Taking A Lefty Turn
How to celebrate life, amidst all the darkness, courtesy of Lefty Kreh
I caught COVID again the other day. And though I got through the first couple days of cold chills and night sweats just fine, and thought I was on the mend, it’s rallied a bit to remind me who’s boss. My blood oxygen levels are a-okay. But climbing the porch steps winds me at the moment. It feels like I haven’t slept in three days, and like I’m writing with my head in drying cement. So I’m not even going to attempt to compose a sparkling wall of epiphany-rich, tightly-reasoned prose this week, the kind that puts a song in your heart and elevator shoes on your spirit. Especially not while wearing this suffocating death mask at my writing table, since I’m also trying not to reinfect my nearby family members. As I refuse to quarantine in my COVID cell, like I did when all this still felt exciting and dangerous back in 2021, instead of it just being another dreary thing to withstand, as it mostly is in 2023. (Note to mask-skeptical readers: please don’t send me your “science” on why masks don’t work. Because I might return the favor by mailing you one of my used ones. That’s the kind of dark mood I’m in.)
There was a time not so long ago when we thought/hoped that miracle cures might eradicate the Kung-Flu altogether. But after we all ticked through our regimens of vaccines and boosters and cattle dewormers and shooting ourselves up with Mr. Clean, as advised by our nation’s most revered medical authority, Dr. Trump, we finally realized it’s an unsolvable problem that can pretty much be managed, but that is here to stay. As with so many of our problems these days, there is no clean resolution. It’s just one more horror to be perpetually endured, like Israeli/Palestinian fighting, or that cringey crone Martha from the Medicare commercials, or Republicans failing, yet again, to elect their Speaker in an unpopularity contest in which no one seems able to please all our domestic jihadis. (As of this writing, Jim Jordan is definitely out, having realized his only path forward was to change his name and personality, to become a competent lawmaker, and perhaps even a decent person. Changes that Jim Jordan will forever fight against, because Jim’s a fighter.)
I realize I sound as cranky as Medicare Martha. But it’s Sunday, the Lord’s Day. It’s also autumn, the most beautiful season, even if I sadly can’t take much advantage of it in my present condition. (Though I will make up for lost time when I can.) So instead of continuing to curse the darkness, I’d rather zig when everyone else is zagging, and light your pumpkin-spiced Yankee Candle by giving you something beautiful to hang onto amidst all the current ugliness from the Treasure Chest of Golden Oldies®.
Five years ago, the great Lefty Kreh died at the age of 93. Most of my non-fly-fishing readers (which is to say, most of you) don’t know him. But Lefty was the Michael Jordan of fly fishing. And even though he wasn’t much to look at physically, Lefty’s fly rod was like a magic wand, which he waved all over the world, ennobling the place. Anyone who can make the world that much noticeably better…….well, we could clearly use the help. So I went all-in, celebrating the life he led.
You say you don’t care about fishing? That it is, as the t-shirts and beer koozies say, just “a jerk on one end of the line, waiting for a jerk on the other”? I’d suggest you’re missing out. That you’re a spiritually-stunted person. But that’s okay, I get it. Fishing’s not for everyone, and I don’t need a bunch of extras pressuring my water anyway. But in this instance, that doesn’t matter. Even if you have zero connection to the sport, Lefty’s spirit is what left us with something worth remembering and locating within ourselves. Because what he had, most of us do, though in much lesser quantities……even when we’re cranky as hell, and watching the world fall apart, and missing the beauty of the turning leaves right in front of us, as we doom-scroll and watch the idiot box instead. The world is sad and cruel and beautiful. The same way it has always been, and will always be. Lefty’s life saw all sides of it. Here’s what that life looked like:
Whenever I need to check out of the world, I head to a place called Satan's Creek. I go there to catch-and-release—or maybe catch-and-ogle—God's most perfect creatures: wild brook trout. They come small in these mountain runs. An 11-incher would be considered trophy-size. Still, bringing one to hand, with its speckled reds and yellows and blues, is like holding an opal with gills.
Satan's Creek is not its real name, but I've so coined this riverine hideout because while fishing it, I often have to dodge the refuse left behind by Frederick County, Maryland, natives ("Frednecks" they're sometimes called—though never to their faces). They don't have the same reverence for the land as I do for their fish. I've circumnavigated cinch-sacked trash bags, animal ribcages (at least I think they were animals), a discarded toilet, and once even an abandoned suitcase with nothing in it but children's panties, perhaps left over from the human sacrifices. And yet while I can catch brookies in more unspoiled climes, I still feel as though I'm fishing hallowed water. For Frederick was the birthplace and longtime stomping grounds of Bernard "Lefty" Kreh. And if it was good enough for Lefty . . .