Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Fall Classic

One week ago today, I was knee deep in the Salmon River, thinking about baseball.

Yes, baseball.

Standing in the icy water, my mind went back to October 31st, Halloween. Amy and I had already taken the triplets from house to house, fed them each a few diminutive bites of chocolate, and tucked them into their beds (it didn't go quite so smoothly, but I'll spare you the details). The rain came intermittently, the trick-or-treaters stopped ringing the doorbell, and we were anxiously settling in to watch our beloved Yankees in game three of the fall classic.

You have to love October baseball: the history of the game, the anticipation of each at bat, the drama of a game changing error or double play. That isn't to say that baseball takes on some sort of mythical ethos in October; rather, the game is much the same as spring and summer ball. In October, however, the mood changes. The tempo changes. Everything surrounding the game is just a little more intense. When the playoffs, pennant, and World Series arrive - decked out in all their autumnal splendor - much of America stands up and takes notice. Such was certainly the case with game three of this year's series.

Here's a quick synopsis ...

The Yankees were down by three runs after the second inning, and tied 1 -1 in the series. After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, my wife squealed as Alex Rodriguez found his post-season mojo, and knocked a disputed home run off a camera mounted on the right field wall. Johnny Damon later had an amazing at bat, resulting in a two-run double that put the Yankees ahead. True to their form throughout much of the season, the boys in pinstripes came from behind to win in the clutch. It was almost too much to take, and I nearly had an embolism. The Yankees took the series after six games.

So there I was, knee deep in the Salmon River, and I couldn't stop myself from thinking about that particular game. The correlation should be obvious to anyone familiar with what might arguably be the most renowned of the Great Lakes' tributaries. Would the river gods - who had denied me any success all day - allow me a glimpse of grace? Would I have my moment, my ninth inning glory, my come from behind victory?

Yes. Before that moment came, however, I had to pay a price. The gods demanded a sacrifice on the altar of chrome, a virgin sacrifice.

Prior to this trip, I committed to purchasing a new steelhead stick. She arrived precisely one week before Ben, Shawn, Tim (pictured above) and I were to meet at Brenda's Motel and Campground (a stay at Brenda's is an experience unto itself). She was a glorious, bright blue with gorgeous appointments, and from the moment when I first opened her tube - wrapping my hand around her velvety smooth and meticulously shaped cork - I knew we were destined for a loving and intimate relationship. She was glorious, and she exploded immediately below the mid ferrule only two hours after we began fishing.

She may have arrived on the river's shore a virgin, but she left - carelessly discarded behind the passenger seat of Shawn's truck - a vile, soulless whore. When Blue finally returns, she'll have some explaining to do.

Fortunately, Ben had the good sense to bring an extra rod, a reliable friend that he was more than happy to share with me. It was that rod that I cast the better part of the day, and it was on that rod that I finally hooked some steel. The fish hit just before the end of the day, took me 100 or so feet downstream in a series of hot runs, and finally came to net with a sour look on its face.

One might ask if the cost in time and treasure is worth a single fish. If you find yourself asking that question then you've clearly never hooked up with Papa Chrome. If I could make the trip every week, and had to swallow both my pride and a broken rod each and every time, then I'd be seeing you on the river.

For now at least, it's Rusty Spinner (1) - Salmon River (0).

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