Rob and i sat in the parking lot that was interstate five on a sweltering friday evening. It was rush hour and one of the lanes ahead of us somewhere was closed. ” its probably gonna be like this till Woodburn ” Rob said. ” fuck ” i grumbled. There had been excitement growing in my gut all day, and now the city wouldn’t let us out. It was like she knew what dark business we were up to and was resisting with all her might. After an hour of fighting , Stump town finally let us out of her grasp. At the first opportunity Rob stomped on the gas and we flew down the I-5 corridor as the sun started toward the horizon. We could hear our brothers calling to us from deep in the forest, and we obeyed their summons pressing on in the lengthening light.
We made a quick stop for fuel in Eugene and then turned south east onto highway 58. It was growing dark as we entered the town of Westfir. I dug my flashlight out and studied the map Dave had given us. After Westfir we came onto Northfork road and followed the north fork middle fork of the Willamette river. With white knuckles and clenched teeth we barreled up the quickly darkening canyon. We drove into the night looking for some sign of the Gilled , but we saw none. “I think we went to far” Rob said as he lit up another Winston. “I think you’re right” I said. Was this some sort of test? (Get the F.N.G. to camp in the dark and earn your patches.) Did the founders have one final hurdle for me to jump? I nervously pulled on a cigarette as we headed back the way we came. i was silently cursing Pierson when we came upon a Honda element. It was parked next to an access road that led down to the river , and the camp where our brood welcomed us with cold beer and warming whiskey. With the new guys help I had passed my final exam and would receive my colors in the morning.
Uriah pulled in with the dawn blasting sweet sweet metal, the reveille of the Gilled. We sat and drank coffee and ate our breakfast. I was handed my patches which I gleefully attached to my fly vest. A short time later we were thundering down the road in Uriah’s black steed headed for trout country. What ensued was a lip ripping trout terrorizing free for all. Even the F.N.G. got fish. This was Rob’s first time fly fishing so Uncle Yucky hung with him awhile and popped his cherry. We hopped from boulder to boulder like ninja assassins fucking fish up all day. It was glorious.
I stopped for awhile and waited for Patrick , Dave and Hank to catch up. We sat by a little hole, where i know for a fact there was a little bow rubbing his sore mouth , and rested up with a beer. Dave reached into his upper right vest pocket and produced a small black canister. He opened it and silently released his father back into the water he’d loved for so many years. I have a profound respect for my friend in the way he handled him self with dignity when other men might have blubbered like children. Our ranks are filled with honorable men.
I’d been recovering from a broken wrist which was now screaming for whiskey so we headed back up to the road. Uriah came walking up a short time later. He had lost Rob somewhere along the river. “he crossed over to the other side. I waited for him catch up but he never did” said Uriah “Fucking new guy” Dave complained. We were all getting hungry but none of us wanted to make a call to North Carolina so Pat and Uriah went off to search for him. He eventually turned up and we headed back to camp to wait for dusk. I finished sewing on my patches and had a couple beers. Patrick evoked the spirit of Dan Villano by firing up the chain-saw and we collected some fire wood for that evening.
Around seven we piled back into the steed and drove to a large emerald pool flanked to the south by a rock outcropping. I fought a noble battle with a beautiful brooky as my cohorts fanned out to strike fear in the hearts of fish all along the bend. Again everyone got fish. Night fell and we retreated back to camp where Holly and Jen had started the potatoes. A six inch rainbow trout had jumped my hook and smashed on the rocks killing himself. So I ate him. We heard a loud crash or a boom in the darkness so Uriah, Patrick and Rob drove out to investigate. I stayed behind to help Dave with a mountain of chicken. They returned a little while later having found nothing. The seven of us ate until we could no longer.
Then we drank.
The next morning I woke up last and found everyone preparing to leave. We ate and said our farewells and once again Rob and I rolled down Northfork road. We sat comfortably silent as we turned back onto highway 58. There was a large bird of prey keeping time with us far above the tree line. With lightening speed he folded back his wings and dove into the river after a fish. “Thats a bald eagle!” I shouted . We audibly wowed like two teenaged boys seeing tits for the first time. “Thats the most American thing I’ve ever seen” I joked. It wasn’t “American” though, it was just an animal fishing. If bald eagles listened to music ,I have no doubt it would be metal. Rob smiled and we drove on to Portland where he dropped me at home.
As a full member I am no longer burdened with trivial pursuits. I have emerged from my cocoon to paint the rivers red with the blood of fish. I leave behind an old life and in its place a brother hood. A Metal Gilled.