Mostly Still Waters
Say it’s late June in 1962. School is out for the summer and Donnie Sisson and I have pushed through the cat n’ nine tails behind and beside the A&P, hauled ourselves up over the berm supporting the railroad tracks and walked down through a few more reeds and on soggy, oily muck to the edge of the Wareham River. We have his hand-fashioned, homemade minnow-catching net and some slices of white bread with us. Directly across the broads of the river here is Oakdale, one of the black communities of our hometown. I’m 13, Donnie is 12.
One of us takes one of the pieces of bread, which is probably Sunbeam, and soaks it in the water, then takes the wet bread and rubs it across the screen-like mesh which is the bottom of the net. A rope splits into four sections, one tied to each of the net’s corners. When it’s ready, one of us and it’s usually Donnie gently throws the net out into the river, maybe five or six feet. A milky cloud of bread ash floats above the net as it sinks to the flat bottom, but most of the bread remains – enticingly we hope – stuck to the bottom. And then we leave.
We leave for something like 30 to 45 minutes, we have our bikes – point of fact I bought my bike, a maroon three-speed, for $18 from Kenny Page, an older kid who lives kitty-corner across the street from our house. It was my first bike, and it was my own earned money. Donnie and I take off to somewhere, maybe around the big Main Street/High Street block flying by both our houses, or the other way down Main to the town piers where salt-water fishing, with purchased sea worms as bait, waits for another day. Sometimes we go into the pharmacy and sit at the counter and drink a frappe or a coke. That’s right next to the jewelry store/record store where I will begin working in a few years.
Eventually we get back to the river’s edge and one of us pulls the rope taught and hauls it in and more often than not the net is alive with squiggling fat chubs and sometimes flashing thin shiners, all of which go in a bucket three-quarters filled with the brackish river water, and I cannot figure how we did this, we ride with the bucket and net to our houses and get our fishing poles and all balanced and ballet-like we cruise down over those same railroad tracks to Mill Pond, on one side of Route 28 or the other, depending which water grabs our attention most, and we sit on the grass or in the sand or on the slanted cement of the bridge edge and we spend many summer hours fishing.
Those days were warm and tender, we caught fish or we didn’t. Always with our eyes on red and white bobbers. Sometimes we’d wheel out to South or West Wareham, the old horseshoe mill, maybe up Tihonet Road to the private rod and gun club. Sometimes we’d bring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Van Morrison has a song about boys and water and fishing poles and I got thinking about it when I began thinking about this story of those long-ago days. It’s called “And It Stoned Me”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYqJtqyeilE It fits this milieu.
Summer vacations from school, and me and Donnie fishing probably something like a thousand days….that time and place of my life feels as real to me today – right here, right now – as does this morning’s coffee.