[Old Woodenhead is a likeness of the author, given to him several years ago as a Christmas present from his wife. It was carved by the Coudersport (PA) folk artist, David Castano. O.W. has appeared previously on this blog at holiday time, though never as “Old Woodenhead.”]
Old Woodenhead went fishing near the headwaters of the Allegheny River. The afternoon was cold and dark and drizzly. He went looking for his friend, the Sun, but his glowing pal was nowhere in sight. Old Woodenhead waited for his friend…He waited, even as he warmed himself by casting and by catching trout. His friend seemed far away.
Perhaps the Sun was fishing in Argentina. Nothing wrong with that. The trout fishing is good in Argentina, but it was nearly time for Winter Solstice at this river, and the Sun would surely return. Old Woodenhead wasn’t worried.
The Sun’s departure and return was like a backcast over the river– the line would pause behind Old Woodenhead as the fly and leader straightened out… Then the line would drive forward to a chosen spot– like the Sun above a riffle.
Old Woodenhead was happily casting on a miserable day. There was no one else on the river. Even the hunters had given up the chase for football and TV, for their own ideas of worship and religion. He was glad not to be shopping (yet), and please, no more Christmas parties, damnit! He would never kneel down willingly at the altar of the advertisers. He was fly fishing while he could, thank god.
Old Woodenhead was catching and releasing trout, staying warm with the hand to fin activity… six trout, seven trout, eight… all rainbows, and a small brown…They were hatchery trout, for sure, but trout nonetheless, at a time when the wild ones couldn’t be reached because of the snow and mud and freezing rain. Let the trout be gluttons for an Egg Fly sandwich; they, too, were just acting on their instincts.
He waited for the Solstice and Christmas celebrations despite himself. Like the subject of a Doors song, he was Waiting for the Sun. Old Woodenhead enjoyed his family and friends, and even wished the planet well, despite believing its orbit might be skewing, headed for some hell inside a wicker basket.
But wait a minute… On December 17th, Old Woodenhead, along with many other Americans, got the best news heard in quite some time… New York State, and Governor Cuomo’s administration, had banned hydrofracking within its borders, a decision based on mounting scientific evidence that the industry poses serious risks to human health and the environment…
Old Woodenhead felt the rush of blood, of gratefulness to the warriors and academics who had fought against the fracking movement. It all rushed to his heart and cranium, and he felt alive! He thought back to his years of worry, and then to this holiday gift from science and from common sense. He thought of a line from a Dylan song, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now!”