A KINGDOM FAR AWAY (Part seven)
|Part 6 can be found here|
Faster than quicksilver slips through your fingers the summer slipped away. My mother mentioned that we would be going back to the city next week so that we could get ready for school and suddenly I realized that I might not see Joe again until next summer. When you're a 12 year old the school year seemed like an eternity. Looking back that summer had been filled with more first time experiences than any previous summer, but I was not ready for it to end. Upon hearing this pronouncement I dashed out of the house and ran all the way to Joe's cabin. Out of breath I ran up onto the porch and banged on the screen door. Hunter came bounding to the door with Joe close on his tail.
"Is there an emergency?" Joe asked as he stood looking at me as I gasped for breath.
"No," I gasped "but my mother said we were going back to the city next week. I won't see you again until next summer."
"Well now, I don't think that we live so far apart that I can't see you occasionally. Besides, you need to get your education if you ever expect to amount to anything.'
Joe always made sense and his calm demeanor never failed to calm my fears.
"Now since our days here for this year are growing short I need to show you how to tie flies. I promised that I would show you how before the summer was over so it seems like now is a good time."
We went inside Joe's cabin and into a small backroom. This was Joe's fly tying room and except for fly tying stuff there was nothing else in the room. There was a large window on one wall that faced north, and Joe had his fly tying bench set up in front of the window. He said that he liked to tie his flies in the natural light whenever he could. He thought he could tell the colors better under natural light. I noticed that there were two vices and two chairs and Joe motioned for me to sit down in the one chair and he sat down in the other one. By sitting next to Joe I was able to watch exactly how he did each step from putting a hook in the vice and adjusting it just right so it held the hook without breaking it or allowing it to move around when you were trying to tie your fly. By the end of the morning I was able to turn out a pretty good woolly worm!
The week passed all too quickly, and when the time came to head back to the city there was more than a few tears as I waved good-bye to Joe. After we got down the road a short distance my father mentioned that Joe had dropped off a large box a couple days ago and that he did not want me to open it until we got home. I couldn't wait until my feet hit the ground at home to grab that box and rush up to my room. The box was filled with fly tying material, tools and a book on fly tying. Inside the book was a note from Joe.
"This should keep you busy during the winter. I don't expect to have to provide you with flies next summer. Joe"
That box of fly tying material and equipment was another contribution that Joe made to my life that had a favorably lifetime impact. During the coming winter months after I had finished my homework and finished my chores I spent every minute of free time perfecting the skills necessary to tie flies.
Joe and I communicated by writing letters and an occasional phone call. He always reminded me that my school work came first and he expected to hear that I was getting good grades. I could almost hear him saying, "Fly fishing is a sport, a recreation and nothing more. You always need to remember that. Honor God, provide for yourself and your family by working, and then you can truly enjoy everything else."
At Christmas time my folks invited Joe to come for Christmas dinner. Joe came on Christmas Eve and we attended services at our church. Joe stayed overnight in our spare room and after church we sat up and talked about fishing and tying flies until my mother reminded me that the next day was Christmas. I don't believe that "visions of sugar plums danced in my head" but I do know that my dreams were filled with fly fishing and flies.
The next morning there was the usual pile of brightly wrapped gifts under our family Christmas tree and leaning up against the wall was a plainly wrapped box with my name on it. I knew it had not been there the night before so it had to have been placed there after I had gone to bed. The gift tag just had my name on it and nothing else but when I ripped off the paper and opened the box I knew where it came from. Inside the box were a rod tube and a box with a fly reel and line. Inside the rod tube was a cloth sack and a new bamboo fly rod. I sat cross-legged on the floor with the rod across my lap. It was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen and it was inscribed with my name just above the grip.
"Looks like Santa knew that you needed a good fly rod for next summer," Joe said. "It's only a little over three months until the opening of trout season."
I looked up at Joe and he only smiled, but I knew where that fly rod and reel came from and it wasn't Santa. I wanted to jump up and hug him but somehow I thought that would just embarrass him if I did. Later that day before he left for home we stood outside by his car and made plans for getting together for the opening day of trout season.
"Thanks for everything. You made this the most special Christmas ever." Joe just smiled.
|Part 8 can be found here|