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The Three Fishermen <3>

Then the pounding came, from inside the truck, as if a tire iron was beating at the sides of the vehicle. It was not a timid banging, not a minor1 signal. Bang! Bang! it came, and Bang! again. And the voice of authority from some place in space, some regal spot in the universe. "I'm not sitting here the livelong day whilst you boys gab2 away." A toothless meshing3 came in his words, like Walter Brennan at work in the jail in Rio Bravo or some such movie.


"Comin', pa," one of them said, the most orderly one, the one with the old scout4 sash riding him like a bandoleer.


They pulled open the back doors of the van, swung them wide, to show His Venerable Self, ageless, white-bearded, felt hat too loaded with an arsenal5 of flies, sitting on a white wicker rocker with a rope holding him to a piece of vertical6 angle iron, the crude kind that could have been on early subways or trolley7 cars. Across his lap he held three delicate fly rods, old as him, thin, bamboo in color, probably too slight for a lake's three-pounder. But on the Pine River, upstream or downstream, under alders8 choking some parts of the river's flow, at a significant pool where side streams merge9 and phantom10 trout11 hang out their eternal promise, most elegant, fingertip elegant.


"Oh, boy," Eddie said at an aside, "there's the boss man, and look at those tools." Admiration12 leaked from his voice.


Rods were taken from the caring hands, the rope untied13, and His Venerable Self, white wicker rocker and all, was lifted from the truck and set by our campfire. I was willing to bet that my sister Pat, the dealer14 in antiques, would scoop15 up that rocker if given the slightest chance. The old one looked about the campsite, noted17 clothes drying from a previous day's rain, order of equipment and supplies aligned18 the way we always kept them, the canvas of our tent taut19 and true in its expanse, our fishing rods off the ground and placed atop the flyleaf so as not to tempt20 raccoons with smelly cork21 handles, no garbage in sight. He nodded.


We had passed muster22.


"You the ones leave it cleaner than you find it ever' year. We knowed sunthin' 'bout16 you. Never disturbed you afore. But we share the good spots." He looked closely at Brother Bentley, nodded a kind of recognition. "Your daddy ever fish here, son?"