HUCK FINN’S ROD
I spotted a thumb-sized stick poking from the sand near the downstream bank of a long, teardrop-shaped Mississippi River sandbar, the river’s dangerous current licking at my bare feet. My mother would have been wild with worry had she known I was there. Only it wasn’t a stick. It was a rod handle, the rotting cork turned black by the river water. I clawed into the hot sand.
Attached was an old reel, a levelwind of some sort. Heavy. Solid. Simple. The handle was missing but a knot of line remained, stubbornly attached like hair clinging to a decaying corpse. A smidgen of rod, made maybe of wood, jutted ahead of the reel.
This was long before everyone carried a camera in their pocket, so the only picture I have of it is the one in my head. I held the old tool in my hands, turning it over, wiping and blowing away the sand, feeling Huckleberry Finn–ish in a late summer hangover sort of way. Do I regret having left the old remnant on the sand? Sometimes. But it connected me to the river in a way nothing else had. It still does.