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  #61 (permalink)  
Old 06-01-2013, 06:32 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

There was a strange sort of solitude to sitting alone in near darkness inside the cabin known as "Trail's End" on Thursday afternoon. Even as the exterior noise of the ongoing party filtered through the walls, it was almost easy to get lost among the memories contained within the place. So much of my life had been spent in and around the place, and to have those moments to share with the 60+ people gathered outside to celebrate my 60th birthday only enhanced the little cabin's standing with yours truly.

Nearly 20 minutes passed before I struck a match to the wick of one of the old oil lanterns and took full stock of the small pile before me on the late Montgomery Jackson's ancient roll-top desk. A note sat atop it all, no doubt an explanation of sorts as to who and what was sitting before me. It read...

My grandfather asked me to make sure these things were here for you on your birthday, just a week before he died. He added the small letter in the left pocket of his Filson vest. Happy Birthday... Montgomery Jackson III

Duly read and digested, I started into the collected stuff. The first item of business was a homemade sheathed fixed-blade knife, one I recognized immediately by the initials "HCK." My grandfather had made this slender "bird/trout" knife for the late Montgomery Jackson when I was still a boy, hand-stitching and fitting the leather sheath after finishing the knife.

Next up was one of "Doc" Holship's famous "Fly-Enhancer" boxes-- aka an old "worm can." When it came to the pursuit of trout, "Doc" Holship was not above tipping a favorite fly with a small dab of 'crawler. One day, when caught by both my grandfather and Montgomery Jackson, the latter "repossessed" the worm box, thereby making "Doc" into a purist, if only for the day.

The last two items were strictly within the wheelhouse of one Montgomery Jackson. The first was his well-worn "wading staff," a wooden wading stick whose upper end was smoothed by years of carriage astream. It had been fashioned for the late Mongtomery Jackson by a maker whose identity I still don't know.

And, last, but certainly not least, was an old and "broken-in" Filson bird-hunting vest, one that had seen double-duty both afield and astream, and an aged leather shell carrier. Obviously, the vest's waxed exterior had been re-treated and readied for the man that the late Montgomery Jackson often called "Lad," or "the kid." Even in my later years, I still held that certain standing with my elders.

The sounds of the party brought me back from my wandering around the past. So, I re-stacked the pile and later loaded it into the truck long after the last guests had gone home. Later today, I will open the note left in the pocket of the old Filson vest. As for the leather shell carrier? That, too, will be explored, as I know that the late Montgomery Jackson was fond of carrying more than merely shells within the carrier.

As I extinguished the lantern and made for the door, I realized that my initial thoughts of "solitude" were all wrong. In truth, while sitting next to my pile of "stuff," I was closer to the company of my late mentors as I'd been in far too long a time. Once acknowledged, it then hit me that I really didn't mind turning 60, after all...
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Last edited by hairwing530; 06-01-2013 at 08:08 AM.
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Old 06-02-2013, 06:09 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Things made by hand or "home-made" in nature have always been favorites of mine. While some might judge a gesture or gift by its "price-tag," I choose to look at gifts wrought by hand for their intrinsic value, that certain sort of measure that goes far beyond any sort of monetary yardstick. Therein rested the theme for the birthday most recently past.

For example, my grandfather's old denim barncoat came up missing a few weeks back. On Thursday, the reason for its disappearance became obvious. As I opened the box, I was awed by the seamstress-like precision of a friend's wife in repairing areas that had been thinning or were thread-bare, all the while maintaining the integrity of the coat. She'd even found a missing pair of brass fasteners for the sleeves, having waded through an endless array of suppliers of "retro" clothing hardware. The coat should withstand another 50+ years of service.

And, to further preserve the memories, her husband-- yet another "fishing cronie" --had hand-tooled a leather fly wallet for me, covering it before the final seams were added, with a small section of the barn coat, to which his wife added my grandfather's initials in a style that mirrored my grandmother's handiwork in initialing the old barn coat.

Likewise, a huge box sat amidst the pile, its overall size placing it in a class all its own. Once opened, it was obvious as to why the box was huge. There, as neatly folded as it could be, was an old goose-down quilt that had been relegated to the cedar chest years before, in order to preserve what remained of its original fabric cover. Comprised of 12 long, wide tubes of hand-packed goose down that were hand-sewn together, it was made to mark the year of my birth by my great-grandmother and my grandmother. It now again was ready for "active duty" on the bed, its original cover repaired and preserved, with a new cover having taken its place for "everyday wear." The flood of memories connected with it threatened to unleash an overload of emotions...

What followed for much of the party still remains something of a blur. A couple of old reels in need of repair to their click-and-pawl drag systems found their way to the gift table, completely refurbished by hand and "touched up" so as not to affect their "traditional" looks. Repaired rod cases, a knife or two made from scratch, wooden line changers and the like all found their way into my lap, and it soon became obvious that my 60th birthday was, indeed, a "hand-made" affair. And, for that, my gratitude will be eternal...

At 4:00 am this morning, I took the small envelope from the left pocket of the old Filson vest that was once the property of the late Montgomery Jackson. It was short and heartfelt, and typical of the man, filled with its own sort of mysterious puzzle. After his birthday wish of congratulations and his hopes for a longer life ahead, the final words pointed to the fact that I'm to bring a thermos of coffee and report to the porch at "Trail's End" on the morning of June 3, 2013. No further explanation... just the anticipation of yet another "good surprise..."

And, come the twilight hours of this evening, I will open one of the remaining gifts from the late Montgomery Jackson-- the old leather shell carrier. It's taken more restraint than I knew I had, given the fact that "the kid" still resides within the body of this 60-year old man. I see it as my way of honoring the memory of one Montgomery Jackson, and paying tribute to his love of the art of the puzzle. It's become a journey of discovery of the best kind...
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Last edited by hairwing530; 06-02-2013 at 07:59 AM.
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  #63 (permalink)  
Old 06-02-2013, 10:34 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Glad your day was one to remember my friend.
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Old 06-03-2013, 11:33 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Serenity is an old chair on the porch of "Trail's End," from which to watch the "river shadows" twist and change shape as the sun starts cutting a path across the eastern skies. The genuine peace of it all is enhanced even moreso if "he who is serene" also is cradling a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and pondering the contents of the small cedar box with its sliding top that rests in his other. So it was for me on this cool, but enjoyable June morning.

As the temperatures at 6:30 this morning hovered in the mid-30's, I'd chosen the "reconditioned" barn coat and my old Filson Packer for the trek back into "Trail's End," leaving the "Fish Truck" at the gate and walking the two-track to the cabin. With an old shooting bag banging against my right hip and carrying the mandatory thermos of coffee, my tobacco pouch and a few "incidentals," my left side was privy to the company of the late Montgomery Jackson's "wading/walking staff," a handmade affair whose upper half was worn smooth to the extreme by years of use. It felt good just to be out, especially in light of the "appointment."

I was in the midst of pouring a second cup when the man arrived, nearly silent in his approach. I recognized him immediately from a previous riverside encounter, as the chewed cigar in the corner of his mouth was a dead giveaway. Easing his parcel onto the porch floor and settling back into one of the other porch chairs, the ensuing silence was almost deafening. Finally, he broke the stillness with his usual short supply of chatter... "He asked me to give you this," gesturing toward the package. With that, he rose and headed back down the hill toward the river, throwing one final thought my way without turning around... "I'll be seein' 'ya..." And, just like that, he was gone as quickly as he came.

I stayed until it was full-on daylight before loading the small cedar box and the "package" into the shooting bag. Once home, I slid open the cover of the box to find it filled with the late Montgomery Jackson's favorite cigars and another note. And, the package? A solitary bottle of a 25-year old scotch whose name and pedigree will take some research.

The note was typical of the man, and went straight to the heart of the matter... Lad... These "vices" are to be savored during those rare twilight moments you love so much, whenever you're "in residence" at your cabin. Always find the magic I've left you that has long filled this place... Montgomery

Putting down the note, I was reminded of one of the late Montgomery Jackson's favorite quotes: "A home-made friend wears longer than one you buy in the market." I have the feeling that my late "home-made" friend will wear well for a very, very long time...
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Old 06-03-2013, 02:43 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

pre-embargo Cubans???????? Come on Jerry.....the suspense is killing me!!!!
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  #66 (permalink)  
Old 06-04-2013, 06:23 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

The "fishing cronies" and I-- OK, mostly them --took part in an impromptu work session at "Trail's End" in the final hours of yesterday afternoon. With the weather more akin to early April than early June, it was the perfect day for cleaning up the last of the exterior chores at the old cabin. Besides, the call demanding my presence at "Trail's End" left little room for an option other than the "requested" attendance.

So, I finished up my "bench chores" and grabbed the the old barn coat for later, double-checking for the hand-tools bag in the back seat of the "Fish Truck." Then, in a rare moment of awareness, I put the small cedar box of gifted cigars and the bottle of 25-year old single malt scotch back into the old shooting bag and settled behind the wheel for the trip to "Trail's End."

The place was a beehive of activity when I arrived, with that pleasant smell of woodsmoke rising up from the stone fire-pit and the constant but not intrustive sort of drone from the old generator powering their tools. Their undertakings were intended as a "belated birthday present," and obviously, from the amount of work already completed, the "cronies" had been there for awhile. The final shoring up of the porch and stair-step replacements were finished, as was the section of the roof needing new shingles, and the last of the cedar siding was being eased into place. All that remained was some brush work in spots and a gallon or two of paint/preservative.

As best I can describe it, the ongoing work became almost "suspended in time" for a few minutes as I walked around the place, as if the "cronies" had stopped to await final approval. I had to give it them all-- they were good! The "retro-fitted" cedar siding was so finely matched that it would pass detection, once the paint was applied, and the roofing was a perfect blend with the original shingles. A simple nod to the positive brought the power tools back to life.

The last boards were nailed into place as the first evening shadows began taking command of the western end of the building. Retiring to the stumps that ringed the fire-pit, the "fish talk" was quietly typical of this "crew," in that it sought only the information necessary-- where and when, come the weekend or later this week? Plans were made, the small box of Padrons were passed to anyone who enjoyed a smoke, and the bottle made the rounds. As a group, we're not much for pretentious behavior.

Slowly, one by one, the group began to break up, packing their tools and again confirming plans for a few hours astream later this week. As the last man rose from his stump, I waved him on to let him know that I'd extinguish the fire and make sure that things at "Trail's End" were buttoned up, so to speak, for the evening.

The sound of the last truck's departure was fading in the distance when I discovered the late Montgomery Jackson's note tucked in the pocket of the old barn coat, right next to an old favorite tobacco pipe of mine. Re-reading his words about "Trail's End" now being my cabin, I found myself doing something that I can't ever remember doing before-- disagreeing, to a point, with his assessment.

You see, to my way of thinking, the place known as "Trail's End" still is the stronghold of the late Montgomery Jackson. For now, I am merely the "caretaker" of this memory, a temporary "keeper of the flame" until the next generation-- Montgomery Jackson III --pans out and comes full-circle to take his rightful place. Until then, I will preserve the memories of what has been, what is now, and what will be within this special place known as "Trail's End," until my final casts are made. On that, you can "bet the farm..."
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Last edited by hairwing530; 06-09-2013 at 06:00 AM.
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  #67 (permalink)  
Old 06-06-2013, 05:57 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

It's a faint trail with a roadside entrance that would go unnoticed by most. Hidden there in a tight opening between two old white pines, it lacks many of the "welcome" markings of a path well-used. In truth, however, it is another route-- "the back-track," as it's usually called --across the distant southern reaches of the late Montgomery Jackson's property, the road less taken but still leading into the small cabin known as "Trail's End."

And, there's good reason for its obvious lack of use. It's a "20+ minutes" test of off-roading endurance skills that boasts more switch-backs, tight turns and manuevering challenges than the front entrance, with its usual rewards equally split between seeing some new country and the fact that your side-mirrors are still in place after you break into the cabin's clearing.

I saw the dog about halfway through the trek off the main road, lying atop a small hummock not more than 30 feet east of the trail and as still as could be. I parked the "Fish Truck" and made the slow walk in the dog's direction. Even as I drew closer, it was difficult to tell if the dog was sleeping or had passed on.

I was within five or so feet of the smallish tri-color setter or setter/spaniel mix when I noticed her eyes following my slow progress. Dark brown in color and gifted with that soft "windows to the soul" gentleness about them, I eased in closer, a move that brought a small thump of the tail. Satisfied that the dog didn't feel threatened, I knelt beside the dog and looked over the situation.

One rear leg was splayed to the side, held in place by a twisted mass of barb-wire that also had jailed the dog to this spot. Obviously, she hadn't eaten in quite awhile, and from the crude attempts to grind off the name-tag information, she'd been "dropped off" to fend for herself, something that happens more frequently than one would like to think. That someone would "dismiss" a dog so easily really raised the ante on my blood pressure!!

It took nearly an hour to untangle the barb-wire and free the small dog. After struggling to stand, I stroked her head, wrapped her in my grandfather's old barn coat and carried her to the truck. Throughout the whole ordeal, she protested little, whimpering only when finally released from the wire.

This morning, she rests at my vet's office, her care entrusted to a doctor who's long been a "soft touch" for bird dogs in general, especially setters or retriever breeds. If all goes well and she responds to her treatments, she'll join this "family unit" early next week, as the good doctor estimated her age at about five and her overall health as good, despite her ordeal.

In life, we all make choices, most very good and, on occasion, a few very bad ones. As well, sometimes choices make us, and we do the best with what we have to work with. Yesterday, I was "chosen" by the fates and by happen-stance to give a smallish tri-color a new home and a second chance while traveling the "back-track" leading to that most special of places, the cabin known as "Trail's End." To its history, its present day and its future, another chapter is about to be written...
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Old 06-09-2013, 07:54 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

It sits just inside the front door in a place of prominence at "Trail's End," long known to one and all as the "loaner rod bin." In a past life, it was an old umbrella stand, leather-covered and measuring approximately 36 inches high and 18 inches in diameter. It also pre-dates me by a good decade or more, its origins only known to the late Montgomery Jackson, as it was just one more of his "estate sale" finds that decorate the cabin.

To sort through its mixed bag of rods is to journey into the history of the place. The diversity of the rods is wide and varying, ranging from 'glass to bamboo, and all points in-between. Yet, as different as they are, the rods do share one commonality-- each rod has a story or two that accompanies its obvious signs of use. If the rods could speak, what tales they would tell...

Recently, I pulled a few of the rods for inspection and repair, if needed, as the contents of the "bin" hadn't seen refurbishing in quite some time. In breaking down the group-- they always had sat joined and at the ready for anyone in need --I hardly noticed the slender bamboo rod, as darkness was coming on and I needed to close up the place. At 5:00 am this morning, the rod and I "re-connected," if you will, as I realized that we shared something of a history of brook trout, the rod and me.

You see, as I moved the light over the rod cradle, I noted a worn engraving on the reel seat, faint markings that spoke to its origins and to our collective time together. The reel seat read "To Montgomery Jackson, from JAH and HCK..." Here, laid out before me, was the old Paul H. Young bamboo rod given to the late Montgomery Jackson by my grandfather(HCK) and his longtime fishing partner, "Doc" aka Dr. John A. Holship(JAH). It was one of the rods used early on by yours truly when introduced to brook trout and fly fishing, and one to which the late Montgomery Jackson had taken a liking so many years ago.

Come this winter, I will try to "rebuild" the little Young rod to its former glory and remove the set from its tip, all in hopes of its eventual return to the river, come the Spring of 2014. If it's true that the final measure of a man is the history on which his character was built, then I only hope to add to my own personal yardstick when my own wading boots retrace the steps of those who made me who I am, and carrying the little fly rod and "the kid who still lives inside me" that they all shared...
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Last edited by hairwing530; 06-09-2013 at 02:27 PM.
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  #69 (permalink)  
Old 06-09-2013, 08:38 AM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Jerry: Thanks again for taking the time to share those memories with us. I'm sitting here enjoying a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning, enjoying every word that you write!
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Old 06-09-2013, 03:01 PM
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Default Re: I Met Myself Last Night...

Guys, and especially you, Larry...

I want to thank you for the honor of allowing me to share the years as each memory is recalled or brought to mind by the random journals of a few-- my own included. It's been a privilege for yours truly, and one I hope to continue for a long time to come...

The "elders" with whom I kept company in my "formative years" were as unique and individual as they could be. But, to a man, they shared a number of common traits, in that my grandfather, "Doc" and the late Montgomery Jackson all were "keepers of the fishing chronicles"-- i.e. they all kept journals of days spent astream --and "watchers of waters"-- men who spent a fair piece of time watching a pool before fishing it after formulating a grand plan of attack.

I grew up in those environments and adopted them to my own approach to fly fishing over the years. And, for many years, I was steadfast in my entries into my own journals after a trip to the river, and my patience in watching a pool before diving in always reflected well on those who taught me. Above all else, they helped drive home their observations of "the kid" having an old soul that went beyond his obvious youth. Their teachings also preserved far more than even they could have imagined back then...

After my first tumor removal, my memory was reduced to a collection of "fragments," bits and pieces of times long past with no continuity or proper ties between them. Even the "everyday things" were difficult, and I had to "re-learn" some of the simplest daily routines that we often take for granted.

As I healed, I went back to my own "shallow end of the memory pool," re-reading my grandfather's journals, "Doc's" and my writings. Slowly, the pieces of my life's puzzle gone awry began to reconnect, and the blanks soon followed suit, filled again with what had been way back then, not so long ago, and the direction in which I had taken my original course.

Then came the gift of the late Montgomery Jackson's reflections of "The Life & Times of The Lad Sometimes Known As Buck...," and the last of it all fell quickly into place. Nowadays, my mind no longer has to "hunt" for the odd recollection, as it's there for the taking.

And, as it is with this entry, I continue to keep company with both those who've gone before, and those among you who've shared the many pathes of the long journey to this, my own "Here & Now..." May you all be there when the final pages are written...
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