The old man in the chair
On most days when I fish this stretch, there is an old man sitting by the road in front of his house in a patio chair as I am walking back to my vehicle. He sits out there because he is lonely and bored. Since it is about the half way point in my walk back, I have always stopped to chat a while. We swap fish stories, talk about the river, and anywhere else the conversation leads. He seems happy to have some one to talk with for a while, even if our conversations don’t last that long, half an hour at most. I know most people would just say hi and keep on walking, but I figured that spending a few minutes cheering the old guy up was worth a few minutes of my time.
The last couple years I have noticed a sharp decline in his health, the last time I was there he looked liked death warmed over, and I had to practically yell for him to hear me as he is almost deaf now. I find myself fishing other stretches of the river more these days, for one reason. I am afraid that one of these days the old man and his chair will be gone, and that will be a very sad day for me.
I don’t even remember his name, but that isn’t important, what is important is the love of the river and the trout in it that we shared. What is important is that there have been many people like him in my life, and most are gone now. Like the guy who ran the bait and tackle shop on Sturgeon Valley Road on the way to the Pigeon River Country. The guy who owned the flyfishing shop outside Wolverine, and of course, Rusty Gates.
If you added up all the time I have spent talking to these people, it doesn’t amount to much time, but I learned from all of them. We weren’t friends, barely aquaintances, but I remember them, and they remembered me, that was important. I think they mean so much to me because I am not meeting new people to take their place. A sign that times are changing, and that they don’t make men like these anymore. That’s sad, not just for me, but for the younger generations who will never get a chance to hear how things used to be. Never meet men that stood on principle and weren’t afraid to fight to protect what they loved.
Yes, one day the chair will be gone from the side of the road, and I will shed a tear, then drink a toast to the old guy in the chair.