Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Shad - Caught Bare-Handed

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Shad - Caught Bare-Handed

Article excerpt

We'd played there often - swinging on the "Tarzan vine" over the stream, running along the skinny, knobby dirt paths, or sliding down the slippery grass hills to the stream. Yet our senses were always alert when we entered the sun-dappled trees, secretly alert for something magic. That April my friends and I were 11 years old, and the whole world seemed full of possibilities. As we tiptoed toward the cows that grazed in the far field at the end of the woods, our reality shifted, and they became bulls in our minds - ready to charge in a fit of rage at anyone who wore red.

Peering over the wooden fence at the docile cattle, we spoke in low tones and then tore off at a rapid pace, panting with half- fake, half-real fear when the animals started to wander toward us.

The narrow stream, small enough to jump over, could be seen through the trees. There was something odd about it that day, and the oddness was not in our imaginations. It was bubbling, glittering, and moving faster than ever before. It was teeming with big, silver fish. A solid glut of them tumbled through the water. It became a cord of moving silver thread with flashes of gold, pink, and green as the fish jumped. None of us knew what to do besides stare at them wordlessly. One of the boys ran home to get his father.

After a wait that seemed forever, my friend's father lumbered down the hill toward us. The very air around us shifted into something solid and real as he somehow dispersed the air of magic with his touch of the practical everyday. "Shad!" he pronounced, looking up at us from his knees in the muddy ground bordering the stream. "Get down here and get some!"

He started pulling fish out of the water with his big, bare hands. Reaching into the water he grabbed tight around the flipping shimmer of streaming fish then lifted them out one by one, dripping and fighting between his palms. The four of us kids decided that if a mere dad could do it, so could we. The fish were slippery and strong. Tiny scales bit into the palms of our hands; sharp tails hit our bared arms, and the smell of the river bottom rose into the air. A wild sense of fraternity bonded us together, and as we looked into the flat eyes of the shad, we felt as if we had become a part of ancient ways and rhythms. …

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