I should have been writing today, but I spent my afternoon on the Susquehanna river near the exchange street bridge in Binghamton, missing strikes and feeding the fish. It’s mostly rocks there (rock bottom dam), and I climb down a steep hill through old silver maples and even older Sycamores, with bind weed attempting to trip me up and send me head first down to the rocks. Getting down to the river is an accomplishment in its own right.
I read about soapy water drawing out night crawlers. As a kid, my dad and I would go out on a humid summer night with a flash light and catch them as they surfaced in the wet grass. Sometimes they’d be mating, and so they’d glisten with worm sperm. We’d catch enough to fill our coffee can for the fishing trip. I guess I would have been a disgrace to the boys in “A River Runs Through It,” but what the hell? Being out in the yard with my father under a full moon catching night crawlers is a happy memory. The cicadas were always so shrill. Elizabeth, New jersey in the 1960’s was full of worms, due to everyone still having gardens. Of course the bottom of the sky would throb red from oil refineries, and the hot, muggy air often had a sulfur smell, but the few stars we could see were known to my father. He also knew where the planets were positioned. He’d point them out to me and tell me stories about catching fish when he was a young kid in Chester, New Jersey. He worked as a machinist, not a college educated man. He was a former prize fighter and farm boy. My dad had fallen in love with my mother and left the farm for good, but he knew how to catch night crawlers, how to grow vegetables, how to hit a speed bag, and how to tell stories.
There are not as many crawlers it seems as when I was a kid, but I put a water slide in my yard, where the grass was dead, and I soaped it down A bunch of kids who were over caught crawlers in broad day light. They were ecstatic. Their parents were not so thrilled, but what the hell? I was the only parent to belly flop on the water slide, and the only one to be as happy as the kids about the worms.
So today, I stole the dish soap from the kitchen and went out in the yard and saved myself about four dollars (the price of night crawlers at my local gas station). Sure enough, they came up out of the ground right away. The only thing about soaped crawlers is they get kind of drunk and mushy off the soap, but I was having no luck digging them out, or finding them at night, so why not?
I fished and prayed, caught only one Fall fish. Had two small mouth bass shake the hooks. Did catch a tree limb and a large clam (not expecting that in the river). Ran out of worms, and started hunting for Cray fish. This proved more fun than fishing. I found some wonderful fossils, and an old rail spike. I collected interesting rocks, and because of the lack of rain, I recovered hooks I’d lost earlier in the year (not my lures though). I even caught some crayfish (two to be exact). I didn’t break my neck. I was virtually all alone on the river except for some young fisherman who eventually sidled up and asked if I’d caught anything. We talked about the cray fish. We talked about how we needed rain. We discussed his success with Walleyes and my general lack of success with walleyes. He hadn’t caught anything at rock river dam in a month. I point to scattered cans of Keystone beer and said: “assholes come here at night, drink, and litter and probably fish the hole out.” He nodded in agreement It’s the kind of exchange I enjoy. I wished him luck, gave him my spot which is a deep drop off with some decent fishing, and climbed back up the steep hill to my car.
My heart is not good. I have three stents. Some days it goes a little funky after the climb. Maybe two years from now, I won’t be able to revisit my childhood and belly flop on a soaped water slide, or catch crawlers and crayfish. So seize the day! Carpe Diem. I don’t think this is what the courtly poets meant, but it works for me.