When I was a girl, my family would tell stories about my paternal grandfather, Tap, who was killed a few years before I was born. Not all of them were flattering. Even so, everyone agreed that he was a gifted fisherman. He would set trout lines and go and check them on a regular basis. He frequented the Black Water, and the Sipsey Fork. But, many of the stories about him are set on the Mulberry Fork. My grandmother thought he spent too much time on the river.

One day on the Mulberry Fork, Tap and a friend were checking trout lines. It was hot summer. Tap had an old boat (or maybe he had borrowed it) that had no motor, so they paddled. The two men had gone up river just about as far as the trout lines were set when a cotton mouth fell out of a tree and into the boat between Tap and the other man.

The other man stood up in the boat, pulled out a pistol, and promptly shot the snake which was in the bottom of the boat. “Well ain’t you just a damn genius,” Tap is quoted as saying as the boat sank. They had to walk the muddy river bank all the way home.

I had been on the river in some form or fashion all of my life: sometimes on the bank, sometimes in a boat with a motor, and sometimes in a canoe. A few years back my nephew talked me into trying out a kayak.

Kayaks are silent. On one trip down the river with family, we were all quite. A blue heron began following us almost as soon as we put in. He would fly ahead, wait till we were almost close enough to touch him, and then he would fly ahead again.

The water was like glass, and it seemed effortless to pull myself along the water. I was a part of everything around me, and I realized I was moving through the same path my grandfather would have traveled many times over. I felt a connection with him in that moment, like I really knew him. It was almost as if I paddled hard enough, He would be around the next bend in the river.

Martha SalomaaComment