Soul of a Fly Fisher – Chano and the Red Letter Day

| April 12, 2015

Chano drew deep on his dwindling cigar, held, and let go. The view from the bar was nothing to sneeze at; chickens wandering bent on destruction of fresh plant beds, a new family of wrens skittishly lined their new nest in the bar, the wind bending treetops with a mid-April cool front. Even the hummingbird scouts showed themselves to him today. The cloud of smoke circled, dwindled, he took it in again secondhand, and flew off on the wind.

He thought back to earlier in the day, what he’d heard called a red letter day …

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The solid rattle of the ironing board as he set it up. He pulled his only remaining white dress shirt off the hanger, he only needed one these days, as the days of formal work thankfully faded into distant memory. The iron plugged in, and heating up, he laid out his shirt on the industrial size board, waited to hear the telltale sound of steam being cooked, and went to work on the shirt – methodically, like hundreds of times in the past, from the time he was twelve-years-old.

As Chano ironed, he thought back even further. He remembered a time when his grandparents, both very alive, seemed to regularly have somewhere to go when he came over for his weekend visits from Edinburg to Weslaco. Saturdays were a day for funerals, funerals for friends. It had the characteristics of tradition, Grandma looked smashing, and Grandpa always had a suit, tie, shirt and those heavy Florsheim wingtips that were made even heavier by the resole jobs he had done in Mexico. Off they would go, leaving Chano alone to play in the store or the machine shop for a couple of hours while they did the loving deed of saying goodbye to a friend, over and over again. “Four score and ten is what God promises – if we’re good and respect our parents,” Grandma used to always say to Chano. Some made it, some didn’t Chano thought.

Now Chano was finding himself in the unloved position he labeled “moving up a notch.” Like it or not, he was on the shorter side of the circle, and it had closed for a friend a few days past.

When Chano heard the news, it had all the characteristics of a bad joke, that a friend he was joking around with by phone texts one day had died the next. The overwhelming tears on the other end of the phone made him know it was true.

He went to the dry cleaner and picked up his black suit. It had been spinning around on their conveyor belt for weeks, and he didn’t care. Now he had to care. It was becoming his tradition now; the suit ready, the heavy wingtips shined, a tie, the belt let out another notch, and now ironing the shirt.

The service itself was one hard way to continue Chano’s initiation into “moving up a notch” in age. His fly fishing friend had brought a disparate group of individuals together from all over the Country and even Canada, on an occasion best described as a loss that was, “out of order.” There were many family members, friends from other sports she loved, and a fair number of fly fishers present, all seemed to be equally dismayed by the reason for being there.

That’s what Chano thought as he sat there .. “out of order,” so many more fish to catch in so many more places. Only a few days earlier, he was scouting new places for them to go fly fish the spring carp, and checking on a cove they had been to last year for bass.

After it was all over, Chano went out to his truck and brought in a box of flies he had ended up with, by chance, and handed it over to her son as if handing over a bar of gold. They were a batch of flies she had tied for a fundraiser, and while Chano was overwhelmed, her son took them from Chano with the care Chano had reflected if not fully comprehended. Chano thought, this is the last physical connection, and the last time he would be connected to so many who knew her.

Chano’s cigar was burning down now, and he had no choice but to let the music soak in and illuminate some context, some meaning to one of the longest, slowest days he could recall in years.


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Category: Body-Mind-Soul

About the Author () is where to find my other day job. I write and photograph fish stories professionally, and for free here! Journalist by training. This site is for telling true fishing news stories, unless otherwise noted.

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