One day — a childhood day, a day quite possibly a year long or more — I discovered that our old blue boat was gone, and another boat, a simple, plain one made of aluminum, had taken its place. This new boat, I soon learned, was much easier for my father to pick up and slide on and off the padded runners he’d made for our pickup. He didn’t have a trailer. The boat rode upside down behind the cab, and pointed to where we’d been, over country roads without end, past houses, farms, and fields — everyplace seemed familiar then, all the petrified, unpainted barns, tank houses, and immense shade trees planted long ago by someone else’s father or grandfather, the same kind of lumpy, craggy men who inhabited our hometown barbershops. Now, in those early days, had my father stopped somewhere along the way and unloaded the boat onto dry land and taken out our fishing poles, I would have accepted it without blinking. The trip itself was that satisfying. We could have spent the morning or afternoon sitting there surrounded by sticks and dry grass until someone stopped to ask if the fish were biting. But he didn’t. He drove on to lake or river, where he eased the boat into the water with his hairy, sunburned arms, and, after the pickup was parked and we had taken our places, he rowed us out into deeper water. Then, depending on where he wanted to go, we began to drift, or he started his smelly, smoky, and surely what must have been inefficient ten-horse Johnson motor. The oars were blue — maybe he’d kept them after parting with the egg crate. I wonder if he painted them. On the water, our silence was natural, but not the rule. My questions were answered, things were pointed out, our voices low. If no fish were caught, the time was just as well spent — there was no such thing as a failed trip or a bad time out. When we returned home, the yard and farm were there just as we had left them, but they looked different somehow.
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Tags: Barbershops, Barns, Boats, Childhood, Farmers, Fishing, Memory, My Father, Oars, Our Old Farm, Rivers, The San Joaquin Valley, Trees