So it was that
I applied my powers of
ratiocination to the invention of a device called a "Life-Quality Balancing
System," or "L.Q.B.S." The
L.Q.B.S. consisted of a scale (two pans of equal weight hanging in
balance), 1,400 #8 medium-shank
fishhooks (one for each minute of the
day), and a meticulous list dividing my Standard Day into Neutral Minutes
(N.M.'s), Unsatisfactory Minutes (U.M.'s), and Satisfactory Minutes (S.M.'s).
For every U .M. I put a hook on the left scale-pan, for every S.M. I put one on
the right, N.M. hooks I put in a neutral box.
I then constructed a series of
charts and graphs dealing with ways to turn V.M.'s and N.M.'s into S.M.'s,
fully convinced that this simple scientific process would eventually
allow me to attain a state called " Unending Satisfaction Actualization ,"
or "U .S.A."
thrilled with this program, and baffled that I hadn't come up with it sooner.
Nothing but unadulterated fishing went into the plus pan; I put Bill Bob hooks
in the neutral box, not because he wasn't satisfactory, but because neutral is
the way he prefers to be. Of course Ma- and H2O-hooks were piled high in the
junk pan, along with school, yard work,
Flyfishing Clubs, pimple-popping, constipation and other nasty imbalances.
The historian-type reader with his high
tolerance for dull but factual
material may be disappointed to learn
that, though I still use the hooks, the lists and graphs were reduced to fluffy
gray ash when "U.S.A." failed to pan out.
survived, however, and since it
exemplifies the quasi-logical gymnastics my polarized
brain was wont to
perform, I include it:
THE IDEAL 24
HOUR SCHEDULE 1. sleep: 6 hrs.
2. food consumption: 30 min.
(between casts or while plunking, if possible)
3. school: 0 hrs!
bath, stool, etc: 15 min. (unavoidable)
5. housework and miscellaneous
chores: 30 min. (yards unnecessary; dust not unhealthy; utilitarian neatness
6. nonangling conversation: 0 hrs.
transportation: 45 min. (live on
good fishing river)
8. gear maintenance/fly tying/rod building/log keeping,
etc: 1 hr. 30 min.
9. fishing time: 141/2 hrs. per day!
WAYS TO ACTUALIZE IDEAL SCHEDULE 1.
finish school; no college!
2. move alone to year-round
stream (preferably coastal)
3. avoid friendships, anglers not excepted (wastes time with gabbing)
experiment with caffeine,
nicotine, to eliminate excess sleep
5. do all driving, shopping, gear
preparation, research, etc. after
dark, saving daylight for fishing only.
Result (allowing for unforeseeable interruptions):
4,000 actual fishing hrs. per year!!!
It took some time to get
settled in the cabin: a day to stash gear, a day to build a fish-smoker, a day
to set up and stock the aquarium, a day to clean and salt in supplies, two days
to cut three cords of wood.
June ninth I hung the Ideal Schedule on
the wall by my bed and began to live it:
proceeded to fish all day, every day, first light to last.
All my life
I'd longed for such a marathon - and I haven't one happy
memory of it.
I recall is stream after
stream, fish after fish, cast
after cast, and nothing in my head but the low cunning required to hoodwink my
Each night my Log entries
read like tax tables or
grocery receipts, describing not a dream come
true, but a drudgery of double shifts on a creekside assembly line.
After two weeks of "ideal" six-hour nights and sixteen-hour days I got
an incurable case of insomnia.
It hardly mattered: sleeping
I dreamt of fishing and waking I fished till there was one,
undivided, sleep like state.
There was fishing. There was nothing else.
A Kiluhiturmiut Eskimo song tells of a man like me:
was life when standing at my fishing hole on the ice.
But did standing at
my fishing hole ever bring me joy?
No! Ever was I so anxious for my little
fishhook if it should not get a bite, Ayi, yai ya. . . .
Eskimo, my last thought before going fishing was "Won't it be
glorious!" And like the Eskimo I then
stood by the water, a needy, nervous wretch too
wonder how "glory" could be so dismal. Ayi, yai ya!
So I continued my Ideal Schedule and was soon exhibiting more bizarre
symptoms: besides the insomnia, tangled tongue and water
hallucinations, I began to
hide or even flee when I encountered other fishermen; to avoid human contact I
began stockpiling groceries and bought a fifty-gallon gas drum; soon my
communications with fellow
humanoids consisted of an
occasional Thank you, Hi, or Fill-er-up, and that was it.
Like many an
addled hermit, I started yacking a blue streak, but not to myself. Oh no. I
talked to my fly rod, Rodney.
As expected, we became almost
preternaturally skillful at extracting fish from coastal streams ("we" being
Rodney and me). We caught cutthroat in staggering numbers, often over a hundred
a day. I kept only enough to
eat and my appetite
shrank with my ability to sleep; still, I ate trout twice a day and grew no
more tired of it than an anteater grows tired of ants, he with his long snout
and sticky tongue, me with my Rodney and flies.
By mid-July I was no
longer in pain. I was totally bamboozled; I was chicaned; I was necromanced; I
was stuffed and nonsensed. I no longer saw anything wrong
with my life as it was. Rodney fished because I fished and I fished because
We had an understanding: we were two pieces of fishing
gear-smash us, lose us, wear us out,
fishing gear will never question your judgement. That was the thing about
Nature: make one lousy rule to describe it
and it'll contradict you even if it has to transmogrify and metamorphosize and
bust its ass to do it.
And so what? If anybody
grew wise enough to grasp the real immutable laws of
Nature, Nature'd only rear back and strike 'em dead
before they got anybody to understand them. (still alive so
What use were such questions? Hobgoblins - that's all they
were - noisy abstract
swill good for nothing but scaring and
depressing hell out of
everybody they occurred to. . . . But a fisherman was dead. Everyone I knew
would one day be dead. This was no
abstraction. What could
it mean? What should I do about it? Was there equipment to purchase to
protect myself from it? Was there
reference material to peruse that would make it comprehensible?
Pills to pop to make it bearable?
Calesthenics to make it ... fun?
know. I didn't know anything about
anything. Every thing in my head came from fishing magazines, fishing manuals,
fishing novels. And what did these
works have to say about the meaning of
Life and Death?
When I awoke, the first thing I saw was the
star, bluegreen and brilliant between
black silhouettes of cedars. I
felt very strange, but very good; I'd no desire to do
anything but watch - no schedule to keep, no fish to catch. I scarcely
recognized myself: the fanatical
fisherman in me had died, and what remained was a stranger.
someone I barely knew, lying on my
side, watching a star. The fisherman
left a pair of binoculars on a peg at the window. He'd used them to watch for
trout rising on the river; I aimed-them at the
star - and was amazed: brilliant greens,
violets and blues eddied through it as it glittered and shone like the Queen's
My naked eye had seen nothing of this whirling spectrum,
and even now, through binoculars, I saw little of the beauty that must really
be there. Then it struck me: trees, mists, mountains, flowers, fish, stones and
streams - all these must be the robes saving my eyes from the Queen's searing
light; yet they refracted and colored that light, and it shone dimly through,
making them beautiful.
Such beauty as the Queen's must exist. My heart
pounded that it be so.
"Now, who do you suppose made you from a
configuration of molecules into the living fisherman you are
today?" "I wish I knew," I said,
"Excellent!" said Titus.
"And who controls your destiny, decides whether you shall
be happy or miserable, long lived
or short, infamous or famous, erudite or acrimonious and so on and so forth?"
"Wish I knew that, too."
"Very good!" he exclaimed.
"And who will decide when your body has become an unfit habitation for
that which enlivens it and will one day consign it to a crematorium, river
bottom or wormy grave?"
"Wish I knew that, too," I said, "but why do
you holler 'excellent!' and 'very good!' when I say I wished I knew? Don't you
expect me to say 'God does it' or 'My
soul does it'?"
Titus looked aghast. "Gus! I'm a philosopher, not an evangelist! It's the
' wish I knew' that's crucial. To say 'God does it' and leave it at that is to
abandon the search before it's begun. To really want the truth, to long for it
desperately, is to reject every formulation and theory and dogma and opinion
right up to the time you see and touch and
unite with the God!
Nobody ever discovers truth by barfing
up Sunday school answers to questions!"
Dutch Hines! Crikeys. What to do? This
bozo had easily three-quarters of a million
readers. That's 1.5 million
eyes, barring cyclopses. And he wanted to interview me!
My brain began
to lurch and flutter like a moth toward the flame that will cook it.
knew his writing habits; I knew about the Green Pencil Syndrome; I knew he
would be show'n'telling about this afternoon on Shat Creek, about the
bluebacks, about the Twinkie, about me, for many a column to come if nothing
And nothing would distract him,
because it would be weeks, maybe
months, before he caught another fish.
I knew he'd made Fuzz Gramsay a rich man by endorsing him,
and that if I told him that I'd built the rod he'd just used he would do the
same for me; I knew that if he endorsed me I'd get a thousand rod orders before
the month was out; I knew that even if I lowered my prices, even at a meagre
ten dollars profit per rod, that was ten thousand smackers; I knew that with
profits from that first burst of orders I could advertise in every major
sporting magazine in the country, could hire a half-dozen peons to do my
rod-building and fly-tying for me while I became a designer, an organizer, an
entrepreneur; I could
open a tackle factory and warehouse in Fog; I could hire salesmen and financial
advisors and marketing experts; I
could automatize and computerize and expand; I could spend my days inventing
prototype rods and flies and let the local peasantry hunch over vises,
squinting their eyesight away and snorting rod varnish; I could shunt
Gus Orviston Autograph rods off to every comer of the
trout-infested world; I could put Fleas and Headless Hunchbacks and Bermuda
Shorts on the map; I could buy a floatplane, a fleet of
jet-boats, start a guide service, take fat cats
to all the great sport-fishing grounds on Earth; I could buy a jet, make
connections in high places, hire
politicians, hire accountants, secretaries, research assistants - all of them women,
sleek-thighed and soft-bosomed; I could open a chain of Trusty Gus's Custom
Rods and Flies that circumscribed the continent; I could invest, get into real
estate, play the stock market, cruise Tahoe
and Vegas, start chains of Cutthroat Gus's Seafood Restaurants, Cutthroat Gus's
Riverside Fishing Schools, Cutthroat Gus's Trouter's Resorts; I could buy
myself a harem to forget Eddy with; I could catch (or buy the proof and claim
I caught) record-breaking fish to heighten my repute; I
could speculate in land and lumber,
subdivide the Coast Range, build private solar-powered hatcheries and surround
them with resorts; I could build a geodesic dome over the Tamanawis and control
its ebbs and
flows with a pushbutton control panel by my half-acre bed where I'd loll
with my harem, dictating fish stories into computers that edited and polished
and sold them for national syndication; I could buy myself a nuclear aircraft
carrier with built-in spas and woods and trout ponds and sail out
to sea to escape the rabble on weekends; I could make H2O look like a hick with
a cane-pole and bobber compared to me; I could buy the
whole blasted coast of Oregon,
name it Gussica, secede from the Union, start my own space program, make Titus
my Lieutenant Spock and me the Captain of an Intergalactic Winnebago and blast
away into space to search out potential trout-planets and go where no fisherman had
gone before; I could stock my new planets with Donaldson Rainbows, Montana
Black-spotted Cutthroat, or the Salmo-Gussious Titantrout I'd have developed by
then in Gussica's solar hatcheries; I could spread my name, face, rods and
flies all through the fish-infested heavens, and every
resource and river, every hidden
treasure and tree, every huge
fish and alien queen and
natural and unnatural wonder would
spread itself before me . . . and so on.
"Well," said Dutch. "What do
I said, "Sure, Dutch. I will do the interview."
-David James Duncan, from The River
habituation"When people enjoy doing some particular
thing, performing a specific activity - athletic, scholarly, artistically - for
enjoyment, then the more times we perform the activity the more the activity
becomes a ritual and the more we will note a reduction in pleasure due to
The activity we once enjoyed has become an ordinary
Ordinary experience we don't seem to notice or remember and
at sometime we will inevitably wonder why we are still performing the activity.
Two devices allow people to beat pleasure reduction due to habituation
- increase the variety of activities or increase the amount of time that
separates repetitions of an activity.
When episodes of activity are
sufficiently separated in time, increased variety is unnecessary." - Daniel
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