The Writings of LaVarr B Webb

This morning I tried to speak to my grandson. He was sitting at the breakfast table, eating prepared cereal. He had the ear phones of a Walkman radio glued to his ears, and I could near the battering of the drums and the wailing of the guitars as the 'music' of one of his favorite groups leaked from around the phones.

I tried to say good morning. He looked at me, and waved his arm. I tried to ask if he really enjoyed the all pervading sound of hard rock bands, but all he did was smile, and wave his arm again.

And, I thought, how typical. What with Walkman radios cutting off contact with the outside world, with high fidelity radios blaring in grocery stores, service stations, public buildings, public transportation vehicles, and even in public camp grounds high up in the mountains, and with TV's in living rooms constantly grinding out their sad stories, how difficult it is to say good morning, or good afternoon--how impossible it is to carry on any kind of a conversation--how sad it is that we have nearly lost the art of enjoying company and companionship.

Thinking about the situation took me back to my fishing buddies--generally just the two of us, surrounded by the pictured paintings of nature, lulled by the music of rippling stream, the songs of birds, and the whisperings of the breeze in the willows, birch, and fir trees, and most important, comfortable in the joy of the common, companionable conversation of fishing friends.

And it wasn't necessary that I and my fishing buddies had known each other for a long time. Perhaps all we had in common was a love of fishing.

I remember as a boy, fishing on Mill Creek in South Salt Lake. The fishing was slow. In fact I hadn't had a strike all morning. A man in his sixties, I would guess, was also fishing the stream. We met as I moved around him, heading for another hole. He asked, "How are you doing?"

I answered "I haven't had a bite all morning."

He observed, "I haven't either," then he asked, "Would you like to go down to Spring Run and try?" Now I had heard of Spring Run, a creek on down the valley, but I had never been there. I told him, "Yes, I would like to go."

We loaded our gear into his car, packing our long poles through one of the back windows. Then as we rolled down Seventh East, or was it Ninth East, we talked about fishing and fishing places. There was no strained adult-boy conversation--just companionable fishing talk. We didn't catch any fish, but I will always remember the day--a calm and peaceful day--enjoyed with a fishing buddy that I had never met before, and have never seen since.

I remember, again as a boy, a dark night in June and a big hole in the East Canyon stream. My fishing buddy, Jake, and I were fishing with worms, but we had our poles propped up, with our sinkers anchoring our bait in the middle of the hole. We, flat on our backs in the grass, watched the sun go down, and the shadows creep up the canyon walls, and etch out the distant hills, and then the nearer trees, and we watched the moon come up and the planets reflect their warped light. Then two men joined us. They, too, propped up their poles, and lounged back on the grass, and we talked until midnight--no lewd jokes, no amorous stories, no man talk-boy talk, just fish talk and companionable friendship.

I remember a young man I worked with. We had little in common. I hadn't been on the job very long, so I earned a dollar a day. He, with more seniority, earned twelve dollars a week, but he, also, came from a well-to-do family, and his fishing gear was state of the art. We fished East Canyon every free Saturday. We waded side by side down the stream, catching fat rainbows, liking each other, as well as what we were doing.

And, I will never forget my youngest son. He was about twelve, and as we worked down the stream, we moved from hole to hole by circling around each other. I passed him, and cast into a much larger hole than the one he was fishing in. Immediately I had a strike. After a short struggle, I pulled a 16 inch cutthroat up on the bank. It was the largest fish of the trip, and as he admired it, he cried, "Dad, I was just going to fish that hole."

And I had an opportunity to teach. I said, "Yes, Glen, but you didn't, I did, and I caught the fish, and that is the way life is."

I thought he, from then on, would rush from hole to hole, but he didn't. We continued to honor each other's holes, circling one another, stopping to talk, and enjoying each other's company--no Walkmans, no rock and roll, just the glittering stream, trout, and peace.