With news feeds filling my news desk on Friday it looked like another weekend of reading, phone calls, research, cigarettes and stale coffee. Fortunately my nephew and his son stopped by my man cave with another possible suggestion, “Let’s go fishing”. That was all that was needed to be said and before you knew it I was loading up my tackle box, poles and off we went. I live in the boonies at least part of the year in close proximity to 5 bitchen lakes and in no time we found ourselves nestled in the beautiful high country of Colorado. It was fortunate I was not back in Oklahoma or Texas this week or I would have missed out on this soulful family encounter.
The splendor of the Rocky Mountains and the clear lake before us was the perfect escape for me and since Danny was on leave, what better way to spend the 4th of July than to be with a soldier in the US Army and his little boy, I thought. I have not seen him since he returned from overseas and we had some catching up to do. It seemed appropriate we got reacquainted on this hallowed holiday and it made this 4th of July a little more special to me. In fact I have not spoken with him at length for quite some time since he joined the US Army 15 years ago and I was eager to hear of his exploits.
Little Mikey, his 10 year old son, was brimming with excitement and could hardly wait to get his line in the water. Of course I took Bear the Wonder Dog my 200lbs+ English Bull Mastiff and the two of them raced to the waters edge. Dan and I humped in all the gear as the sun sparkled on the very inviting water. I noticed Dan was quiet and I could tell he had many things on his mind so we both puffed our politically incorrect cigarettes in silence for a bit. We stopped and gazed at the mountains as the clouds caressed the peaks. Than with a sigh of relief he said, “I love the sight of those mountains”. We gazed at them as the hawks soaring above and the medicine was good.
Breaking our trance; we could hear Mikey yelling at us old buzzards to get moving. Bear was already in the water trying to chase some elusive Canadian geese. As I looked at my nephew it was obvious he was not the little kid I used to toss in the air anymore, he was a man. It was more than apparent he was carrying some emotional baggage as well. I was aware of his wife dying leaving him a single parent and being in the military only compounded the burdens Dan had to cope with. Dealing with my own issues along with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder I knew that it would be up to him to address what was burning up inside of him, if he chose to. Within my tradition I was compelled to make a prayer for Danny as we walked towards the lake. It was a perfect place to pray since we were within natures embrace.
We set up “our base camp” according to Danny and I got Mike’s pole rigged up and off he went. Dan began to loosen up a bit as we both made a toast to America and all the servicemen and women who could not join us. We set up our poles as we surveyed the lake for that special spot to drop our lines. Then as we walked around the shore line Dan began to open up. I listened as he told me of some of his issues and it was clear he was concerned for his little boy. The loss of his wife weighed heavily on him and he was also worried about his military career and the possibility of being redeployed. Sending Mikey to his sister was an option if he went to Afghanistan. There is no question this was a very hard pill for him to swallow and he only had 5 more years to go before he retired. He loved serving his country but he also loved his motherless son. That was a hard one but I made sure he realized how proud the family was of his military service but also shared some insights since I was a single parent in the past.
I offered him some fatherly advice but left the door open for him to make his own choices. Granted I had a heads up from my brother who filled me in on his son’s plight. Though he brushed off some of his military exploits they still haunted him but his primary concern was his son Mikey. Then we got busy as our lines hit the water. Mikey caught the first rainbow and I learned that it was his first fish ever. Like a page in Huckleberry Fin, Mico came up to us with a giant smile and this fish flapping around on the line. Dan immediately assisted his kid as I watched. Danny was all smiles as he and Mikey struggled to get the hook out of the fish. Then Danny said, “I love this place”. It did my heart good to see him smile in earnest knowing his concerns.
In a way, I was envious since I was missing my kids as well and watching Danny and Mikey reminded me of our outdoor adventures that seemed like ages ago. I remembered how the bears poked around our camp as we watched from inside my brother’s giant Lance camper. The bears ricked the camper like a salt shaker before moving on. I remembered my son Abe could catch fish with his hands making all my Field and Stream accoutrements. I think it was the mystic of the Rocky Mountains that held dear the memory of my parenting years. I knew Danny’s memories of Mikey’s first fish would also be preserves in the majestic peaks in the years to come. Little Mikey would forever embrace this day for a lifetime.
Maybe it was watching his son catch his first fish or possibly the splendor of the Rocky Mountains that loosened the strangle hold in Danny’s inner thoughts. In any event he began to laugh and tell jokes while reminiscing some of his lighter adventures in the armed forces. It was more than apparent he loved working on “Gun Ships” and he was very proud of his crew. Then the rain came but there was no stopping the “Three Amigos” for we were combat fishing as if we were on the Susitna River during king season. Though this was not Alaska it was every bit as beautiful and for a moment in time it was a little piece of heaven. He confided in me later that he was not sure if he would get into fishing because of his emotional state. But from all indications it did him good to go fishing with his uncle for the weekend. He still faced some daunting challenges in life but he seemed to be in a better frame of mind towards the end of the weekend.
I must admit it did me good as well for I was endeared by my memories of being papa for I loved raising my family and I was a single parent with 3 kids. It was the best job I ever had and it changed my life in many ways, for the better, and I believe it will be Danny’s as well. Time would be the task master but fishing and the Colorado outdoors would also be a part of the equation since I think Dan found some sanctuary in the Rockies. Nature’s medicine lifted our spirits and cleared the fog that muddles ones thoughts and it gave us more focus on what is important in life. Danny found solace and communed with his child and I stepped on some fresh bear crap reminding me that nature continued to rule in the wilds of the Rockies.
As the weekend drew to a close Mikey was not eager to leave but Danny chimed in making plans to come back to the high country and his uncles house next weekend. Danny told me about a few lakes on base we could try in the future with camping facilities and the whole nine yards. As he spoke I began to see the little boy I once knew almost 40 years ago. The spark in his eyes returned as he and his boy made plans to explore more lakes and other sites in the majestic Rockies’. Mikey was all smiles after they loaded up since they decided to watch the fireworks on base and enjoy the remainder of the holiday weekend, father and son. I don’t think Danny found all the answers he seeks but I think he found a place where he can ponder the questions that weigh heavily on his mind and that’s a start. Funny what a little fishing trip in the Rockies can do eh.
Your Devil’s Advocate