“No Trespassing”

Fly Fishing for Bass

photo by Mark Sides

Cattle stick their heads through barbed wire to get to the other side. Where grass is greener, water cooler, times just better all around. Pushing the issue as if life or death, the posts start to lean into the wind. It’s a parable told to us as children, teaching us to be happy with what we have, with what we’re given. Everyone else is just as discontent as you are, you’re told, and comparison when viewed through green eyes is envy. It’ll shrivel your heart, burn it out cold.

It’s a warning: Don’t break down that fence. Not everything in life can be put back together, not even with duct tape, and drawn lines are there to keep you from harm, from things entering and you exiting at the wrong time, in the wrong place, to your untimely demise. Or embarrassment. Think about that high school play: it’s oh-so easy to miss the mark.

But farm kids see there’s a bit of truth to the tale. Because on the other side of the fence the grass isn’t grazed to nubbins and yellowed from a full-herd’s piss. It isn’t turned by truck tires or bedded down flat like a soggy pre-packaged salad. It’s greener, more delicious, worth the few scrapes on the neck (even though that’s what will give you away in the end).

Fly fishers too, have straying eyes. Bovine appetites longing for what’s behind fences with No Trespassing signs posted every six feet. We want what we don’t have until we do, wherein we promptly lose interest, never growing out of that toddler-and-cat-stage of being given a new toy and just playing with the box instead. But the pools on that other side look juicier and the wind blows only in breezes. The fish are bigger, feistier, prettier than their public-water selves. It has to be true. You believe it. You’ve been told.

But you wouldn’t really know. Not yet.

Because you’ve always played by the rules. You don’t cheat the pot or fudge the deck because you believe it matters how you win. That’s what your father told you, what he showed you when he got the short end of the stick, over and over again. Just keep working and hold your head up high: grit your teeth and hold your tongue. Karma isn’t a forgetful dealer, she’ll keep tabs and get each their dues in the end. Pocket change.

And so when he lays out the plan for how you’ll cross that fence, how you’ll innocently saunter down a bike path and how you’ll wait on his code for All Clear, hand signals he learned in the army. How you’ll fish a bass pond of unknown ownership, freeze when cyclists pedal past, and how it will be a fantastically fun way to pass an afternoon—you listen closely, you listen well. And you pause, because you have a good amount of guilt built up from over a decade of Sunday School.

But you nod your head in agreement. Okay. And promises are made as for any secret: it can only be fished on a weekday and when trees are fully leafed-out. No talking, no laughing, always wear olive drab. You follow the old paratrooper’s lead. He waves and you run, putting your boot on the barbed wire, pushing yourself over the fence in one flailing leap. Just like you used to do on the farm.