Grasshoppers whirl at my feet like playing cards snapped into a stiff wind, a sound that is enough like a rattlesnake to skip my heart a couple of beats.
There’s this high lake in Montana, perched invitingly above the Centennial Valley, and at the bottom of this lake lies a swim fin. It belongs to Tom Reed. I know this because I put it there.
When I ultimately got the float tube back to shore, doing one-legged kick-circles all the way in, I breathlessly fessed up, apologized profusely for dropping the fin, and promised to replace it. Tom just laughed. With a warm grin he waved off my offer said it was just a damn good excuse to get a better pair. I like his perspective.
And I like his book.
The soul of the fisherman is filled with places like Cochetopa. Rivulets to streams, streams to rivers, time rolls on. But the heart of the angler remembers. It remembers places where sunlight slants to laughing water, it remembers perfect fish and precise casts and it remembers place. Years slip over life's smooth stone, and still the soul does not forget.
And Tom's soul remembers with an easy style and grace. Blue Lines is a simple gem. No earth-shattering revelations. No deep contemplation on why things are what they are. No new-age, belly-button examinations of the mystical powers of fly fishing. The book, like its author - or at least my impression of the man after our all-too-short two-day adventure - is focused on the celebration of the now. The short essays in Blue Lines are the honest, beautifully expressed observations of the sights and sounds and smells that surround someone immersed and in tune with the outdoors. They’re the lean-back-and-close-your-eyes recollections of someone who has spent a lifetime in a dogged (and dog-accompanied) pursuit of his hunting and fishing passions.
Sometimes, at a cost.
The carnival was in town when she moved out…
She left me a note, not an explanation. “Thanks! We had some fun. I left you the boat. Enjoy!”
I went off to work that morning and came home and she was gone. The only thing the note lacked was smiley faces and hearts. Lots of exclamation. No explanation. Maybe, I told my buddy, she ran off with the carnival. I was only half kidding.
“Dude. She left you a boat.”
Perspective, indeed, but done simply, allowing the reader to draw the conclusions. Or not. From the simple recount of day-to-day living during a summer spent on a grass farm in the plains and celebration of the hardy folks who live these lives (The Endless Thirst of Grass), to the earthly quiet of a late summer ride on the day the towers fell (Beneath an Untracked Sky), this book lays the day bare and lets the readers wander where they will within it.
But it’s hard not to follow along directly in Tom’s boot prints.
I have the afternoon and the river is just outside of town. It flows clean and cold. It is early yet and the water is too cool for a good bug hatch, but I go anyway, for I have the afternoon and when an afternoon is stretched out before you with nothing to do but fish, you should fish. You need to fish, if only for the fishing.
What more needs to be said?