The other day I stopped in a bar for a drink. I was in town anyway, checking off the list of stops and tasks I try to do whenever I make the drive in – a trip of several miles of dirt road before the county paved road that leads to the highway. It really isn't all that far but it's too far to just pick up, say, a pizza and head home. So I'll bring a cooler for cold groceries; gas cans for the small engines; a list for the hardware or fleet store, etc. Multi-tasking, you get it.
There are a couple of favored establishments I get to just enough that the barkeeps know me by name, but that day I picked a different spot. I wanted the atmosphere but didn't care to visit with anyone. I ordered a whiskey the way I like it and suffered an instant of sticker shock when the waitress took my ten-spot and didn't return enough change for a decent tip.
Over the murmur of the other patrons I slowly sipped the cocktail and pondered the melancholy ideas and thoughts that always seem to come over me this time of year. Not one to spend much time looking back – I'd rather look ahead – but every once in a while... thoughts drift to days of youth and early days outdoors.
Catching trout from what's now called the driftless area with #0 mepps spinners because it was effective and Mother delighted in seeing a dishpan full of gutted and gilled fish. She was a wonderful women and could bring the best out of any game or fish. I'll never forget her smiling in the kitchen wearing dress and apron preparing everyday meals that I now realize were events. Meals like that are rare these days.
In high school I skipped classes one day to go fishing and was caught by my shop teacher who was doing the same thing. I guess we both got by with it.
Cold mornings in the marsh as ducks poured into our decoys and Dad patiently watched as I tried and missed shots over and over again. The little boats we used and the strong retrievers found what we did drop. Pheasants cackling up before Dad's beloved spaniels. The hot barrel stove; Gramp's wrinkled face. Odors of whiskey, bacon, and wet dogs. Melancholy memories, yes, but sweet ones all the same.
And more recent thoughts: a warm home, a healthy family and a daughter to be proud of. A lit Christmas tree. Music of the season, yep, I love it. The promise of days ahead with friends and dogs and rods and guns. Good days, indeed.
Just some of what goes through my head this time of year. Grateful? You bet.
“Can I bring you another one?” No thanks I told her, it's time to head home.