The summer is winding, slowly, to an end. The mornings on the mountain, I could smell autumn in the air. And with autumn comes change, as with each passing season.
The ponds, dammed by the beaver, fill and drain with the passing of time. The banks erode then fill back upon themselves with sand. The meandering creek shrinks and expands on its own accord; ever changing with the abundance of water and the beaver population.
The crisp mountain air was a welcome change from my summer mornings at the ranch. The smell of fall was not the only change in the air. Being present in the mountains, a place from my childhood, with the faces, the places and memories of my past all were a welcome change from the daily grind.
Therefore, change is life; change refers to an alteration in the order of life. It may refer to the notion of progress or evolution, the philosophical idea that life moves forward.
Weather kids are going back to school or off to college, for the first time, autumn is a season of growing, of learning; of change. Change is the progress to maturity.
Change is inevitable as we experience life, evolve and grow older. Change is part of life; part of becoming the best person; student, athlete, spouse, parent, friend or writer that we can become.
Life is like the fishing on the mountain where it changes each year in its own fragile way, depending on the weather, and the water supply. Some years there is too little water for trout habitat, while other years it is plentiful and the fishing is good.
Life was good- like the fishing was back in 1987, or maybe in was ’88, when my two older brothers and I caught more than our share of brook-trout. Prior to this fishing escapade, I was not a huge fan of eating the little fish. This day in early June changed that. I would like to share a short story of that fishing trip, here.
The water was over our wastes in a place or two. Colby, the younger of the two, wore hip-waders to keep dry and constantly reminded Steve, the oldest, and I how mis-fortunate we were to be wearing just sneakers in the cool water.
We started fishing not much before eight o’clock and unlike most fishing adventures, we stuck together that day as we wormed among the willows and ponds.
We caught fish after fish; filling our creels like robots, we meandered through the morning, I imagine chattering and laughing. (What I would give to hear, or at least remember that conversation, today.)
I don’t remember which of my brothers was leading/brush-whacking our trail, but I do recall that I was hiking between the boys. We hiked, immersed in the fishing, not one of us paying much mind to our total fish count, nor to the other inhabitants of the creek bottom.
We came through a clump of willow to be met head-on by one baby moose; black as the night.
I remember thinking, “Oh-it’s just a baby! It’s so cute!” My brothers were pushing and shoving me back through the willows, before my flight response took effect. Dropping our fishing poles, we ran. Initially, out into the open sagebrush to gain ground and eventually returning to the willows, to cross to the other side of the ponds. The mama moose was still on our tails. She could have eaten each of us for a midmorning snack. (I don’t mean this literally, of course. As moose are herbivorous-nature’s true vegetarians.) That mama moose could have trampled the living bajeebers out of us, if she’d wanted to. She didn’t, but she did chase us several miles out of off her turf and down the creek!
We returned to the edge of the ponds, the mama moose urging our crossing. Steve and I, in our sneakers plunged and swam through the deep pond. Upon surfacing at the opposite shore, one of us was missing.
We didn’t have our fishing poles in tow, but we did keep our fishing-creels slung across our torsos, carrying several pounds of fish each.
Steve and I reached the far shore, while Colby remained in the center of the largest pond. His creel of fish floating up around his shoulders. Water several inches over his waders, stuck.
The mother moose stood across the dam, her head held high, she laughed a hideous moose laugh.
Steve and I laughed too, before we went to Colby’s rescue to pull him ashore.
We had a whopper of a story to tell our parents back at the cabin, but first we had a mess of brook-trout to clean.
Our mom cooked ninety brook-trout that night. ( I suppose the motherly thing to do. Thanks MOM!) And we ate them, ate them all. We’d worked up our appetites.
We went back the next day for our poles, The baby moose and his mother were gone, as were Colby’s hip-waders; swallowed by the ponds. The laughter, the adrenaline and the memories remain there today.
Now, twenty some years later the creek has changed, the moose mostly gone (The moose are an easy prey fro the reintroduced wolves, whom do not keep to the boundaries of Yellowstone Park. I will not open that can of worms, yet.) and us kids have grown up and changed. Yet, one will never grow old.
I must leave you here; this is change. And change is life.
Memories remain, these memories keep us anchored to our past. And fishing here in the beaver ponds on Willow Creek is my anchor to the winds of change, of life.