Our sheeple family had been on the road for a week and it was time to head home. None of us really wanted to stay any longer in the Soo then it took to pack the camper and head back down the Great Road. It was cool and rainy and we had circled the big lake. Our big adventure was over, and like always, we were feeling a wee bit down. No one ever wants the vacation to end, but mom and dad had to be back to work on Monday.
After crossing the Mighty Mac, my dad turned left. I was still flexing my fingers after the white knuckle crossing when it dawned on me we were headed east. The sheeple parents decided to stop at the farm and visit my grandparents, spend the night, then head home tomorrow. I always liked going to the farm, even as a surly teenager, so I was happy with one more day.
As we drove up the gravel road across the one lane bridge I looked out at the swamp and the little creek. This was my home ground, my fishing hole and the place I always go back too. Even at fifteen and feeling the angst of my teen years, I always, always liked going to the farm.
We pulled up the drive at noon, and as I walked into the house, I was not at all surprised to see my grandmother setting the table for lunch. You could set a watch to the feeding times at my grandparents house, the timing was as precise and structured as their German ancestors. And some how, my grandmother always knew when company was coming and set extra plates, today being no exception.
We sat down to lunch and my grandmother's potato salad and honest to goodness real baked beans, none of that can stuff at this table. My grandfather asked me how the Great Canadian Fishing Expedition went and I had to tell him of my failure to catch any of the slippery beasts. He nodded in understanding and I felt depressed again. My grandfather was a champion hunter and catcher of fish and I was like all the other sheeple out there, reduced to catching fish, wrapped in cellophane, at the grocery store.
I walked out onto the porch, thinking I would finish my Asimov, sitting in a tree. I had the end of vacation blues and just wanted to go home and finish the summer getting ready for football season, play some D&D. My grandfather walked out and rolled a cigarette with his fingers, yeah he could do that too. He said here, handing me his cane pole and a bucket of worms, I was going to go down to the creek and fish this afternoon, but I still have a lot of work to do, why don't you go. I was kinda fished out ya know, but when my grandpa says you should go do something, well you just listen to him and do what he says. Yeah, he was that kinda guy too.
I took the bucket of worms, freshly dug from the garden, and put the long cane pole over a shoulder and walked the dusty half mile down the road to the little one land bridge and the creek. I baited the hook and flicked the line out over the deep hole I always fished. Just a few steps from the bridge the creek bends and there is an old log, perfect for sitting. With the cane pole, I could reach out across and dip the line into the deepest part of the creek. This is where I had seen the big fish, lurking in the shade of the over hanging cedars, always just a passing shadow.
The cool shade and the gurgling water had me dozing in no time. This was the place to spend a summer afternoon, dreaming of rocket ships and stars, rock bands and cars. With the first tremor of the can pole, I lazily opened an eye. The pole dipped, then settled and that got my attention. I dared not breathe and not a muscle twitched as I waited. The pole dipped again, and with a flick of the wrists, I set the hook. That old cane pole creaked and the line grew thin as I stood up and planted my feet. With both hands choked up on the pole I pulled for all I was worth and with a mighty heave, landed the fish of all fish, right on the swampy bank at my feet.
It was like no fish I had ever seen, bigger then any fish had any right to be, coming from the little creek, but there it was. I thought maybe I was still dreaming, but I could feel the cold water of the creek, soaking into my shoes. I had caught the shadow that had lurked around that old bridge for as long as I could remember. There it was, whatever kind of fish it may be, it's sides heaving in and out as it tried to breathe the air.
I bent over and as gently as I could, I pulled the hook from the mouth of the fish, carefully setting the pole down. I could barely lift the fish, heavy as it was, but I did and looked at it in wonder. I hunkered down at the edge of the water and with a surety I have seldom ever felt since, I let him slip from my fingers. He swam down, down into the cool creek water, disappearing into the deep hole under the fallen tree.
I emptied my bucket of worms and put the pole over my shoulder. As I walked back up the hill to the house, I felt truly free. The vacation blues were washed away and the adventure was sharp and clear, filled with powerful memories. This had turned out to be a grand sheeple adventure. I walked into the barn to put away the pole and bucket and my grandfather was there, feeding cows. He looked over and asked if I had caught anything.
Just a shadow Grandpa, but I let it go. He nodded in understanding.