Then the pounding came, from inside the truck, as if a tire iron was beating at the sides of the vehicle. It was not a timid banging, not a minor signal. Bang! Bang! it came, and Bang! again. And the voice of authority from some place in space, some regal spot in the universe. "I'm not sitting here the livelong day whilst you boys gab away." A toothless meshing came in his words, like Walter Brennan at work in the jail in Rio Bravo or some such movie.
"Comin', pa," one of them said, the most orderly one, the one with the old scout sash riding him like a bandoleer.
They pulled open the back doors of the van, swung them wide, to show His Venerable Self, ageless, white-bearded, felt hat too loaded with an arsenal of flies, sitting on a white wicker rocker with a rope holding him to a piece of vertical angle iron, the crude kind that could have been on early subways or trolley cars. Across his lap he held three delicate fly rods, old as him, thin, bamboo in color, probably too slight for a lake's three-pounder. But on the Pine River, upstream or downstream, under alders choking some parts of the river's flow, at a significant pool where side streams merge and phantom trout hang out their eternal promise, most elegant, fingertip elegant.
"Oh, boy," Eddie said at an aside, "there's the boss man, and look at those tools." Admiration leaked from his voice.
Rods were taken from the caring hands, the rope untied, and His Venerable Self, white wicker rocker and all, was lifted from the truck and set by our campfire. I was willing to bet that my sister Pat, the dealer in antiques, would scoop up that rocker if given the slightest chance. The old one looked about the campsite, noted clothes drying from a previous day's rain, order of equipment and supplies aligned the way we always kept them, the canvas of our tent taut and true in its expanse, our fishing rods off the ground and placed atop the flyleaf so as not to tempt raccoons with smelly cork handles, no garbage in sight. He nodded.
We had passed muster.
"You the ones leave it cleaner than you find it ever' year. We knowed sunthin' 'bout you. Never disturbed you afore. But we share the good spots." He looked closely at Brother Bentley, nodded a kind of recognition. "Your daddy ever fish here, son?"