Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

September 27th, 2003

Begging Your Pardon
By Roger Emile Stouff

While it might be presumptuous to assume that any of the dear devoted readers of FAOL actually give a rip, I have to beg forgiveness.

I mean about the recent columns appearing on this fine website. When I first contacted Deanna and Jim Birkholm last spring after reading FAOL for some time, I offered up a few samples of my work with the explanation that, though I write two columns a week for my newspaper, I didn't feel like I was having the opportunity to write as much about fishing as I would have liked. I have to appeal to a much more broad audience in my newspaper writing, so I ramble on about all manner of things from my calico kitty Patches and my English springer spaniel Mocha to the price of tea in China. You get the idea.

I am grateful and surprised by the reception this little Indian off the Rez has received from the FAOL'ers who have responded to my work. It is gratifying, to say the least.

But here's where the forgiveness and giving a rip part comes in. About a month ago, I started having a pretty severe pain in my shoulder and upper arm. Now, I'm used to occasional aches and pains, and figured it would pass, thinking I had just strained it working on the house or something. But it didn't pass, and within a week, I made the association between a dull ache away from work, and a searing, burning pain when at work using the computer, particularly when I reached the house.

Of course, I knew the answer before I went to the tribal clinic. Repetitive strain injury. I was prescribed Flexeril, a muscle relaxant, a series of exercises and my employer had already committed to making changes to my workstation and environment to help. But such injuries don't happen overnight, they are gradual and thus don't heal overnight, either.

Let me note here, that I took the Flexeril only one day. By the time I survived that day, I swore off of it. I was completely unfunctional. I was so dazed I couldn't make sense of anything I was doing. I rarely take medication, even headache relief, but I'll never take Flexeril again, I tell you.

But the worst thing about this problem is I can't cast. Hurts like the dickens. Even steering the boat is painful. So the long and short of it is, I haven't been writing about a lot of fishing because I haven't been doing any fishing, period.

Oh, one day I couldn't stand it any longer and took off for the lake. Four casts had me wincing, ten had me groaning and fifteen had me packing up and heading home, cussing wildly. It's miserable. Though being unable to fish is the worst of it, I also can't get into the workshop to continue building that John Gardner sixteen-foot skiff I started, of which I have only finished the transom. Sleeping is difficult, too, making matters worse.

The good news is that the exercises and the environmental changes I've made - and the reluctant taking it easy - have helped, and I think I'm on the road to recovery. It's really not an operable condition, and I'm thankful for that, too, because hospitals and doctors with sharp instruments make me shriek. I hate to shriek in public, it's embarrassing, and often mistaken for a war cry.

I am about three weeks away from my fortieth birthday. I never believed all that preaching about, "Just wait until you hit forty, boy, you'll fall apart over night." I'm starting to think I might have been wrong, but then, the average age the menfolk in my family live is seventy-five. By that scale, I'm more than halfway done already, so I guess I'm doing okay after all.

So I'm begging forgiveness, if in fact you actually give a durn. I'm not so brash as to assume my shortfalls in writing actual, "I went fishing this weekend," columns will bring anyone's world crashing down around their heads, with the possible exception of my own.

But I've gotten pretty comfortable and happy here at FAOL, credit due to the kindness I've received from you fine folks. When one finds such a comfortable spot, they tend to get cranky, jealously guarding it. That's how I am with "Native Waters."

I hope to be fully recovered by the time the fall fishing kicks into gear around here. In the meantime, I hope you'll join me as I share a few memories of past angling adventures, and come with me to explore some of my native waters, as well as the lands around them. I hope you'll accept an invitation to meet a few folks I think you'll find interesting, and share a bit of my lineage going back several millennia. There's always water flowing in each of these chapters, always the ebb and tide of native waters. From the back end of dark canals to the quiet mystery of old villages and darting spirits half-seen in the cypress stands, I'd be honored if you'd take a detour with me during my convalescence. We'll come back around to the long rod and the bluegill and bass soon enough.

Nea'se. Thank you, then, in advance, for sharing my ramblings, my waters and my road. ~ Roger

Previous Native Waters Columns

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