Outdoor Life - - HUNTING - Gary Garth

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.

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