I’m still on vacation – somewhere in the backwoods of Montana where I grew up. It’s quiet out here, there’s no cell coverage, and I haven’t a clue as to what is going on in politics. I’ve given Matt Drudge no hits since being here (which I’m sure he misses), and what television I have watched when inside has consisted almost entirely of Westerns and the Andy Griffith marathons. It’s been family, friends, and fishing – and I don’t miss a thing from my “normal” life.
Call it a respite, a reprieve, or rejuvenation – but as much as I love politics, I also hate it and I love being away from it. I do get caught up from time to time in political conversations while the flies are floating or when dinner is settling – but I don’t let myself get too worked up. It’s almost hard to out here – away from the hoopla.
Unfortunately, even in areas nearly untouched by man, our imperious government lurks and harms. Old growth can’t be removed due to regulations and therefore fires blaze. Absurd speed limits are demanded by the Fed based on Baltimore to Boston, not Butte to Bozeman. Farmers are being forced to get commercial driver’s licenses in order to drive farm equipment on public roads.
Now, all of those things might make sense to someone in Washington – but to most who have spent any time in Montana, they understand that ignorance in power isn’t bliss. When I was young, there was no speed limit on highways in Montana. The reason is because you can drive a straight shot from Eureka to Baker, never leave the state, and rack up 700 miles. There are more sheep in Montana than people, and more cows than cars. Driving 55 mph on any portion of that stretch is absurd and unneeded.
This is a rural state being run by urban know-it-alls. It’s those individuals who think Farmer Brown should have to carry a medical card and log his hours when he drives his combine to his neighbor’s house to help him beat the weather. Many of my friends drove combine for hundreds of miles when they were 14 years old. Their families depended on that to get by. Now we’re going to make unnecessary regulations on the hardest working people? Why? Are there a slew of highway tractor fatalities that I’m not aware of?
Of course, this is in the name of safety – which is as ironic as eating the breast meat of a booby because they won’t allow us to cut out the old growth trees in the forest so as to protect the feelings of dead tree lovers. Meanwhile, people are dying, losing their homes, crops, etc. due to forest fires. Old growth might as well be overgrown matches during the summer. One strike from lightening or a Californian not properly putting out his campfire and thousands of acres become true carbon footprints of our error.
Still, their extensive grasp can’t grip my mind when I look up in the evening in the Big Sky, and their empty rhetoric is silenced by the swish of the stream. I’m quite certain that when my friend and foe, the fish, rips through the ripples to seize my fly and I feel the affirming tautness in the line, all of the tension politics can produce is lost and I’m lost too – in the moment. There’s a part of me that never wants to return – a large part – and I too find myself fighting a current and a line; reality and need.
We cannot entirely break away from this thing; our time and circumstance, but we can negotiate a temporary escape. The smell of the woods and the hum of the torrent are my hypnotics and I’m pleased to be standing primitively waste deep in the waters luring. Then, as I take a picture with my smart phone of the fish I just caught, I’m saddened by the reminder of who I am and the world that I must eventually return to – and perhaps never fully left. It’s too early to let the poison of those notions sink in, so I recast and lay the line down on a log covered shadow. I know he’s there, but I am voluntarily, contentedly lost again.
“Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise. Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” –Norman Maclean
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