I was on a solitary ramble down one of my favorite dirt roads when I saw Leon Boone fishing in a ditch. It’s not unusual to see folks fishing from a bridge across a small swamp or creek but Leon was fishing in a ditch: a water channel only about three feet wide and four feet deep at the deepest part. It ran from Bogue Swamp and down through a culvert under the old dirt road.
I had not seen Leon in quite a while. We had grown up in the same community and he lived not far from me but our paths never seemed to cross. But since we knew each other I knew he wouldn’t think it strange if I stopped to visit with him out in the edge of the swamp.
After I pulled my old pickup over to the side of the road, I started walking down to where Leon was perched on a white plastic bucket turned upside down. He was far enough off the road that the shade from the cypress trees gave him some respite from the hot summer sun.
As I walked up he said, “Hey, William”. (People who have known me since childhood still call me William.)
“Hey, Leon. Haven’t seen you in a while. Whatcha doin’?”
“Drownin’ worms”, he replied.
“Not many fish, huh?”
“Nope. But I don’t expect to catch any outta this ditch anyhow.”
“Whatcha doin’ out here with a fishin’ pole then?”
“Wastin’ time,” he said. “There’s a cold Mountain Dew in that ice chest over there. Getcha one of ’em and have a seat on that stump.”
I did as I was instructed. After I had struggled to get my long, lanky and aging frame situated on the stump, I realized how quiet the swamp was. The moss hanging on the cypress limbs barely moved in the easy breeze. Somewhere in the distance I could hear birds chirping. The water in the ditch was so slow-moving it didn’t make a sound. The sweet, delicate smell of the bay bushes mingled with the sour smell of swamp water and mud.
As if reading my mind, Leon said, “Peaceful out here, ain’t it?”
“Yep, I kinda like this,” I answered.
“Me too. That’s the real reason I come out here. Don’t nobody hardly ever come by and I can just forget ’bout all the bad stuff and just think the good without any interruption.”
I sensed that I was one of those interruptions so I started to get up from the stump. “Well, I just thought I’d stop and see you a minute…”
“Aw, sit down, son. You ain’t no interruption. Just sit on that stump a while. Sometimes it’s sharing good times that makes ’em good times. Don’t say nothin’; just listen to the Lord’s creation.
So I tried to “listen to the Lord’s creation”. What I heard was the silence. In that silence I began to think like Leon had said he did when he came out to ostensibly fish in the ditch. I began to “think all the good stuff”. I thought about how lucky I was to have had so much good in my life and so little bad. I thought about all the opportunities I had had to do so many things, meet so many people, see so many places. Then I thought, “How lucky am I to be able to come to a place like this, to renew acquaintances with an old friend, to find a spot more therapeutic than any session in a psychiatrist’s office”.
My reverie was shortened as Leon rose from his seat on the bucket and began to gather himself and his fishing equipment to leave. As he did so I noted, “You didn’t even have a worm on that hook! How’d you expect to catch anything?”
Leon laughed as he said, “Oh, I didn’t expect to catch nothin’. I just needed to give myself an excuse to come down here. Now, if you really want to catch fish, come on down to the lake with me tomorrow and we’ll do some real fishin’. I’ll come pick you up at your house ‘but dusk dark or mornin’ light, whichever you want.”
I thanked him for the offer but said I wasn’t much of a fisherman.
Then you come back down here and fish anytime”, he said as he laughed and waved goodbye.
As I got back in my truck, I thought that my afternoon, non-fishing experience had been time well-wasted.