Time’s often been compared to a river. Rivers can be smooth flowing, peaceful and beautiful to behold. But, they can suddenly change into raging torrents that swiftly and without mercy sweep all upon it remorselessly onward toward their fate. Time’s battering currents often cut new channels in our lives, completely changing the landscape we once knew. We’re powerless to stop this inexorable flow of time and its sudden storms, we can only hope to navigate it with dignity. Such is life.
The river channels we choose are critical to our journey. Choices determine to a great extent the severity of the rapids we run, the number and ferocity of the storms we face, the landscapes enriched or devastated. We’re born and eventually we die. It’s the in-between that matters.
One Saturday morning I was buzzing along in my 1971 VW Beetle intending to fish Potato Creek. As I neared Pine Run Road a strong impression overcame me.
”See if that cute girl who regularly rides her horse by camp might be doing so this morning,” it said.
Impulsively, I hit the brakes hard and practically two-wheeled around the corner. I didn’t know it then, but I’d just started down the most important channel of my life. Was it a whim or fate?
I found her a mile down the road. I shut off the Bug, she tied her horse and we sat and talked self-consciously as strangers do. After a short time something about this girl’s direct, honest eye- contact intrigued me, a subtle mocking quality which set her apart from any other girl I’d known.
How can I describe that look? Certainly it was friendly, but it also held a deeper knowledge, as if she already knew you through and through and was willing to play along if you were nice. Her green eyes held a shrewd amusement, not only for you, but for the world as a whole. I thought my conversation created that humorous twinkle, but I soon learned she looked upon the world from a slightly cynical viewpoint, a “You can’t fool me buddy!” perspective. My eyes are smiling because I’m already way ahead of you, don’t even try.
I soon discovered Jane could size someone up faster than any other person I knew. A five-minute conversation with Jane laid your soul bare, but few knew it’d been exposed. She was never wrong whereas I often was. In fact, I asked her repeatedly over our marriage why, with her almost spooky perception of people's personalities, she ever married me! She never answered that question, she’d just smile and look away.
We went fishing on our second date, of course, launching the canoe into the Allegheny River below Salamanca. Jane learned to cast very quickly. A few instructions and in five minutes she was firing the spinner out like a pro.
We began drifting downstream along the shoreline and when we approached a huge maple tree she made an accurate cast where the gnarled roots entered the water. A smallmouth shot up and grabbed the spinner, then exploded out of the water, white spray flying, throwing the lure skyward. Jane’s mouth flew open at the suddenness of it all and she looked at me in shocked surprise.
“Did you see that?” She stammered.
“You have to set the hook!” I exclaimed. “Bass have hard mouths, you have to jerk back hard. The harder the better.”
Jane took a moment to compose herself and began casting with increased energy. I could see her thinking there may be something to this fishing after all.
The bank became rockier where a small stream entered the river creating a deep eddy, a perfect haunt for a bass. I told Jane where to cast and to be ready.
She set her jaw in a determined gesture I came to love and cast. The spinner hit the water, only traveling about three feet when it came to an abrupt halt.
“Set the hook!” I hollered, and Jane reared back on her rod. The bass immediately cartwheeled out of the river, stripped drag, bulldogging back and forth until I netted it. The red-eyed smallmouth was 14-inches long, but from the expression on Jane's face I could see it looked much, much bigger to her. Those eyes were shining with excitement, the mockery replaced by delight.
When later in the day a huge smallmouth over 20-inches long smashed her spinner beside the canoe, nearly jerking the rod from her hands and then leaped some three feet out of the water showering her with spray before escaping, Jane turned to me in shock, shaking her nearly sprained wrist.
“Scared me half to death!” She confided, but those green eyes were gleaming.
We pulled over for lunch, roasted some hot dogs, and leaned back in the shade side by side, shared a kiss or two. Then, with her head on my shoulder, hand in hand we watched the restless waters flow by.
I think we both knew then we were in love, the bond permanent. But, that day we shared something else — a lifetime love of fishing, our common interest filled with thrills, victories and defeats, family fish fries and fishing vacations. So much to share and we did them together, always.
Happy 46th anniversary my darling, oh the marvelous life we shared. I miss you dreadfully everyday.