I'll be running at full speed by the end of the weekend. Until then, my friend, take good care, and set a hook for me...

Jerry, aka hairwing530
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  #134 (permalink)  
Old 09-17-2013, 05:50 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

The old stone jug-style crock is fashioned more like a moonshine runner's jug than any other sort of "holding device." Sitting at full rest in the refrigerator, you'd think it more likely to be filled with pure southern "white lightning," especially given its overall appearance and obvious age. But, as they say, "the devil is in the details," and closer inspection of the stone-ware would lead one down a totally different path. Follow...

Said examination of the crock would give away the fine cut that allows for the removal of the top portion of it. My great-grandfather was a stone mason who specialized as a stone-cutter, and he "reworked" the heavy, thick-rimmed crock to do one thing and do it well-- preserve and keep one of his most precious holdings, and allow it to work itself up to its full potential. The crock's "cargo" was his traditional sour-dough starter, one used for bread and biscuits alike, and for the favorite of both he and his son-- sour-dough pancakes.

When my great-grandfather took his leave, the crock and its contents were passed on to my grandfather, and throughout my childhood, I grew up on twice-weekly batches of sour-dough pancakes, with biscuits for special occasions, and all made on a wood-fired cook-stove. The stone-wrought crock ultimately came to me when my grandfather lost his fight to cancer, and it has been with me since then.

To the best of my ability, I'd guess-timate the sour-dough to be at or very close to the century mark in its years. And, like a fine scotch or good wine, sour-dough starter only gets better with age. When mixed with flour, a bit of oil and a little water, its the full potential of its molecules really kick into high gear, the end result being some of the finest pancakes one can ever have. All of our girls were raised with an appreciation of sour-dough pancakes, breads and bisquits.

Me and mine spent a goodly share of this past weekend at "Trail's End," with the intent being more "curiousity chores" than actual work. And, on Sunday morning, tender right side and all, I fired up the old wood-fueled porcelain, cast iron and steel "kitchen beast"-- it came to "Trail's End" via the labors of no less than 9 men --and proceeded to make a batch of sour-dough pancakes, complete with the mandatory sausage, eggs for the girls and me, coupled with a side pot of coffee for Dear Old Dad. All cholesterol concerns were sent flying out the window...

As the breakfast dishes were being put away, I refreshed the contents of the crock, knowing that every good sour-dough starter needs to be refreshed from time to time, and making sure that it would be ready, come the next batch to be made. And, as the lid settled into place, there was a great satisfaction in knowing that a meal with my fore-fathers always was as close as the sour-dough mixture contained with the aged stone crock...
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  #135 (permalink)  
Old 09-22-2013, 06:04 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

In the gathering dusk of a Saturday evening trying to stave off the "bum rush" of a hard September frost, I rolled back time a bit and held an impromptu tying session with Emily, a veteran of my last three annual tying classes and a member of "my kids" in good standing. As is the way with our cabin/home next to the river, me and mine tend to be a "no invitation needed, and no reservation required" sort of place. The welcome mat is always out...

So, their arrival-- Emily and her folks, minus her siblings --was a welcome reprieve from the "Pre-Fall" chores to be done before winter sets in. And, for well over two hours, I watched more than I tied, fascinated by how adept Emily has become in her tying skills, and extremely proud of her obvious love for the art. Where I sometimes tie for productivity, Emily ties for precision and exacting and finessed results. And, as she tied, her movements and skill level brought to mind the memories of another young girl who battled cancer on her own terms-- our youngest daughter, Laramie, who died in 2010.

When her fatigue seemed to be growing more obvious, I ended our session with some lame excuse about me needing a break. In all, she had tied just over 30 of the best flies that I've seen in a very long time-- some traditional Catskill patterns and a few of my personal favorite parachutes. A fine collection, all, and a group that now sits no more than two feet from my hands.

With the usual "Travel well and drive safely" advice given, I stood on the front porch and watched the lights disappear as the car turned onto the main road. Only then did the Speaker of the House tell me the real reason behind their surprise visit-- Emily's cancer is worsening more quickly than originally diagnosed, and her time has been shortened to a year or less. No one-- father, mother, teacher and the like --ever handles such news without the eyes welling up a bit. In that regard, I differ little from anyone else...

Come the tag end of October, Emily will start her fourth term as one of "my kids." And, though she doesn't know it yet, she will sit in the chair that once belonged to Laramie, and tie on Laramie's old Dyna-King vise. As my continuing to teach the classes for "my kids" was one of Laramie's last wishes, I can think of no better way to honor Laramie's memory than to "loan" her vise to a kindred spirit. Knowing my former "tying benchmate" and youngest daughter as I did, I truly believe that she would whole-heartedly approve...
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Last edited by hairwing530; 09-23-2013 at 04:40 AM.
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  #136 (permalink)  
Old 09-25-2013, 12:15 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

I took a "wander" around the property that surrounds the cabin known as "Trail's End" this morning-- "wander" defined by my elders as a way of "seeing some country," if you will. It was one of those walks with no particular destination in mind, and one boasting the flexability to follow any trail or path encountered. With the temps hovering in the upper 30's and the early-morning air carrying the dampness of cooling river mist, the old barn coat's flannel-blanket lining felt good as it warded off the heavy chill, as did the well-worn deerskin gloves.

For the first time in quite awhile, I was alone during my "wander," as it was purely a "spur of the moment" sort of decision, and the neighbor's dog was otherwise occupied. I hoped that the "elixir" to be found in further exploration of the old place would be just the ticket for clearing a mind-- and heart --burdened by a few of life's more unpleasant and oft times harsh realities.

As usual, I parked near the fire pit in front of "Trail's End," leaving the Fish Truck to watch over the place and knowing that I would hear its horn summon, should unexpected company arrive at the cabin. Once saddled with the rig known as "the catch-all"-- an upland hunter's shoulder/shooter's bag even older than yours truly --and its load of pipe tobacco, coffee thermos and the like, I headed off on a course that would skirt the river's edge and find me pushing through a vast array of cover.

From creek-bottom alder runs to transitional groves of hillside aspen and firs, I was privy to it all-- deer crashing through the brush ahead of me, and woodcock and ruffed grouse flushing only a few feet from where I walked. After a couple of hours of "wandering," I found myself in an area that I hadn't visited in years, yet one that was familiar if only because of its proximity to the river.

And, that's when I discovered something that had escaped my notice for years-- an old-fashioned "cut into the hillside" boat stash. Its entrance is framed out with a short porch-like roof and it boasts a doorway with a heavy-board homemade door. Inside, rested a canoe that hadn't seen the light of days in years, one that will need a fair amount of restoration before it will be "river-ready" once more.

So, come the off-hours this winter, I will begin work on the canoe's restoration, hoping that the refurbishment will occupy both the hands and the mind while giving me a goal to shoot for-- the re-launch of the canoe, come Spring, 2014. And, I will make sure that I find some manner in which to preserve the two initials carved into the wooden trim on the finely-weaved rear seat-- MJ. It seems that the late Montgomery Jackson fully intended to live on as the ultimate "gift that keeps on giving..." So he has...
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  #137 (permalink)  
Old 09-29-2013, 05:39 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

As darkness settled in around our little place last night, I sat at the tying desk and contemplated the next fly(flies) to be tied, then decided against it. Instead, fresh off another chapter of the late Montgomery Jackson's journaling of my life and times-- the recent pages addressed a time just after my father's passing --I pushed things aside and brought out the old "wishbone-style" net that still needs repair to its left limb.

It's supposed to be finished in time for this year's tying classes with "my kids," as an open-ended WISH-boned "symbol of hope." In years past, every class has had its own unique piece of symbolism, be it a special fly, an aged vest and the like, all of which have long been focal points of sorts that has proven to be as special as the classes themselves. This year was to be the "wishbone" net made whole again. And, it will be, only not in the planned-on "showroom condition..."

Instead, it will remain in its somewhat rough-hewn state, with its broken left "wing" taped in place and a ceremonial bandage adherred over the tape. Why the tape and band-aid array? Two reasons, really. The first is to make it solid enough to hold the "wishes" of every single one of "my kids" in the upcoming class, that they may ultimately be made well again with the help of the Man Upstairs and a core group of phenomenal specialists who labor each day to save lives affected by cancer-- young and old.

And, the reason for the bandage? It is there to remind yours truly of the fact that the classes conducted by our small group-- me and mine, and our friends --may be viewed by some as only a temporary "band-aid" to the larger health challenges faced by "my kids." But, even if it is, it's a bandage that I will continue to apply until health and fate deem otherwise...

May the "wishbone net" forever reign supreme...
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Last edited by hairwing530; 10-06-2013 at 06:42 AM.
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  #138 (permalink)  
Old 10-07-2013, 06:21 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

As I read the opening lines to the latest chapter in the late Montgomery Jackson's journals of my life, it sounded vaguely familiar, as if I'd seen it somewhere before. The page began... "Heroes are everyday people who go out of their way to do something for others every day..." It took me about 37 seconds to realize that a small sign with that exact same wording once hung next to the front door of "Trail's End," a reminder, if you will, of the late Montgomery Jackson's attitude toward his fellow man, and his philosophy on life in general.

My intent had been to continue reading well into the next chapter until I arrived at the pages where phrases like "standing tall in the face of adversity," "doing for others..." and "You have grit and backbone to spare, Lad" prefaced the ending comments about my having been one of the late Montgomery Jackson's heroes. It all was written during the battle with brain tumor #2 and my five years of being blind.

So, why my discomfort with such praise from a now-departed dear friend? Much of it has to do with who I am, and how I was raised. I dont' fancy myself as anything more than a man who learned early on to "pay it forward," be it pre-cancer blood donations-- nearly 6 gallons because of the rare type --or the annual classes for "my kids." And, that's how I've chosen to take on life as it is.

Have I had "heroes" in my lifetime? You bet... My grandfather, "Doc" Holship and the aforementioned Montgomery Jackson were "heroes" to a growing boy, as were literary "heroes" such as Dana Lamb, Gene Hill, Sparse Grey Hackle, Corey Ford and the like.

As life moved on and I've grown older, I still consider those mentioned above as "heroes," along with my oncologists over the years, and two young girls who've inspired in their wake-- our late daughter, Laramie, who died in 2010, and the youngster known as Emily, who's now facing down her own mortality on her terms and living what remains of her short life. That takes a lot of heart, my friends...

So, I ask you all this one question... Who has inspired you in your life, and who were/are your heroes?
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  #139 (permalink)  
Old 10-14-2013, 06:14 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Recently, a gathering of fishing cronies at "Trail's End" inspired a conversation about wisdom-- what it is, how it's defined, etc. Each of the men gathered contributed his own interpretation of what "true wisdom" really is before opening the floor to what proved to be rather "adult-like" discussions. When this group gets together, such cordial exchanges are rarely the norm.

And, for once in my life, I listened far more than I spoke, taking in their thoughts and tucking them away for later on. To a man, their own thoughts on wisdom all had merit. This weekend, however, I saw wisdom liberally salted by a collection of men who'd earned the right to lead by example, with few words needed or exchanged.

On Saturday, "Trail's End" hosted the first "Cast & Blast" following the passing of the late Montgomery Jackson. And, I filled in as host, guide and general "jack-of-all-trades" for the occasion. It was a small group-- 7 men, to be exact --but it was one of those days for the record books.

In the morning, a couple of old setters took advantage of the low-hanging scenting conditions and put the "gunning" gentlemen into a few birds-- ruffed grouse, mostly, with only a handful of woodcock seen. Come the "after-lunch" naps for a few, I led the remainder on a river trek, where the trout were more than cooperative. And, as I watched the day's events unfold, I was privy to healthy doses of wisdom at every turn.

It's been a common assertion that Wisdom comes with age... and I believe that with all my heart. Still, "sage wisdom" is that which has been seasoned by age AND experience. It's a "blend," if you will, that we should be hoarding for later on, as men such as those with whom I spent my Saturday will never pass this way again...
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  #140 (permalink)  
Old 10-20-2013, 02:53 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

My grandfather and the late Montgomery Jackson shared a certain "something" that went well beyond the constant "hanging around" of an inquisitive and much younger "me"-- sharp minds that saw "potential" in things some discarded as "trash." From well-worn harness straps to almost everything else that once had been useful-- dulled knives grayed by years of neglect, axe heads bearing surface rust and obvious lack of care, and on and one --both men were of the "repair, restore, re-purpose" generations who threw very little away. And, yes, both of my elder mentors dearly loved their old "cigar boxes," due in part to their many uses after they were empty.

And, this "sharing" of their collective approach came from a succession of back-to-back generations with completely differing backgrounds. My grandfather was the "elder" to the late Montgomery Jackson, much the same as both men were to me. My grandfather graduated only from high school while Montgomery Jackson was college-educated. Yet, both men were extremely adept at working with their hands, and both were more at home in coveralls and farm attire than they were in their "Sunday Best" suit-and-tie clothing.

The two of them shared one other thing as well-- a love of barns. Big, raw-boned and rough-hewn structures capable of holding everything from an array of livestock to tractors, trucks and myriad possessions. I was reminded of this fact on my mud-throwing drive back into "Trail's End" today, the first "pure" Fall day in quite awhile-- sunny and low 50's, with just a hint of a northern breeze.

With the majority of the leaves now forming a wet carpet, the old barn at "Trail's End" stood out in all its unpainted glory. Built in the oldest traditions, its beams are long and thick in diameter, placed in such a fashion as to weather years to come. As such, it stands in tribute to a place, a time, and men who no longer exist.

As I took full advantage of the sunlight spilling through the windows, my "boy who still lives within the man" curiousity again reared its head and I spent a few hours poking around the barn's interior. The cache of "stuff" I found and secured for "repair, restoration or re-purposing" later on filled six of the old bushel-baskets found stacked in the barn-- and the back end of the "Fish Truck" as well. My wife merely rolled her eyes at my "collection," long used to my bringing home "stray stuff" whenever I'm left to my own devices, or I'm lucky enough to pay a visit to the confines of "Trail's End."

The "load" in the rear section of the ol' "Fish Truck" is soul-satisfying proof positive that there is always "treasure" to be found in the most unlikely of places-- a new stretch of river, an upland covert, or an old barn. All you have to do is to know where to look...
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