Awakening at four on Saturday morning, as I do on weekdays, I rolled over and tried to return to sleep but couldnít. I tossed and turned for a few minutes before giving up. I made coffee and sat on my deck overlooking the river. It was peaceful and quiet with everything and everyone else in the world still asleep. The coyotes were probably asleep too. It was a comfortable lonely feeling, as though I was on watch for everyone else.
The gray gathering of faint light in the east announced the sun would be up in an hour or so. Wide awake anyway I thought I might as well do some fishing to pass the time while waiting for the world to come back. I took a cane pole down to the river dock and sat on the end with my feet dangling above the water. I pulled up the minnow bucket and caught a fat one, hooked him and cast out. Fog was rolling in quickly, flowing down the river bottom with the current. I pulled my line in and took the cork off, wasnít going to be able to see it, and swung the minnow back out to sit on the bottom. I would feel the bite when it came, probably catfish given the conditions.
An old man, ancient looking with long white hair and beard silently came up beside me. I hadnít heard him coming, he was just suddenly there. It gave me a small start but he was frail looking and I didnít sense any threat in his demeanor. He sat beside me and cast his line out on the water. We sat there in companionable silence for a while, then I introduced myself. He didnít respond to my hand shake offer but did say he was pleased to meet me and told me his name; Josiah Franklin.
A long silence followed that I eventually broke by saying ďHavenít seen you around here before, just move in or visiting someone?Ē
As he answered I took the opportunity to politely look directly at him, and study him. It was still mostly dark and the fog was thick. I couldnít make him out very well, he seemed to drift in and out a bit as the fog thickened and curled and thinned around us. ďNoĒ he said ďI used to live here a long time ago. Had a small cabin back in the woods a bit. Donít get out around here much anymore.Ē
I said ďIíve lived here for forty years and change, donít recall any cabins around here.Ē
ďLong time ago means a lot more than forty years son. I was long gone when you came along.Ē
I wondered about that. He looked to be in his eighties best as I could tell in the dark and fog. Iíve been around a lot of old folks and I know how their minds sometimes donít work quite right, so I shrugged it off as just another confused old person. I wasnít about to challenge his logic, no point.
He said ďI know what youíre thinking and youíre wrong, but thatís ok. You wouldnít believe if I explained, and no need for you to. I fished this river when it was a wild bronco before they tamed it with dams. Iíve seen this river over a mile wide in full raging flood right here. Iíve seen it bone dry too. Iíve seen Injuns camped out on the other side right there, wild Injuns on a scalping hunt, looking for any white man they could find to scalp. Tonkawasís they were, and rumored to be cannibals at that. It was a hard land in those days, one that took a solid man to stand up to, and no small amount of good luck to go with his courage. But a man could make a living here, and thatís a fact. ď