Saturday, April 4, 2009

Of Cabbages and Kings

Two years ago I nearly began trout season with a murder. Had it not been for Ben, I would today be writing a blog about prison tattoos and the best shade of lipstick for an evening on D-block. The Rusty Cage: Ruminations on Life and Art in Attica. Thankfully, Ben had been there, and his wit was keen as ever. I won't recount the entire episode as the day is briefly chronicled here. Suffice to say I'm thankful to have avoided any culpability in the demise of a toothless hillbilly.

I mention opening day 2007 only for the sake of juxtaposing two very different people, two very different attitudes.

Type one lacks courtesy and any sense of decorum. If you're lucky then you've managed to avoid him. He doesn't understand why you might expect him to wait to fish a run or pool until after you've finished. His daddy taught him to fish you see, but daddy skipped the lesson on etiquette. Type one smokes two packs of Camels a day, and drops one pack's worth of butts along the riverbank like he's Hansel leaving a trail of crumbs through the forest. He's the kind that keeps a trophy fish, drags its carcass to every bar in town for the sake of demonstrating his worming prowess, and then discards the remains in a back alley dumpster. Type one grates on one's nerves like salt in a wound.

Type two expects courtesy from the people he meets only because he is a courteous man. He waits patiently on the bank while you fish his favorite run, mildly suggests you not forget to try in front of the rock, and smiles broadly when you catch a few. His father taught him to fish with live nightcrawlers and salted minnows, but the lesson began with courtesy. He smokes two packs of Camels a day, and keeps a Ziploc bag in his creel just for the butts. He's the kind of guy who kills a trophy fish, and brings it home to his wife who then prepares it for dinner. Type two is salt of the earth.

T.J. was obviously a type two kind of guy.

Adam and I had been fishing for twenty or thirty minutes when a man and a woman, each wearing hip boots and carrying spin gear, approached from the far side of the hole. They nodded a greeting, which we returned. Neither said so much as a word, nor did they approach closely enough to wet a line. A short while after their arrival, Adam took an impressive rainbow, the largest either of us has seen come out of this particular creek. "Brown or rainbow?" the man asked. Adam replied, and the four of us struck up a conversation. We continued to fish for another few minutes, and then conceded the hole, which certainly had more fish to offer up, to T.J. and his wife Mary. Why? Courtesy.

Our fathers taught us right.

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