Over My Waders

Friendly Fire

By Reed F. Curry


Only a small curl of smoke will be visible through the trees, but the odor of fresh tea may just reach your nostrils. Follow it down to the river and you will probably be able to spot me soaking up some rays with my back against a boulder, a cane rod leaning against a nearby bush, an amber silk line, drying in the sun. You're welcome to some tea, I carry an extra cup in the back pouch of my vest, and if you want to talk about the fishing, that's fine, too. Maybe you just want to poke the fire, a hand-sized collection of coals, and stare at the river... perfect day for that. I won't be back in the water for at least another hour, I'm resting the pool and the sun is directly overhead, anyway. The only place where a trout wouldn't be blinded is going to be in the shadow of a midstream rock. I'll try to wake up a brown there, after my tea.

I make my little fires from a collection of twigs and a scrap of paper, some dried grasses, or a twist of toilet paper (if you must be indelicate). I may roll a streamside stone aside and build the fire in the cavity, or I'll cut a rectangle of turf out of the bankside grass and start the fire in the available hole. Either way, when I'm done cooking my lunchtime trout, should I have been so fortunate and hungry, and enjoying my tea (coffee requires cream, I take tea black), the embers are drowned and the stone or sod replaced. No evidence of my pleasant sojourn remains.

The "friendly fire" has an amazing attraction to almost everyone. Perhaps it reminds us of ancestral flames and news of the hunt, perhaps its what can be seen in the flames. It doesn't matter, the mere presence of the small fire slows me down and allows me to enjoy the smells, sounds, and sights around me... those that I might have missed in concentrating on the mechanics of fishing.

Some who walk past and observe me and the fire indicate, either in looks or words, a vast displeasure. I am not "defiling their resource" but rather quietly enjoying our mutual world. I would gladly share the fire with them, but they walk on by...


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All content copyright Reed Curry © 2006.
Cartoon by Walter Young © 1961, used by permission.