Old Woodenhead

[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

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPerhaps 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 DSCN5572river. 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOld Woodenhead waited for his pal the Sun. The Sun had never accused him of being a snob. A humbug and curmudgeon and s.o.b., perhaps, but never a fishing snob.

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.

fuggetaboutit, boys. let's find another way to make a living...

fuggetaboutit, boys. let’s find another way to make a living…

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…

The long moratorium was over, at least for now. As a pessimist who had dwelled with great concern in a target area of New York, Old Woodenhead never thought he’d live to see the day!DSCN5577

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!”

Old Woodenhead pulled in trout after trout and let them go. The action seemed so therapeutic. Like reeling in the Sun. One fin, one solar flare, one song at a time.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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17 Responses to Old Woodenhead

  1. Ken G says:

    And I thought my occasional forays into the woods and on the waters with my little duck friend were odd. You win. The beauty of getting old. We’re just slowly losing our minds.

    Congrats on the hydrofracking ban. Here in Illinois, we didn’t fare as well.

  2. Thanks Ken. Between the two of us, we’re living proof of human Devo-lution. But hey, it’s kind of fun, too.

  3. The secret to losing your mind properly is to make sure the give-a-shit lobe fizzles out before the rest of it.

  4. Brent says:

    I’m glad to have passed along the good news to O.W.! He looks a lot more relaxed knowing that his home waters will remain a bit cleaner.

  5. markw says:

    Heard about the ban this am. Thankfully thoughtfulness won out over greed

    • Thanks Mark. It’s good that the state finally put the brakes on this latest land grab. Elsewhere, much and the nation (and the world) has its hands full dealing with the present mess and what it means for the future.

  6. Mike says:

    Those rainbows in their winter jackets are brilliant and Old Woodenhead inspires yet again. A nice bit of news yesterday!

  7. Anonymous says:

    More Doors: “Not to touch the earth/not to see the sun/nothing left to do but run, run, run/ let’s run…” That’s quite a bend in O.W.’s rod – the cane might take a set! Congrats on the fracking ban, I wish PA was as enlightened. P.S. check the mails in couple days.

    • Anonymous Bob, I can’t quite peg the source, is it from “Waiting for…”? There IS a fearful bend in the rod, isn’t there. He really puts the wood to those Allegheny rainbows, but he’s not afraid of taking another set in the cane. He’s getting to know the character of that Tonkin cane, and claims it’s “honorable use.” So thanks! I too wish that PA would ease up on fracking, and at least give the state forests and national forest a break. OK!

  8. Bob Stanton says:

    Again, an anonymous post. ???

  9. Bob, You wouldn’t be insinuating that, um, ah, O.W. is actually… No, you wouldn’t do that. Oh wait a minute… There… I see it… I had it all wrong…

  10. Bob Stanton says:

    Yeah, you can chalk up the mystery comments to my general computer incompetence or maybe the vagaries of the interwebs. The Doors…yes, “Waiting For The Sun”. PA fracking – hopefully with Corbett out, the guv’ment will take a harder stance on where they can ply their trade, tighten regulations, and enact a severance tax. But I’m not overly optimistic, ’cause after all, it’s Pennsyltucky we’re talking about.

    • Yeah hopefully he can do the Tighten Up in Pennsy (Leighanne says he’s not even accepting a Guvna salary– probably doesn’t need it) but I won’t hold my breath over it. Anyway, it’s got to be a step forward after the election, and hopefully not 2 steps back.

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