Well, weíre down to the nitty gritty. The final stretch. The last mile. The last hurrah, as they say. Whatever cliché you choose, itís okay with me. Who am I to judge? Iím just an innocent bystander who got caught up in all this at unawares.
At 9 p.m. tonight, on OLN, Cox Cable channel 48, the big night. The show of shows. Overture! Curtain, lights! Yes, thatís my television debut, and I am prepared for the outcome no matter what is.
I think so, anyway.
I have two contingency plans. Three, actually. The first is if the show is a rampaging success, and I actually look okay and come off somewhat dignified. In that case, I shall strut my way through the weekend like a rooster, all full of pride and arrogance. The second, again if the show is actually good, then I shall be quiet and humble, honorably genteel, not a Philistine, the perfect example of the gentlemanly Southern outdoorsman.
The third plan involves having my bags packed and a one-way ticket to Patagonia. Please take care of my mother, for me, okay? She did her best to raise a good son, it wasnít her fault, I strayed from the path, oh, woe is me!
Oh, I have my new life all planned out, should the occasion demand it. Itíll be like entering the witness protection program, but instead itíll be the "Injun boy who makes a damn fool of himself on television trying to fly fish" program.
In the program, I am spirited away in the dead of night wearing a fedora and heavy trench coat, wrap-around sunglasses on my face. And wing-tip shoes. I look like a shady character from The Maltese Falcon. They put me on a train which will pass through Texas, Mexico and the rest of Central America, eventually finding its way to Trinidad, Bolivia, on the Rio Mamore. They have set me up in a nice hacienda here, where I can fly fish for peacock bass in relative obscurity for the rest of my life. Militant Bolivian mercenaries will protect me from intruding eyes and smuggle crawfish, Tony Chachereís and Abita beer to me illegally. Patches takes up residence in one of the haciendaís corner tower-rooms, where she can look out on the jungle surrounding us and snarl at the anacondas and jaguars.
Now and then some hunter or angler will be on a guided fishing or hunting tour of Bolivia and catch a corner-of-the-eye glimpse of me and report back to the National Enquirer or The Star that they saw "the notorious, maligned and publicly-shunned author Roger Stouff" but nobody believes it because they all think I am tending yak in Siberia. Thatís the cover story, you see.
Well, thatís the three plans, anyway. I am not having a get-together. Iím not a gambling man, so I figured I wouldnít play the odds that I wonít be shamed into a shapeless lump of skin, muscle and pretentiousness.
Of course, the notion that it might actually turn out good is quite interesting too. In it, I become an overnight fly fishing sensation, and to protect my privacy and that of my family I am spirited away in the middle of the night to Bolivia, to spend the rest of my days living in a glorious hacienda, waited on hand and foot by servants and blissfully fishing away each day in whatever river I choose, writing more books and doing public appearances on Oprah via satellite uplink because my schedule is simply too busy to make it to the studios in person, darling, have your girl call my girl, weíll do e-mail, okay?
There is, I guess, another alternative: The show airs, and nobody notices or gives a rip, and I just go on writing this column, fishing in the bayous and swamps, and have a lovely life here in dear olí Lousy-ana.
HmmÖsounds great to me.
Well, whatever the outcome, itís been a fun trip, and I hope it all comes out for the best, for everyone concerned. Especially me. My father is surely looking down on me from the Great Beyond with my ancestors, shaking his head and Ėsaying, "I taught that boy everything I know and he still donít know nothing!" This was a favorite saying of my fatherís during our life together, until I was about 10 when a light bulb suddenly came on and I asked, "But Pop, doesnít that mean you donít know nothing?" Satisfied that I had learned some wisdom, he dropped the subject entirely.
My father taught me to fly fish. He was, make no mistake about it, a lethal weapon with a fly rod, no ifs, ands nor buts about it. With a willowy old Heddon rod and a tiny yellow popping bug fly on a stretch of monofilament tied to the fly line, my dad would harass the bass and bluegill for hours on end, dozens and dozens of them falling prey to his talent in the course of but a single day. I fished the long rod until I was about 20, gave it up for some reason I donít recall, but Iím sure it wasnít important enough in the long run. Iím sure it was something that, in retrospect, was truly meaningless.
Three years ago, I was looking through the old boatshed at my dadís house and there on a shelf, covered in dust, were two old Heddon fly rods. Mine and his. I took them home and though mine had been so severely chewed by rats it could not be salvaged, I rebuilt his to restored condition. That rod rekindled the spirit of fly fishing within me, and though I did it mostly for nostalgia in the beginning, I do it now because it just seems natural to me. It just seems right. I keep his old Heddon at home with my other rods now in tribute.
So truly, whatever the outcome, itís not riches, or fame, or even success that I hope for so much as doing the old man proud. I spent a lot of years not making him proud, years I wish I could reclaim now. We mended our fences and became father and son again before he left this world to join his Creator; to continue to make him proud remains among my most important tasks in the years remaining me.
Check out the show, and let me know how Iím doing.