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  #31 (permalink)  
Old 04-02-2013, 08:15 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Very nice Jerry.
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Old 04-04-2013, 04:48 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

During my "can't sleep" reading deep into the journals of one Montgomery Jackson last night-- I'm into Volume III --I was reminded of a saying and belief that he, "Doc" Holship and my grandfather commonly held, and that was Responsibility has its time and place...

Now, on the surface, one could take it to mean that the more you work during your so-called "earning years," the more "worry-free" the existence later on. Not so... By their definition, as spelled out in Montgomery's Journal III, it was more akin to "All work and no play..." theory, in that when you're at "Trail's End" or some similarly placed northern cabin on the river, you had a "responsibility" to spend your "time" in a good "place"-- aka on the stream. I'd forgotten those words of wisdom, until late last night...

So, I laced up the old "swampers"-- spelled 16-inch LL Bean boots with plenty of mileage on them--slipped into my grandfather's barn coat and a favorite ball cap, and pointed the "Fish Truck" toward "Trail's End." The day was blessed with a warm sun and a cool breeze, and it wasn't long before the Speaker of the House and I were making the turn onto the old two-track.

With the quickening of the spring thaw and the worsening of the "track," I stopped the "Fish Truck" about halfway there, and decided we would hike the rest of the way in. The weather was perfect for it, and I needed to feel the sun on my face.

We were greeted by the sight of about two face cords of split oak and maple piled near the front of "Trail's End," not far from where the lumber sat tarped and waiting for the Spring repairs. It struck me as curious, since the two-track carried no signs of egress back to the cabin.

We opened the place again, just to continue the "airing out" ritual, and the Speaker was amazed at the wall ornamentation, decor and the like. After well over three decades with yours truly, she's partial to the "lodge look," and she thought the place perfect for its former owner. It was then that I remembered that she'd never been back to the little place known as "Trail's End," as it was a "fish camp" of the purest order.

It was while she was opening a short set of drapes in the "rod room" that she noticed it hanging from a peg-- an old Filson Packer hat with a fair bit of dust on it. Taking it down, she noticed my initials inside the brim and brought it out into better light before handing it to me. Here, after I'd thought it lost for well over a decade, was my classic Filson hat, one similar to those favored by the three men cited earlier in this posting, and one that had shared no shortage of "river hours" with me. An old friend lost, now found again!

We closed the lock on the old place as the clouds started piling up, the Speaker taking one last look at the horseshoe bend and me grinning like a kid at Christmas with my old/new head gear. It was as we passed the random pile of firewood that I finally took note of it-- the clue. There, sitting squarely cradled between two oak logs was the short section of a cigar, well-chewed on one end. It sounded a familiar note from my last visit, and provided a little more mystery to the place.

No doubt, all will become clear in the season ahead. For now, however, it's enough that my old Filson Packer hat again hangs on the rack, just inside my office door. All good...

Jerry, aka hairwing530
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Last edited by hairwing530; 04-12-2013 at 06:09 AM.
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  #33 (permalink)  
Old 04-04-2013, 04:55 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Jerry: Another great story, it sure is entertaining to follow you along as you read through the journals and visit "Trails End".
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Old 04-07-2013, 07:51 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

With no tying class yesterday-- "my kids" voted to take a day off in tribute to their fallen friends --I caught up on correspondence, wrapped a few more bugs, and most importantly, spent an hour or two with one of Montgomery Jackson's many gifts to me-- the journals. In their reading, the closing pages of Journal III and the opening entries in Journal IV reminded me of an annual tradition that was started while I was still in the midst of my teens, one that had gotten a little lost this year because of the loss of two of "my kids," especially "Sam."

On the eve of every "Opening Day" since 1968, a small group of friends would gather at the river and set adrift a small chunk of AuSable driftwood carrying the favorite fly of the angler in whose memory we dedicated the floating honor. The hook points were cut off and the fly was firmly affixed to the top of the driftwood for the long journey downstream, just after the appropriate initials are knife-cut into the wood...

It began as our own sort of spin-off on an Oriental funeral tradition that Mongtomery Jackson had seen when he was overseas. The first fly set adrift was a #12 Adams, in remembering my grandfather. "Doc" Holship's Royal Coachman came next in the years that followed, before we added the late Lauren's Light Cahill and Laramie's Parachute Adams (like father, like daughter). Come the afternoon of April 26th-- rain, snow or whatever --the group will add Montgomery Jackson's take on a Griffith's Gnat and "Sam's" Little Black Caddis to the flotilla. It seemed fitting way back when, and even moreso today.

Some might think this tradition we hold to a bit "unique," in a strange sort of way. Maybe it is... but, certainly not to the group of family and friends who'll gather that day. Aside from carrying those now gone in our hearts, the flotilla just feels right...

Besides, I believe that more than just a few of us take a great deal of comfort in the tributes and the mysteries that will be carried downstream to any angler lucky enough to encounter the little "drift boats..."

I'm off to find a few pieces of "river wood" for drying before the day in question...

Jerry, aka hairwing530
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  #35 (permalink)  
Old 04-07-2013, 08:47 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Jerry: What a great idea to do theses flotillas with flies in a way to pay tribute to lost ones!
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Old 04-12-2013, 07:46 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Perfection... It's one of those mythical attributes that is beyond most of us mere mortals. And, in many ways, I find that to be a good thing, in that it keeps us working to be better at certain things throughout our time here--caring for our families and friendships, our angling pursuits, and just living our lives in the best ways possible. Last night, toward the tail end of Montgomery Jackson's Journal IV, I was reminded of my own "imperfections" and how far from my chosen "life path" I once wandered. The words also gave illumination to how little I knew about the rippling effects that my straying had nearly brought to bear...

When my grandfather died toward the end of my teens, I took an unintentional hiatus from all that once had been a huge part of my life-- fly fishing, fly-tying, and enjoying both with my elders. Just thinking about a day astream without him hurt like homemade sin! His death drove home the point that he would no longer be there to pull double-duty as mentor and companion to my own student and grandson role, and in that knowledge came a sort of tainting of any desires to be astream. His loss was an emotional "hay-maker" from which I would struggle to regain my footing.

Back then, I was naive enough to assume that I was alone in my despair. Little did I know that my decision to just up and quit all things "fly" and outdoors-related would bring with it a certain degree of fall-out, the bulk of which escaped my narrowed view of the world...

"Doc," for example, packed away his rods and tying gear, and hung his waders for the foreseeable future, his intentions being that of an end to his own days afield and astream. His best friend was gone, and it appeared that his death had literally ripped the angling heart from their "third wheel's" chest, that being me. "Doc's" stuff would lie in wait for the next three years.

But, it was Montgomery Jackson who took hardest my absentee status. After fishing alone for much of the next three years-- his son never understood the sport, viewing it as a waste of time --Montgomery made a mid-winter decision to sell off all of his gear and spend his days "just fussin' with projects at Trail's End." His collection quickly was snapped up by friends and associates of many years, and he, too, closed the door on his days in the river, feeling that they were over. I never really had a clue about the impact of my actions back then until late last night...

It was in May of 1976 that my young bride presented me with a pair of fine new fly rods, some waders, and my old fly vest taken from storage-- cleaned and made "river-ready" again. She summed it up in two words that I've never forgotten-- "It's time..." Handing me the keys to my truck, a bagged lunch and a thermos of coffee, she turned on her heels and left me to my own devices. Ten minutes later, I was headed north, wondering how rusty my casting stroke would be, and if my favorite spot on the North Branch of the AuSable River still held its fair share of brook trout. And, in the back of my mind, I pondered the prospects of finding Montgomery Jackson at "Trail's End."

As is typical of Michigan's Spring weather, the 4-wd. came in handy, though I knew by the tracks that someone was in residence at the old cabin, the confirmation coming via the thin strand of woodsmoke rising up out of the chimney.

My arrival was met in typical fashion-- me extending my hand and Montgomery pushing it aside in exchange for his mandatory "bear hug." It was then that I noticed how little things had changed around the place, and how good it was to again hear the sweet sounds of the AuSable River. Without so much as a "How and where ya' been," we loaded up into my truck and headed out-- me to fish, and Montgomery Jackson to coach, advise and observe my attempts to shake the rust off.

It was "one for the books," as they used to say, and the brookies were more than cooperative, almost to the point of sympathy rises. It surely wasn't my casting, fly placement or technique that brought them to the net, but it felt right, just the same.

We returned to "Trail's End" just after dark, and were puzzled to find the interior well-lit and the chimney still going. It all became clear in the span of a heartbeat. There, piled on the old kitchen table, sat a huge mound of gear, all of it once the property of Montgomery Jackson. Beside the pile sat a bottle of fine scotch, two glasses and a note. It read... "From your friends, Montgomery... And, welcome back, kid..." Sleep came easily later on...

While perfection may be elusive, I came within scant inches of it on that night in May, 1976. In my mind, it was as perfect as it gets... Jerry, aka hairwing530
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Last edited by hairwing530; 04-12-2013 at 05:46 PM.
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Old 04-12-2013, 04:03 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

This gets better and better. Thanks so much for sharing with us.
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  #38 (permalink)  
Old 04-14-2013, 07:56 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

I once heard it said that If a man lives long enough, he will one day meet himself coming AND going... Full circle in the stream of life, I guess. As first light was breaking in the East this morning, I had what I hope will turn out to be one of those "full circle" moments...

My intent on this first day of sunshine without cloud cover was to "baja" my way back into Trail's End, with no other company than that of an aging Lab known as Brook. We've "dog-sat" the old girl so much that she thinks of us and our place as home turf. The friend who owns her travels quite a bit for his work, so she tends to find her way to our doorstep on a regular basis.

After last night's dusting of snow, the slightly warmer temperatures and the overall depths of the tire tracks from the last access to the place, I fought the urge to take the challenge head-on and not risk my transmission or transfer case. The "Fish Truck" is good, but I'm of the opinion that a D-9 'dozer might now be the appropriate mode of transportation into Trail's End.

So, since Brook likes a good walk as much as I do, we made our way to the place and did the usual inspection of the cabin. Confirming its "safe" status, we turned and were on our way back out to the "Fish Truck" when Brook took a hard left not far from the front porch. I took it as a sign that she'd winded a ruffed grouse or two, as she loves upland bird hunting moreso than waterfowling.

I found her digging with determination at something just below the snow skiff and muddy top-soil. Once she stopped, I found the object of her search-- an old plastic-handled Kamp-King pocket knife. Still bearing its name-sake markings and in better exterior condition than I would have thought, the four implements still were intact, though wearing their fair share of rust. With a little clean-up work, it could make a great "pocket companion" again.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Kamp-King, it was a grand addition to any kid's collection of "stuff" back when I was growing up. Blessed with a sturdy main blade, a bottle-opening straight screw-driver, a can-opening hook and a stout awl for myriad projects, it was a less expensive version of the proverbial "Boy Scouts" do-all knife. Back in the day, I counted one among my most prized cutlery possessions, right up there with my hand-me-down Case knife. The funny thing is... mine was lost somewhere during one of the angling trips of 1967, when I was 14 years old. Its loss always puzzled me, as I prided myself on taking good care of my "stuff," especially knives.

Could it be that this was the long-lost Kamp-King... after all these years? My head says that the pieces of the puzzle of just such a find falling into place after 46 years are small and none. My heart, on the other hand, wants to believe that almost anything is possible, and that miracles can happen! After all, I'm still drawing breath more than a decade after I was supposed to take my leave. So, why not the knife?

The thought of its return, especially at Trail's End, is a comforting one... Jerry, aka hairwing530
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Old 04-20-2013, 05:51 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Last night, I sat at my tying desk and merely stared at the vise. Too physically tired and emotionally drained to row right now against life's currents, I decided not to tempt the fates by tying when my heart wasn't into it. And so, I just sat there, content to be in "neutral" while my right hand did its best "absent-minded" slow and repetitive turning of an iced glass containing a wee dram... and I thought, the kind of thinking that goes well beyond the idle and random checklists that we consider, balance and dismiss each day.

I'm well into another volume of the late Montgomery Jackson's observations regarding a much younger me-- I believe that it's Volume V --and early on in the book, I came across a single loose page neatly inserted among its bound mates that contained but two words-- "Take stock..." I can't tell you with any degree of certainty when it was written, though I suspect it was in his last weeks before taking his leave.

It's amazing how big an impact two very small words can have on a man, especially with the grand backdrop of "the journals." The more thought I've given to the phrase, the longer my own personal "bucket list" has grown to be. A grouping of simple things, really, but things that I'd like to do before my days are done.

With that said, in the last five days, the drooping porch roof at "Trail's End" has been shored up to its rightful place, "relief trenches" angled toward the natural drains have been cut into the soil to help release the water around the cabin that built up during the recent "Michigan monsoons," and I visited two of "my kids" from tying classes past-- one at his family's home, and one who's now hospitalized. Then, as darkness fell last night, I "took stock" of my fatigue and just let things be...

Later today, I will "take stock" of things again as we host the current class of "my kids." And, once more, I will be reminded of how truly good "life" can be, if only we pause long enough to take stock...

Jerry, aka hairwing530
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Old 04-21-2013, 06:08 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

At 5:00 am this morning, I re-read the late Montgomery Jackson's observations on our annual flotilla of honor to those now gone, a tradition that stretches back some 45 years. I then closed the book, refreshed the coffee mug, took knife in hand and began the process of rough-cutting the initials of our family and friends into each dry piece of AuSable "river wood." The flies have been tied and the hooks cut off, and once the markings are finished, the aforementioned "bugs" will be attached and readied for their trip downstream. It's one of those bitter-sweet momentos that comes with every pending "trout opener..."

As the wood peeled back and away rather easily, I caught a glimpe of the palm of my left hand. There, just below the thumb, is a scar that measures just over 1.5 inches in length, a reminder of my "youthful enthusiasm" as it was called by my elders-- they had other names for it as well --and my first knife. It was a Case Stockman, and I snapped the blade-- and sliced open my hand --while extracting myself from a hole in the ice of a frozen pond when I raced my grandfather's Lab for the retrieving of a downed Canada goose. "Doc's" stitch work was finely done, and I spent a week in bed recovering from my "adventure." (Again, my grandfather and "Doc" had a different description for it...)

I guess what amazed me most about the scar this morning was the recognition of the fact that its size has remained relative to my own throughout my lifetime. And, in many ways, that's a good thing. I believe that we all have scars of one sort or another-- if you need some, I've got plenty --and they fill a particular niche in our lives. They grow with us all to remind us of where we've been and how we've lived, and the mis-steps and good times along the way. They also keep us honest, and point the way to where we're bound to go.

If nothing else, consider every scar objectively, and you'll find that you're carrying a proverbial "road map" of life, one that recalls it all-- the good, the bad and all points in-between. While some might wonder about my fascination with the journaled "self-examination" process gifted to me by the late Montgomery Jackson, I'm realizing more and more that the recollections and reminders of the chronicles and their content are never more than an arm's length away... Jerry, aka hairwing530
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