October 6th, 2008

By Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona

I'm on the long side of three score and five, and I've witnessed more than my fair share of the good things that life under the sun has to offer. That's not to say my life has not had its share of grief, and there are things that I wish I could change, but on the whole I have enjoyed a very blessed life.

Recently I was standing waist deep in the Yellowstone River just east of my home here in Montana. Upstream was my nephew, eight years my junior, and a fine angler, outfitter, fly tyer, and writer. When he was younger he followed me around like a puppy, and in the pendency of time I showed him the basics of fly fishing and fly tying. In those days I took him where I went, showed him the wonderful world of trout fishing with flies; now we float in his boat and he takes me with him on adventures that I started with him all those many years ago.

On this warm September day the mountains are capped with a fresh blanket of new snow, but the autumn sun is warm on my shoulders. Trout are rising to a mixed bag of terrestrials, mayflies, and an occasional caddis. It is a perfect day in a perfect place, and I am blessed to be here.

Downstream a white-tailed doe and fawn walk to the edge of the stream, take a drink, and then wade out into the current and swim quickly to the opposite shore. With a little shake they rid themselves of the water clinging to their coats, and disappear into the streamside willows. I take it in and burn the image into my memory to recall at a later time. I am blessed to have seen it.

As the shadows lengthen, the mountains glow with radiance that fills the valley, and although it is a sight I have seen many times I never grow tired of seeing it. Outlined by billowing cumulus clouds the glowing mountains and deepening shadows present a vista that stirs my soul.

I am reminded that there are those who have never witnessed these sights. They have never stood in a trout stream, never witnessed a deer and a fawn, never experienced the glow of the mountains at unset, or smelled the sweet smell of new mown hay wafting on a warm late summer breeze. I have two eyes that are still able to see a size 18 fly without the aid of glasses, my reflexes are still sharp enough to set the hook before a trout can detect the fraud, my ears can still hear the faint sound of a distant raven calling as it rides the thermals, and my nose can detect the sweet smell of the cottonwoods.

I've had many good friends. Some I have lost to the mists of time, but their friendship enriched my life and their memory brings warm feelings when their names cross my mind. There are other friends who are separated from me by time and distance, but their friendship is as special today as it was in days of yore.

I was blessed with the love of a special woman for over 45 years of my life. I have a great daughter and son-in-law, and more than a lifetime of memories of all the good things we all shared.

I have been blessed with a love of the outdoors, and I have been blessed to have seen much of God's great creation. I've stood in a mountain meadow at midnight and gazed upward at the heavens above where the stars seemed so close that you could touch them. I've seen mountain lakes with water so pure it seemed to be transparent, and stood at the top of a mountain where I felt that if I extended my hand I could touch the face of God.

I have been blessed to experience another Montana summer, but the snow on the top of the Absarokas marks the end of another summer. Now my thoughts turn to the warm weather of southeastern Arizona, and although the love of my life is no longer here to share it with me I have been blessed to have shared it with her for a short time.

I hope you will understand if I am absent from this weekly slot for the next few weeks as I take some time to evaluate where I am and where I am going. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. I have truly been blessed. ~ The Chronicler

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