O Shenandoah! Dirt Road Journal

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"Riffles"



rifflesJamie kept his balance against the current, feet planted deteminedly, toes gripping a slippery flat rock, as he cast into the riffles below the falls. Several small-mouth bass and a fall-fish he'd kept for catfish bait swung from a stringer attached to his belt. From a rope tied to a loop in his pants hung a covered plastic cup, half full of nightcrawlers that had poked up from the wet ground into his garden this morning and helgrammites he'd snatched from under river stones as he'd walked toward the white water.

He knew he'd waited too long. That bass had gotten his meal for free. Jamie wound his line in, anticipating the empty hook and finding instead a small, evanescent and gilded bluegill barely thrashing as it flashed out of the water against the sun. Jamie removed the hook, imagining the size of the fillets, and added the perch to his stringer. Four, and he needed at least six for Cass to bother cleaning and frying them. Jamie threaded the head of a larger helgrammite onto his hook and, as the dark, segmented tail whipped and curled in the air, cast out below the rapids.

Haley screamed to Doug, "Right, RIGHT!", as she dug her paddle deep and urgently into the current to the right of the canoe. Furious white water foamed and crashed against ragged grey rocks suddenly straight ahead of them. Doug back-paddled from the stern, steering their canoe toward a pebble beach, laughing as cool water sprayed his sun-burnt shoulders and back. What if they fell out? At least they'd cool off, he thought. Doug paddled toward the shore. He envied the guy standing in the riffles, casting downstream. Next time he'd bring an anchor and his fishing rod, although Haley might be a bit bored with that. Maybe she could bring a book.

Cass splashed through shallow clear water, searching the dark colored stones and ivory shells, stooping to examine an unbroken mussel, turning its irridescent blue-green curve toward the sun. Reaching the riffles, Cass settled into the rocks a few feet from Jamie, stretched her legs into white water and splayed her toes against the cool current. A piliated woodpecker tapped against a tree trunk, red head bobbing against the large green leaves of sycamores. Canoes, green and yellow and red, swirled around the rapids.

Mallards and wood ducks hid in tall grasses along the shore while canoers shouted and splashed downstream. As Jamie cast and waited and reeled in his fish and an evening quiet returned to the river, they slid out again onto the green, still pools, winding around rocks and islands, splashing out onto the clear air currents, gliding into cool downstream waters. Pintails who'd watched boats from the trees flew down to the bank and a solitary heron, purple-gray and regal, dipped its slender beak into the shallows.



Midi music file, "I Will Always Love You" by Dolly Parton

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Original material O Shenandoah! Country Rag April, 1996. All rights reserved.