It was one of those “What in God’s name am I doing here?” moments…a hand slap to the forehead every trout stocking day.
The scenario was thus: I was riding the train, the “Weary Erie” veteran commuters called it, home from work in Manhattan to our apartment in Bernardsville in New Jersey. En route I peered, jealously, out the window at folks fishing in the Peapack River, or heading from their vehicles to do just that.
I yearned to join the throngs of happy men, youngsters, and a few women looking forward to some fun in the fresh air and a trout-filled stream. The “Ain’t that a kick in the head” as a Dean Martin song line goes, was because I was working for Outdoor Life Magazine at the time, emphasis on “Outdoor.” But here I was, trapped inside a train in coat and tie after eight hours in a midtown office editing other people’s stories about larking about woods and water.
Cue the head slap.
I lasted two years in the bowels of New York City before going back to the newspaper game and a 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift that allowed me to get out and trout fish and deer hunt after work. Little opportunity for that existed when I left 45th and Madison at 5 p.m. and got home, maybe, two hours later, if the trains were running on schedule, always a public transit crapshoot.
So, myself and a good friend, who also had one of those pesky jobs that interfered with fun, trout fished on weekends, with not a care about the weather. Unlike golfers being rained out, we fished in it and as fall turned to winter, in the snow. In the very same Peapack, we actually caught trout (Muddler Minnows, slow and deep) when it was snowing sideways, the banks were frosty sugar coated and midstream rocks icy dicey. In the Adirondacks, tent camped in a field aside the Willowemoc, we awoke to a meadow of white and big, wet flakes lazily landing on canvas, campfire, breakfast – and us. We didn’t care. We were young and on another “adventure.”
And so we went fishing in one of America’s fabled streams.
Some old friends always went striper fishing as their Thanksgiving Day tradition – snow, wind and cold? Not a trip deal breaker. Lousy weather made for better “war stories,” and often better fishing. But snow is not a wonder of nature to all. It’s an annoyance for some, a downright disaster for others.
Consider this: “It’s the ‘S’ word,” a longtime checkout lady at my favorite supermarket said to me in a stage whisper. That the market parking lot was three-quarters full at 7:30 in the morning indicated that indeed there was panic in the streets, the villagers were swarming the aisles and the threat of a food riot loomed. This was owing to the previous night’s raving TV weather heads predicting a white Armegeddon and the coldest temperatures since the Pleistocene epoch.
The ‘S’ word (rhymes with ‘flow’) is code blue for grocery store workers to brace themselves for ravaging hordes of customers suddenly in danger of starving to death. Doppler radar showed wide swaths of white marching toward our region. The temperature plummeted. Of course there are unfortunate folks among us who are truly in need of assistance, the pantry is a wasteland and the local soup kitchen can be a lifesaver in a snowstorm.
But they don’t show up at the supermarket in late model SUV’s, outdoor wear that would be considered chic in Aspen and whose mission it is to strip the shelves of bread (make that artesian sourdough and slice it, please.) Most of us no doubt have enough food lining cabinet shelves, stuffed in freezers and fridges or in basement Mason jars to feed a family of six until Easter. But bass fillets and venison steaks may not be what we crave in a perceived crisis. We horde the ingredients for Chateaubriand at the ready, but what we really want is a pepperoni pizza. Off we go to seek the supplies necessary to survive the storm of the week, month, century, etc.
I confess to not being as fond of cold and snow as I grow older, but what could be better than falling flakes on Christmas Eve, or a blank page of white in front of your deer stand on opening day.
And memories of those winter days on the Peapack swirl around in the snow globe wonderland of good times long ago.