The River At Dawn // Begins

In the spirit of Paradox Point, I've decided to begin posting excerpts from a memoir I wrote six years ago.It is more or less a compilation of unrelated stories about my life towards the end of my time in Fayetteville, and they are all most definitely true, which probably isn't too hard to believe. They're not fantastical or anything. But perhaps grandiose.

Enjoy. This is the beginning:

Driving Out

You ready?

Yeah.

We open the doors to my ’97 Toyota four runner with my Thule roof rack on top. It’s a kind of smoky green brown and gray color. Crank windows and manual locks. No cd player, no tape player. Just an am/fm radio. I traded in my old Volkswagen Jetta for it last month. It doesn’t really have a name, it’s just my car. I got it because it’s easier to sleep in. No four wheel drive, no heated seats. Manual transmission with a four cylinder engine. Cloth seats with removable headrests and adjustable backs.

The night sky is cool and dark. Some clouds but not many. The trees and tree branches are waving calmly in the darkness. The moon is round and full, the sun must be shining on it from somewhere else.

The street I live on is black pavement with a white curb on each side. Most of the driveways in this neighborhood are made of concrete. The kind of driveways that are actually two pieces with that little wood strip running across the center about halfway up. The street is flat and my car is parked there because my roommate’s cars are in the driveway.

Did you bring your waders up?

Nope.

I laugh,

Ok, no waders then.

It takes some time for Peter to get everything into my car. He usually keeps everything in his truck. Backpack, fly rod and reel, L.L. Bean sleeping bag, etc. Tonight he is already wearing his blue Marmot fleece with the zipper pulled all the way up. He mentions to me again that the name of the fleece is the “Poacher Pile” and that he’s had it since the mid eighties. It seems that every time he says that the date goes back another few years.

He pulls everything together in the back seat and lands in the front while the door falls back to shut tightly beside him.

How many Backwoods do you have?

I think I have three

Ok, we’ll stop at the gas station on the way out; we need to get some other stuff anyways.

As we pull out of my driveway, I reach up and hit the garage door button with my thumb. The house is already out of sight before the door touches the ground. Within two minutes and four stoplights, we are on the Interstate 540 headed north. Some people call it the bypass; I call it the freeway.

It takes a good hour to get to the White River from Fayetteville, and we usually leave around 10:30, but tonight it’s already past midnight.

Sometimes when driving you end up seeing things that you never noticed before. The Tyson Chicken plant has a nice hill out to the side; we could sled down that sometime. Waffle House spelled the word “cofee” wrong.

My mind wanders on nights like this, and I think Peter’s does too.

We pull up to the Beaver Dam Tailwaters area at about 1:45am (we had to make a pit stop for Backwoods, gas, and food). The dam is huge; and it’s brightly lit up by nighttime flood lights. It seems like its 200 feet tall from the bottom, but it’s probably more than that.  It amazes me that people can build things like that. I wonder to myself how they pushed the water back long enough to build it. It seems like they’d have to build a temporary dam to hold the water back while they were building the real dam.

The actual spot that we park the car to bed down for the night is about a mile down a dirt road which is aptly named “Dam Site Road.” There’s a big white sign with black letters on it that reads:

TROPHY AREA

All trout caught must be released

Single, barbless hooks only

We always back into our regular parking spot. There’s never anyone out there at 2am. The parking lot is small. You could probably fit 10 or 15 cars in there, and by mid morning, it’s usually full. Me and Peter like to get a head start on things, so we try to make it out the night before. Its dark outside, and the moonlight gives detail to the leafless trees. There’s a loose packing of asphalt on the ground here, although I would hardly call it pavement. It’s more like a blacktop. There’s not really much trash on the ground here, someone must keep it pretty clean. Although, this is a fly fishermen’s parking lot, so you wouldn’t expect it to look trashy like the parking lot just up the road where the good ole boys set up their spinner rods with powerbait and load their canoes down with Miller High Life.

After parking the car, we just sit there for about 7-10 minutes without talking. With the car lights off. Sometimes we’ll be finishing off the last of a Backwood but most of the time we just sit. We’re thinking. We never really mention what we’re thinking about but I think it’s always the same. For a few seconds we remind ourselves that our soft, warm beds are still waiting for us back in Fayetteville, and it’s going to be a really cold night, and we’re probably not going to catch anything anyway, and if we leave now we can still make it back for a good nights sleep. But we snap each other out of it before we have a chance to convince ourselves that warm, comfy beds is what we need. Besides, the White River is right behind us and the fog is indeed rolling in.

And we still have a pack and a half of Backwoods left.