"Three Cold Beers and One for Me" - Patrick McPhee
The kitchen windows provide clear view of a local
Ox-bow bend in the North Oconee River.
Disturbances in the calm water are easily seen as ripples
the same concentric circles after a rain drop splash
speeds away in crests and troughs of reflection
sky, tree green, black and sun-bright rings that undulate
away from the anomaly. This afternoon
ripples made by men are much larger
these anglers who work their way from downstream
slog up the gut of the river in crashing waves that center
on each fisherman, their rhythm with rod and reel
the silver glint of nylon fishing line’s hiss and splash
when the lure settles in a shade-pool under low branches
in full summer leaf, all up and down the river bank.
Never saw anyone like these three though—wading and casting
unique for this stretch of river. What the hell!
These guys deserve a reward, three cold beers and one for me!
I grabbed four beers from the fridge, put them in a small ice chest
slung it over my shoulder and walked down to the river bank
just upstream of the fisherman, each following one cast with another
as they made their way toward me.
“Hey! You’re the first wading fishermen I’ve seen along here. There’s been kayaks and canoes, but you’re the first ones standing in the water.”
“Our dad taught us to fish like this. I’m Ned, by the way. That’s my oldest son Kip. The serious guy over there’s my brother Charley.” Charley looked up.
“It’s a long time since we been up here. We don’t do much fishin’ anymore.
“Well, I’ve never seen anybody fish the river like you guys, so I brought ya’ll a reward.”
“Oh,Yeah! What’s that?”
I reached into the cooler, pulled out a dripping
cold brown bottle and held it up by the neck.
“How about a ice cold beer with a twist-off cap?”
“Heck yes!” Charley grinned and waded toward me.
“How about you guys?”
“Yes sir” Kip said. Ned smiled and nodded “OK”.
Both waded across the river and soon each man in the fishing party
had a bottle in their hand and tossed back their first long swig of ice cold beer.
“Seein’ you in the river surprised me. It’s shallower than I thought.”
Ned looked upstream, “The dark river bed makes it look deeper than it is.”
Kip lowered his bottle, “Sure dad, but we had to swim for it downstream.” Kip looked at me. “We like the sport of fishin’! We catch ‘em and we let ‘em go.”
Charley finished his beer. “That’s about it for me.”
“Here, I’ll take the empties.” Charley handed over his bottle.
Kip said, “Thank you sir!” He gave me his empty, “Thanks again!”
then Kip and uncle Charley wadded upstream as they cast their lures.
Ned handed me his empty bottle, “Why’d ya bring us the beers?”
“A reward, like I said”.
“We appreciate it.” He nodded and went on his way.
I watched the fishermen work through the upper shoals.
White water glistens in the hot afternoon sun and I observe
the last silver glint of fishing line move out of sight
behind an upstream river bend and into the past.
“Why’d ya bring us the beers?” Indeed
I am become old and know that today, will one day
be back in the day, when blue sky seemed
bluer, white in the tumultuous froth of August clouds
brighter—a happy, olden-times day
when a stranger would give out ice cold beers
and all would quench a deep thirst
enjoy the company of sportsmen
small talk and banter and place:
a river scene in a young man’s memory
an old fisherman’s “Tall-Tale”, yet to be told.