I know Buffalo Springfield has nothing to do with “jazz.” But this is a good story, and it revolves around both music and fly fishing, so hear me out.
Several years ago, a writer in his late 30s found himself behind the wheel of a Jeep Cherokee, owned by another writer in his late 60s, wheeling through the dry-wash landscape on I-80 in southern Wyoming. It was the middle of an August night, and they were rumbling home toward Denver after fishing the Snake River in Idaho.
Now, truth be told, it hadn’t been an easy trip. The fishing was damn good, but the getting there had been rough. A flat tire on a gravel road almost spelled catastrophe in the backcountry. The old guy had to make a call to his pal, Jack Dennis, to pull some strings and get a man from the Big O tire store in Jackson to open shop (on a Sunday) and fix that flat before they could get on their way home. And that all happened, but, naturally, not before the duo had finished their day of fishing on the Snake.
Hours later, the younger guy at the wheel—who was a nervous wreck throughout the flat tire ordeal—was just about spent. Bleary-eyed. Hanging on by a thread. The older guy was sawing logs in the passenger’s seat.
Desperate to do anything to keep awake and his attention on the road, younger guy fumbled for a cassette tape, and slid it into the stereo system. Buffalo Springfield. “Bluebird.”
I was that younger guy. And next to me (that older guy) was Charlie Meyers, outdoors editor of the Denver Post.
There’s a point in that song when the tempo slows, and the band breaks into a distinctive phrase, laced with harmony.
“Do you think… she loves you? Do you think… at all—all—all?”
And it was right then, as I was quietly mouthing the words to the tune, that Charlie chimed in, from his false slumber, to sing the high harmony part (perfectly). We laughed, and then we sped on through the night. He feigned more sleep. I held tight to the wheel.
Charlie passed away a few years later, the victim of lung cancer, though he wasn’t a smoker. In the interim, we were able to collaborate on The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing.
Truth be told, that moment, on that Wyoming highway, still shakes me. The music still reverberates. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that there are times when I am off chasing a story and fishing somewhere, when I hear his harmony, ever so subtly, in the wind. Some might feel haunted, but I feel blessed.
Because the lesson learned was that there are scant, sacred things that can bind a friendship, and bridge the generation gap, beyond the mentor and student relationship… even beyond family connection. There are things that can bring people of different ages, from different geographic origins, and so much more, together… thick as thieves.
Music is definitely one of those things.
Fly fishing. Of course.