An International Incident

Reezo kept offering me beers. When I refused the beers, he moved on to Pepsis.

“Here, I have beer? No? No beer? I have Pepsi? You want that?”

Tinny ethnic music bounced around the mud and rock shoreline in the morning haze on the Meramec River. Reezo’s buddy, Serio had already stripped down to his underwear and was checking rods intermittently for finicky bites. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought I had been transported to a crappy resort on the Baltic Sea.

Only minutes earlier, I had snuck down to the shoreline and to the source of wakes on a mud flat that extended from the bank to the edge of the river channel. A grass carp that easily went ten pounds was foraging in the slack water, dorsal fin intermittently disturbing the surface. This was to be his last lazy Saturday morning. Initially he was facing me. When his body swung upstream, I came to full draw and released the arrow in one movement.

The roiling water and erratic dance of my arrow was perfection. I set the bow on the shore and began to pull in the fish. He offered little resistance and as he coasted towards me, I saw why. The point had severed his spine. I backed out the arrow, and despite its classification as a rough fish, couldn’t help but admire its beauty and design.

A red tote that once upon a time stored Christmas ornaments was my dead well for this bowfishing trip. The grassy barely fit into the container; his body curled into a slime coated u-shape. Arrow back on the string and line back in the bottle, I stalked upstream to the point of this beach, toward my first meeting with Reezo and Serio.

“You guys do any good?”

“Nutting, uh maybe some bites?” Reezo responded.

Simultaneously, Serio offered a reactive, “Good, thank you.” which compounded with the fact that he was in underwear, and that I couldn’t understand a word of the song coming out of their boombox…and the fact that they had a boombox, made me realize both guys were not native English speakers.

“You boys want a fish?” I motioned back to the red tote further down the beach.

IMG_3748Reezo immediately started for me nodding his head affirmatively. I lifted the grassy out of the box which provoked a string of broken English expletives from the man. I handed him the fish, which unleashed his appreciation in the form of beverage offers.

“Here, I have beer? No? No beer? I have Pepsi? You want that?” (It was 7:30 a.m.)

I had no intention of eating that fish. His future with me amounted to enriching the soil in my garden. Handing the carp off just meant I didn’t have to haul it back home. It was during the handoff that Reezo introduced himself and skivvy-clad Serio. Reezo shook my hand emphatically as I headed back for the Jeep at the trailhead.

On my way up the path I started to think about all the turmoil in the world and how fishing transcends borders and culture. People across the entire globe fish, sometimes in different ways, but for those of us who do, we share a sacred bond. We know the power of water, how it beckons with potential and mystery. We live for the strain of an opposing force, of being a participant, rather than an observer, in nature.

I don’t know what Eastern Bloc country those two guys hail from, but I do know that between us, on that morning, things were good. It made me wonder what could be accomplished if we ditched the U.N. with their headphoned translations and replaced it all with fishing summits around the world. Sure, lots of lies would be told, but they would be expected and solely about fish. Fishermen are an intensely practical and independent people. God knows we could use more of that today.

So I’ll declare that the inaugural International Fishing Summit has already occurred and been transcribed in the annals of history here, just for you. Those present were three fishermen who shared a river but more importantly, a glimpse of our common humanity.