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Ghosts of the Past (cont'd)

It seems I've gotten a bit side-tracked here. I often find that, as I think back on these times that I'm laying down here, my mind tends to wander from one past event to the next, and so it is with this story. I hope you'll forgive these little side-steps, for I believe that the full picture can't be seen without exploring the background, along with the subject. Let's press on, then, shall we?

I mentioned that Adin was where I experienced a lot of the "firsts" that we all go through in life. Everyone has at least a few things in their lives that they look back on, some fondly, others with less pleasant emotional response, and I'm no different.

I don't remember the exact year, though I think it was the family's first or second Christmas in the new house. Grandma had come down to visit us from Washington, as Grandpa Harrold had passed on earlier in the year, and she didn't want to be alone over the holidays. She had brought us all presents, of course, but while my brothers and sisters all got either new toys or clothes from her, I got something entirely different.

As I tore open the brightly colored paper that covered my gifts from my Grandma, I found a motley looking collection of rusty metal boxes and ancient fishing gear, all of which were once among my late Grandpa's most prized posessions. Seeing these things again took me back to a visit our family made a couple of years before.

You see, Grandpa Harrold was an avid fisherman in life, and he took great joy and delight in what my Grandma had described as his "favorite harmless vice". I remember when, on a much earlier visit to Tacoma to visit my grandparents, I had wandered into their garage, I discovered that the walls there were covered top to bottom with racks and racks of fishing poles, nets, and other types of fishing gear of all sorts. There were also several sets of shelves, all devoted to tackle boxes, creels, waders and fishing vests. It was an inquisitive child's dream come true, and I explored it in minute detail, heedless of any consequence.

The first box I opened had all manner of odd looking bits of wood, painted and varnished in a plethora of patterns, all mimicking the shape and coloring of fish, or frogs, or other things I couldn't identify. They were all armed with a legion of barbed hooks, spinners, and other indecipherable bits of metal or plastic that fascinated me to the very core of my being. I poked my fingers several times on those hooks as I inspected each item, and I'm sure I made a thorough mess of the order my Grandpa had imposed on that collection of lures.

Once I had sated my curiosity with the contents of that tackle box, I turned my attention to a second. What wonder I had found, in that this one was filled with all sorts of jars of colorful, if seemingly gooey, things, with labels like "Dough Bait", or "White Roe", or "Salmon Eggs". I was enraptured anew, with each item I pulled from that box.

In other boxes, I found collections of hooks, or odd looking tools, or knives, or other things; most of which I had never seen before, which was just fine with me. I knew that Grandpa was easy to ask questions to, and I would get my answers.

One other thing I found confused me, too, but for a very different reason. It was a paper package, white, with red and brown trim and logos, wrapped in cellophane. It was emblazoned with the words "Lucky Strike", and I knew what the contents held. These were CIGARETTES! It was like watching a cobra with it's hood extended, as it danced inches from your face. I was frightened and entranced at the same time. I knew that Grandpa had had a "Heart Attack" a while earlier, and had quit smoking as a result, though I didn't know what a heart attack was at the time, but I had reasoned that, if he had to give up smoking because of it, then smoking must be bad.

But I also had seen all the movies of the time, and all the tobacco ads that made people seem so neat, and thus the battle ensued, and I eventually succumbed to stupidity. I extracted a single paper-wrapped tube of tobacco from the pack, put it between my lips, and hurried over to look at myself in the side mirror of Grandpa's car. How dashing and grown up I looked! How cool! But the picture was incomplete. Something was missing! Quickly, I dashed back to the tackle box, and I rummaged around, searching for what I had seen earlier. there it was! A box of kitchen matches lay in my hands, ready for action! I fumbled open the box, and several long wooden matches spilled upon the floor.

Taking one of the dropped matches from the concrete, I struck it against the side of the box, anticipating the flare of newly born fire. It was not to come, as the matches had been water-logged at some point. Ignorant of that fact, I grabbed up another, and repeated the action, only to have the results repeated, as well. I sighed in frustration.

After several attempts, and as many failures, I dove into the tackle box again, thinking that where there was one box of matches, there may be more. I must have been making a bit too much noise, or had been gone too long from my parents' sight, for it was at that time that my Mom found me, madly fumbling through that tackle box, cigarette dangling from my mouth, suddenly looking into my mother's eyes and seeing shock, fear and dissapointment there. I was doomed!

Suddenly, I was in the midst of several angry adults, all focus of their ire directed fully upon me. How could I have done this?! How many times had I been told about not getting into things that weren't mine?! What was I thinking? Tears brimmed in my eyes, and my lip quavered in remorse, as I was verbally pummelled by my parents and my Grandmother. Grandpa just sat there, seemingly lost in thought, as I squirmed under this merciless onslaught. After what seemed like three forevers, Grandpa spoke.

"I think he's had enough, you three," he said in his calm, unperterbable voice. "It's my things he got into. Don't you think I should have a say as to what to do here?" Suddenly all eyes were on my Grandpa, and he gave me a quick, almost imperceptible wink. He turned to me and said, "Why don't we take a walk," as he held out his hand to me.

I don't remember everything my Grandpa and I talked about, but I do remember him handing me that cigarette and making me smoke it. It was dry, stale and tasted horrible, and I was very ill after it was done. What had started as a wonderful adventure, filled with discovery had become a terrible lesson that I still remember after nearly four decades.

I think that there had been some collusion that year between my parents and Grandma that year, for the gift I got from Mom and Dad was a huge book about fishing. It covered all sorts of things, like how to use different fishing techniques, describing all sorts of lures, and their use, and what species of fish could be caught in different regions of the U.S. and more. That book instantly became one of my most treasured tomes, and I've read it's thousand and more pages from cover to cover many times over the years.

With winter still in full force, and everyone still focused on ice skating and sledding, I left the fishing gear alone for the most part, only occasionally going through the tackle boxes to "inspect" and "organize" their contents, or disassembling and cleaning the fishing reels, just like I learned how to in my new "fishing bible".

Ash Creek runs through the north end of town. This is the old swimming hole.

As the days gradually got warmer, the snow slowly melted away, and the creeks in town returned to safer levels, I began to yearn with anticipation for the day when I could finally go out and pit my newly learned skills against the various denizens of Ash Creek. I constantly nagged my Mom to let me go, but her response was always "no", stating that the creek was still too high, or that the ground was still too damp, or that it was raining, and I wasn't going out in all that rain. My frustration ran apace of my anticipation, and the days trudged slowly by.

That day finally dawned sunny and warm, and I was ready. It was a Saturday, and Mom had finally relented from her constant refusal to let me go out by myself. I let out an enthusiastic yell, and charged up the stairs to my room, taking them two at a time. I gathered up my well maintained fishing gear, donned my "new" waders (I'm certain that they were probably older than I was, but they were new to me), and fairly burst from the house, headed for the swimming hole in town.

Adin Supply. Now, the only market in town, recently celebrated 100 years in operation

My first stop was Adin Supply, the local general store. I needed a fresh supply of bait and some fish hooks, and had just enough of my allowance left to buy myself a soda.