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  #11 (permalink)  
Old 03-13-2013, 07:02 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

If, in your journeys, you were to happen upon me during one of my "solo" trips astream, you would no doubt think me alone, just a solitary figure whose waders were responsible for the momentary splitting of the currents in their downstream flow. And, while I'll admit that my presence streamside does alter the pre-determined course of the river a bit, to see me as "alone" would be to take things only at face value.

You see, I'm one of those fly fishermen who stubbornly refuses to give up his "heavyweight" fly vest in exchange for the lighter, more compact and less cumbersome chest or waist packs. A multi-pocketed vest just suits me, as I tend to be more of a "pack rat" rather than a minimalist whenever I'm astream. Call it an unwillingness to conform, "old school" and the like, if you will. But, the plain truth of the matter is that I like "stuff" in my vest pockets, about 12-16 pounds of things I'll probably never use, but carry them with me, just the same.

Most were then and remain today the "toys" of fly fishing that intrigued me by design, or cause me to believe that they'd all one day come in handy. Still, of my 28 or so pockets, there are a few that are special far beyond the mere measure of their contents. They are a choice group of "carry collections" of my past, both distant and recent, and reminders of those who still fish beside me, if only in the spirit of this fly-man's heart. With them there, I never fish "alone..."

It's often said that the late Lee Wulff invented the fly vest years ago. I wonder if Mr. Wulff knew then on that day, as I know it now, how truly important to us all that those vest of memories would come to be. I like to think he did...
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Last edited by hairwing530; 03-14-2013 at 06:19 AM.
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Old 03-15-2013, 08:29 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

At 5:30 this morning, I finished the last few pages of Journal I, and fully intended to take Journal II down from the shelf when I happened to glance over at the last letter from the late Montgomery Jackson, which now is fixed to the back-board inner workings of my old tying roll-top desk. The words "slow read" hauled back on the reins a bit-- my urge to always see what lies around the next bend --and I returned Journal I to its rightful place, and left the remaining volumes for another evening's read.

The return to the tying desk brought to mind the three unopened boxes of "fishing stuff," as Montgomery had labeled them. The stacked trio have remained closed for the simple reason that to open them will bring with it the heartfelt finality of Mr. Jackson's passing. At that early hour, I wasn't ready to open the flood-gates to that much emotion.

So, later today, I will square up my shoulders and "suck it up," so to speak, and cut the tape of the first of the boxes. Only the Good Lord and Montgomery Jackson know what I'll find inside...

You'll be the second to know...
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Last edited by hairwing530; 03-16-2013 at 07:11 AM.
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Old 03-16-2013, 07:30 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Ever have one of those moments when you realized that something was so close to you that it escaped notice? You know, the old "had it been a snake, it would have bitten you" moments? Ever have one that lasted nearly 50 years? I did, and it came to my attention last night.

I opened the first of Montgomery Jackson's boxes last night, and there sat an artist's sketch pad, one of those long folio-style books sitting squarely on top. It only took a few pages for me to understand that the late Montgomery Jackson-- he wasn't a fan of the "Mr." moniker --had a passion that revolved around his/our outdoor pursuits, and a talent about which I had NO clue-- pen-and-ink and pencil sketchings. His renderings are impressive, and I've only starting looking through the book.

I guess that I shouldn't be surprised. His hand-writing was always more artistic than most, with long sweeping script-style letters and that certain flow to it reminiscent of an artist's touch. He called it "the old way of hand-writing." I call it something worthy of framing. The problem is... I couldn't bring myself to tear a page from his books...

I'm beginning to understand more each day that Montgomery Jackson just didn't leave me his "stuff." He left me a legacy...
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Last edited by hairwing530; 05-27-2013 at 03:47 PM.
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Old 03-19-2013, 07:05 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Yesterday, in the wee hours of the morning, I finished looking through the sketch book of one Montgomery Jackson and closed the cover duly impressed. It was/is obvious that his "artistry" with a fly rod complemented his artistic abilities with pen/pencil and paper. The sketches now are being perused by my girls.

The yawning depths of Box #1 again got my immediate attention. The next item most readily grabbed was an old leather tri-fold fly wallet with a strap & buckle closure and obvious age to it. In all our years together astream, I'd never seen the late Montgomery Jackson carry such an item, as he tended to favor the smaller 6-compartment Wheatley boxes. It also was somewhat thin for fly wallets that are traditionally lined with fleece. Another mystery of sorts in this well-packed and planned-out delving into the life of a now-departed best friend.

Its contents set me back on my heels a bit, and it's taken me the better part of a day to let it all sink in. Within the wallet was a set of old-style "skeleton" keys, a pairing I immediately recognized as belonging to the locks on Montgomery's small riverside cabin. It boasts a sign next to the front door that bears its name-- "Trail's End."

And, beneath the keys sat a set of folded documents that I never saw coming... the notarized clear deed and title to the cabin and its assignment to me, all signed in the months prior to his death. Today, I put the "Fish Truck" into 4-wd. and head out for a little "exploration" of sorts. What I'll find at the old cabin remains to be seen...
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Old 03-19-2013, 11:02 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night. Sorry couldn't resist, the title makes me think of that song.
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Old 03-19-2013, 04:34 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

After my day of drift-busting my way back to Montgomery's old cabin, I had intended to make this entry something of an update of what I found. For now, that will have to wait. Two phone messages waiting for my return have altered my personal landscape a bit.

Come this Friday morning, I will speak at the funeral of a former tying student of mine from the 2010 class, one of "my kids" battling cancer. She lost her battle last night, succumbing to the disease just after making it to her 16th birthday.

On Saturday, I'll again take my place as a speaker at the funeral of one of my current students. Like me, she'd been locked in a war with brain cancer. Where we differ most is that I've survived three separate bouts, and she lost her life to the cancerous tumor this morning at the age of 12.

It never gets easier, and some of my closest friends continue to wonder why I put myself in this position. To be honest with you, I really don't know, other than the fact that the classes have helped a lot of kids who've taken on more challenges in their short lives than most will ever know. Or, it could be the fact that I understand their trials and tribulations better than some, and that Debbi and I lost our youngest to leukemia in 2010.

One of my fishing buddies compares my teaching these classes to being in a veritable knife fight. You know that you're going to get hurt... You just don't know how deep the cuts will be... Maybe so... maybe so...

Be well, my friends, and hug your kids tonight like there's no tomorrow, because for some, there really is no tomorrow...
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Old 03-19-2013, 09:10 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

I am enjoying the reading of this thread very much, very exciting to wonder what's coming next.

So sorry for the loss of your mentor, and now the two youngsters who's lives you've been fortunate enough to have a positive influence.

The coming season of fishing looks to be a time of much more reflection into your past.
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Old 03-20-2013, 06:30 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

fysh,

You're right about the fishing season ahead. Like other seasons in my past, it will carry with it no short supply of moments remembered, small slivers of time that stand as tribute to those no longer with me. And, I will carry them all whenever I set foot in the AuSable River.

Loss is an inevitable thing as one nears the six-decade mark, a birthday that I was once told wasn't in my future. Now, over 15 years later, I realize what a roller-coaster ride that longevity of life can be-- highs one minute, and lows the next. I believe that enduring the changes only helps in both our own personal growth, and in strengthening our resolve to live our lives just a little better each day.

I sat down at the computer this morning to collect my thoughts and put them to paper for the upcoming funerals. As I started to write, it hit me that those who will be assembled for the services don't want a speech. What they want-- and need, at this point --are the simple observations of a man who had the privilege of sharing some tying time with a couple of really great kids. So, I intend to deliver my words "off the cuff," so to speak, and from the heart.

As for Montgomery Jackson and our years together? Come the day before the traditional "Opener," I will enjoy a wee dram as I watch the sun drop below the treeline from a vantage point on the South Branch of the AuSable River known as "The Chapel." The late George Mason left a huge stretch of land known as "The Mason Tract" to the state of Michigan years ago, a guaranteed access point for all anglers who wanted to fish the South Branch. He also left enough money to erect "The Chapel" on the banks of the river, a great place for a weary angler to rest and reflect. For as long as I can remember, every trout season opened in this fashion. 2013 will carry on that tradition...
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Old 03-22-2013, 06:09 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

For all who've sent e-mails or posted, I promise you a trip to "Trail's End" on Sunday. Over the next two days, however, I have speaking "engagements" that will no doubt prove difficult, at best... Jerry, aka hairwing530
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Old 03-24-2013, 12:51 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

The two-track trail leading back to the small cabin known as "Trail's End" was a narrow ribbon of challenging travel, one that was a combination of deep slush and muddy quagmires, and all of which threaten to put a suction hold on the tires of my Fish Truck. Since the birth of the old Chevy Tahoe, I doubt that the 4-wheel drive unit had spent that much time in the "Low" range of 4x4.

Powering out of the last mud bog, I rounded the bend and broke into the clearing that the little cabin calls home. At last on solid ground, I turned off the truck and just sat, carefully going over every exterior detail of the place that I could see from the driver's seat.

The winter hadn't been kind to the old place. The western corner of the porch roof sagged at an awkward angle, the obvious victim of the year's heavy snows and the fact that a 10-foot length of pine branch with a 6-inch diameter still rested atop the porch. Come Spring, it would be repair priority #1.

The "walk-about" that took me around the cabin only added to the upcoming Spring chores. Torn screens and a few shingles ripped from the roof by the winter's high winds would need replacing, as would a few of the forest green cedar-shake siding pieces that had broken loose since the last days I'd spent any time here. The work would be a great bit of therapy for yours truly, and a chance to resurrect a skill set that hasn't been tapped in a few years.

To its credit, one of the "out-buildings" still stood strong-- Montgomery's infamous "bath with a path," otherwise known in the venacular of my youth as the out-house! The late Montgomery Jackson laughingly referred to it as a "two-holer," in that there were two spots for... uh... meditation and taking care of business, so to speak. To this day, I don't ever recall both "thrones" being occupied at the same time!

The heavy lock on the front door did its level best to impede any progress into the cabin, fighting all attempts to move its inner workings via the old skeleton keys before yielding only after liberal doses of WD-40. The rush of air from inside as the door swung open had that heavy stagnant sort of smell to it that belied the fact that there'd been little visitation in recent months. Once properly aired out, the place again took on the odor of pipe smoke, gun oil and yes, even a wet dog or two.

With some curtains thrown back for light, I was amazed at how neatly arranged the cabin's interior now was, what with stacks of gear and boxes here and there, and all properly labeled. Beneath the ghostly light of the old Coleman lantern, the dust hanging heavy of almost everything was obvious. And, given the care that had been taken in placing the interior's contents just so, it also was plain to see that the late Montgomery Jackson had done so in his own way of arranging his final affairs. Meticulous to the end...

The sorting, cleaning and repair work would have to wait until a week or two before the Opener. And, as I turned to leave, I came upon an old black-and-white photo of the late Montgomery Jackson and a much younger version of me. I thought of taking it down and bringing it home with me, but then thought better of it. By leaving it in its place within "Trail's End," the two of us still fish together, and still sit in old chairs on the front porch, watching the river's currents travel through the horseshoe bend just in front of the place. It's a memory that needs to hold, if only for a little longer...

Jerry, aka hairwing530
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