Shirley Jean and Gramp were sitting at the kitchen table in the early morning, eating oatmeal, topped with Gramp’s clover honey and wild blueberries.
“Gramp?” Shirley Jean said thru a mouthful of oatmeal.
“Yes?” He turned to look at her sweet face.
“Is today the day we go to the river for the rainbow trout?”
“Today is the very day. We will get our chores done, wrap our fly hooks, pack our gear, walk down to the river, and canoe to our fishing spot.”
Shirley Jean had a hard time keeping her mouth closed as she was chewing, because the smile on her face wouldn’t quit smiling.
Shirley cleaned the bowls and wiped the table, while Gramp set his wool slippers aside and pulled on his work boots.
Gramp wrapped Shirley’s soft knitted scarf around her neck and helped her on with her red plaid jacket.
“The morning air is crisp.” He said
Shirley Jean took down the egg basket. “I’ll gather eggs and throw grain to our hens. Shall I help you with the milking?”
“No, I won’t be long. You can take a couple of carrots to Maud. She’ll be wondering why no one is riding her today.”
“Shall I brush her beautiful coat? She loves that.”
“I’ll turn her out into the pasture. No horse I know likes clover better than Maud.”
The day crawled along with chores, a milk spilling accident, a bee sting on Shirley Jean’s sitting place, she didn’t blame the bee but she did think he could have been a little kinder and a lost chick. Shirley always counted the chicks to make sure they were all accounted for. They were so sweet and fluffy that she fussed over them like a mother hen. She was frantic discovering that one was missing. Instead of bothering Gramp she decided to hunt the baby down. Checking the wire around the chicken coop to make sure there was not a hole the chick could have squeezed thru. She looked behind the bales of straw, opened all the long grasses that grew along the edges of the coop, checked again in the laying boxes, and checked under the black hen that was sitting on a nest. She heard the screech of a hawk flying overhead, bringing hot tears to her eyes, imaging the little yellow chick was wandering about unaware of what a hawk could do to her. She was almost ready to run to Gramp when she heard a tiny peeping sound. She couldn’t see anything but the sound repeated in a muffled sort of way. She walked towards the sound, then away from the sound, not pinpointing exactly where it was coming from but she was sure it was the chick. All of a sudden she saw what had happened. When she came into the coop to feed the chickens she had taken off her wool cap and tossed it on the ground. She lifted up the cap and there in perfect form was her baby chick, a little dazed but perfectly healthy. Shirley cuddled the chick into her neck, and sang a little song to her.
She double checked everything in the hen house then skipped off to find Gramp.
Late afternoon finally showed herself in a soft golden light. Gramp and Shirley tucked their sandwiches and sweet tea into the canoe and quietly pushed away from shore. The river was liquid gold, shinning and glimmering in the shallows. Shirley rode up front, sitting on the tip of the canoe, dangling her legs and letting her toes skim the water. Birds trilled, cawed, squeaked, and lamented. Turtles sat on dead logs, water snakes slid into the water without a sound, and a young deer lifted its head from the edge of the water, watching as the canoe glided along like a giant water bird.
Gramp paddled without sound except for the dribble of water as the paddle lifted and dropped, lifted and dropped. For one river mile, neither human said a word. Joy ran with them. Nothing more could be added.
When Gramp pulled into an indentation of the shoreline, he jumped out, pulling the canoe onto the shore, letting Shirley wade onto land. They got the gear out, put together the fishing poles, still nothing to be said, but the looks on their faces have been painted on canvases and walls throughout time.
Giant white pines, lifting their arms towards heaven, swayed in the late afternoon breeze. A canopy of birch rustled yellow leaves while cattails along the edge of the river, stood tall and strong, like soldiers on guard. The smell of juniper and sweet fern wafted up and around, dancing like a ballerina, with twirls and dips. The river widened out, rushing over colored round stones on the riverbed.
Rainbow trout, the name is true, and is one of the most beautiful fish ever to swim. Their scales are silver, with strips of rose, blue and green. The meat is melon colored and sweet. One might think fish have no brains, no dreams, no family life. But when you see a trout, and mind you, they are difficult to catch, you might be surprised at their cunning.
Gramp and Shirley threw the lines out into the river. Gramp wound his line in slowly, pulling gently, coaxing and tricking a fish to grab the bait. Shirley had a shorter pole and mimicked Gramps motion but mostly the bait fell close to shore. When Gramp felt a tug on his pole he would whistle for Shirley. He let her take the pole, his hands over hers encouraging his granddaughter to go slow, lifting the pole and winding the reel. When a fish stayed on the line, bringing him in was the most exciting thing for them both. Gramp raised the fish from the water, as he twisted and turned in all his beauty.
They caught three trout and pan-fried them over a small fire. The sun was burning out over the river, loons were lamenting old loves and raccoons and foxes were peeking through the underbrush with eyes made for the night.