The River At Dawn

That Night

After we finally get our thoughts together and get out of the car we prepare the back of the vehicle for sleeping. The first thing we have to do is get all our gear in the front two seats. Backpacks, fly rods – sometimes we prep our fly rods the night before – grocery bags from the gas station, etc.

I’ve got two huge gray tubs that I bought at Wal-Mart for the very purpose of lugging my dry goods and my wet goods. The dry goods tub stays in my car at all times and has everything that I need for any emergency.

MSR WhisperLite Stove

MSR Fuel Canister filled with white gas

Backpackers Pantry Lasagna

Lexan spoons

Peanut Butter

Nature’s Valley Oats & Honey Bars

Moonstone sleeping bag

North Face Tent (2 person)

Nalgene water bottles

Mountain Dew

Lighters

Socks

Blankets

Sweatshirts

The wet goods box usually stays in my car as well, but sometimes comes out so I can dry everything out. It holds my waders and my fly fishing bag and gear. Also anything that I think might leak. These two tubs come out of the back seat and spend the night on the ground at the back of my car. While all of this is going on, Peter always ends up struggling for way too long trying to get the back seat to lie down.

It’s split down the middle and you have to lay down each side separately. The drivers side (my side) takes about 2 seconds to lay down flat. The passenger side sticks sometimes because the little tab that you have to pull out always gets wedged in between the cushions and it basically takes an act of God to get it out.

Or just the owner of the car.

I swear I’m not going to bed until I get this thing out. Peter says, now violently ripping at the seats.

Dude, it’s not that hard, why can’t you ever get this?

In the darkness of the night sky, with no one around to hear, things like that become much funnier. The birds are asleep, the treetops rustling quietly, the moonlight and the starts just hanging above the black sky. The mighty waters of the White River flowing steadily just beyond the nearby trees; and me and Peter fighting my car to get the seats down.

With the seats finally laid flat and the sleeping bags opened and ready, side by side in the back of the 4-Runner, Peter and I take a seat, legs dangling out the back of the car. We usually talk about life, dreams, struggles, and recent revelations, it’s always different, but it’s always similar.

We each light a Backwood, as if required to do so before speaking,

Ok dude, I had the greatest idea the other day. I say as I inhale the first drag.

Ok? Says Peter out of the side of his mouth while still trying to light his cigar in the steady nighttime breeze.

We need to do something awesome. I mean, like seriously for real – huge and awesome.

What’ve you got in mind?

It’s a pilgrimage. It’s a dream. It’s fierce and it’s most definitely passionate.

Excellent. What?

This Thanksgiving break we’re totally going to ditch our families and take off for the revival of a lifetime. We’ll completely forget all this crap that’s left behind and do something awesome and real. So many people BS so much about these big huge plans and dreams and they never do any of it, so we’ve got to make it happen for all those people who lose heart and get distracted and forget their dreams and passions.

Dude, tell me.

Ok, it’s the coolest place on Earth. This is the spot where the most unbelievable things ever to take place on the Earth happened. This is where the entire basis of our faith comes from…

Peter takes his cigar out in anticipation…

The Sea of Galilee.

The Sea of Galilee.

Dude, it’s where Jesus walked on water. It’s where he calmed the storms. It’s totally where he broke the bread and fish to feed the multitudes. And we’re going.

Amazing.

It just came to me the other day.

Ok, sweet, we’re really gonna do this. We can’t tell anyone about it cause then it won’t happen – we’ve gotta keep the excitement alive.

Deal.

Deal.

We sit there taking in the nature, the sounds, and the last of our Backwoods. Thinking, dreaming, planning. We sit on the back of my car in total and complete peaceful excitement just knowing what’s to come in the morning and over the break.

The morning fog on the river. It’s a miracle the few eyes in this world have gazed upon.

The morning, dawn on the White River.

As we crush out our cigars and settle into our sleeping bags for the short night ahead of us, we talk a little about the morning. What time we should get up, what we’re going to fish with tomorrow, etc. Before we wind down we say goodnight and roll over, backs to each other. From then on we dream until morning, half asleep, half awake, making sure we don’t miss the sunrise.

Goodnight dude.

Goodnight.

Dude, the Sea of Galilee.

The Sea of Galilee.

The River at Dawn

Backwoods

We discovered backwoods in High School, and everyone has a different story of how they first stumbled upon them, but they all involve camping. And none of them involve girls. My story is all about a night on Shinall Mountain with some seniors from my high school. They were the only ones old enough to buy. Me and my buddies were in 9th grade.  We smoked a pack each and didn’t sleep a wink.

It was one of the greatest nights of my life.

They come in packs of eight for about $3.95 - $5.00. It’s not just a cigar, and it’s not just a smoke. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a mindset. There are guys that smoke Backwoods occasionally, whenever someone offers them one, and then there’s guys that have a pack every now and then, and then there’ s guys that will never turn one down. And then there’s us.

We live with Backwoods daily. We know the day that new flavors come out and you’d think it was a national holiday the way we celebrate. We quote the paragraph on the back of the package with honor and reverence. Only the few and the proud Backwoodsmen have the sacred text put to memory. When we smoke Backwoods we enjoy it, we savor it, and we breathe in the cool night air and listen to the sounds of the forest regardless of where we are or what time of day it is.

They have become a pre-requisite for every camping trip, every fly fishing trip, every road trip, every campfire, every bar-b-que, and every late night on the front porch. I personally have a few friends that I have never even seen without a Backwood in their gaw. It’s like a miracle of nature that God put tobacco on the earth, and my close friends and I believe strongly that He put it here specifically to make Backwoods with.

You can always find them at Wal-Mart, but the price is generally going to be a bit high. Some gas stations have them and I can give you the address of every one of them in Fayetteville. The gas station attendant will rarely know what the hell you are talking about when you ask for a pack, but be patient and point them out – it’s worth it. They’ll be crammed in between the Black-n-Mild's and the Swisher Blunts.

Peter and I smoke Backwoods regularly, and between the hours of 10pm on Tuesday night and 11am on Wednesday morning you’d be hard pressed to find us without one lit, if you could find us at all.

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.