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Bobby Bass

The Paddle, A Fire Ring story

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The Paddle, A Fire Ring story

Spring is slowing working its way here, Sun is shinning a little longer every day and hanging in the sky a little higher. Warmer weather triggers an urge to clean for some reason. For the ladies walls inside the house or cabin are cleared of winter dust and for the guys we retreat to the garage or in my case the Boat House. I keep the snow shoveled away from the double doors, just in case I need to get the boat out to chase some spring crappies. Or if I ever follow up on that dream trip to go fishing down south where there is no snow or ice in March. With the doors standing open I let the sunshine in to warm the boat house. Pulling up a chair I sit and bask in the heat and go over the check list in my head of things that need to be done. Looking over the boat house my eyes go from rods handing in there racks to tackle boxes stacked on shelves. The old metal minnow bucket with the lid half closed and the yellow floating minnow bucket next to it. My eyes stop on the old wood paddle standing on its tip leaning against the work bench. I get up from the chair and go to the paddle. I take it back to the chair and I sit with the paddle across my lap. My fingers find they're resting place on the shaft and I grip the handle with my other hand.

Like a key the paddle brings back a flood of memories from the past. No longer used to move the old canoe through the waters anymore it is here as a spare. It has been replaced with metal paddles years ago but this one is still around, just in case. I can't remember what happen to its mate. It might be an extra, a spare for another canoe. I sit and try to remember what happen to the other paddle. Did it break and that is why we got the metal paddles? Did we lose it on one of those trips down the rapids? I would have remember that I think. This one here has found a home doing other things so that is why it is still around. I lean back in the chair and look at the old, well-worn paddle with the sun shinning on me and I am reminded of siting on a big sun trenched rock on a lake in the middle of no where some where in Canada. The paddle was with me then. I had it leaning up against a big pine tree. My back resting on the blade and my feet spread out before me on the heated rock. The sunlight reflecting off the water making it hard to see out across the lake. Gee that was what, thirty some years ago. The Paddle has been around a long time. Looking at the Paddle in my hands I can see the old slice marks along the blade where the Paddle was used as a fish cleaning board. Thinking back I can remember catching that big walleye and cleaning it on the Paddle. It reminded me of deep fried fish on a summer's night and the crackling of a fire and smoke rising to a star covered sky. It reminds me of quiet, so quiet that it hurts.

I remember holding the Paddle high over my head on a lake in the boundary waters. Yelling out the name of my first born son and listening to it echoing back again and again from the hills around the little lake. It was the first time I yelled my son's name, not to be the last time but the first time it was yelled in celebration and the Paddle was there. I smile to myself and a flood of memories are coming back to me, The Paddle has been through a lot. From digging a trench to stop water from flowing into a tent pitched in the wrong spot. When it was used as a breadboard to make sandwiches out of loaves of French bread. The times it has been used with its partner to hold up a rain poncho to catch the wind and make a sail. Even as a threat to go and get "The Paddle" to the boys as they were growing up. Turning the Paddle over in my hands it is well worn, a slight crack in the handle, maybe that is why we retired it. The wood is well worn, not much of a finish left on it. The feathered edge is worn from dipping in the water of countless lakes and rivers. The handle smooth from being held in callous hands. I get up and find some linseed oil in a can. With a rag I wipe down the old Paddle. I clear a spot on the boat house wall and hang the Paddle back up where it belongs. I then remember why it was down, My son used it to get the metal paddles out of the boat house rafters. The Paddle still has a use..

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