R.I.P. David, After All These Decades

David’s Gone Fishing

bike wreck

Where are you from?

I grew up in a small town in middle America in the mid-20th Century, 
a beach head of sorts for Appalachian immigrants, not unlike 
my own family, but mostly refugees from the Clay County coal towns 
that caved in closing.

When I was eight one of our neighbors, David, returned home 
as a quadriplegic. He was older, but barely a teen when he crashed 
his Schwinn speeding down Elyria Street’s hill, ironically in front 
of the hospital, his next stop.

A few years later I delivered the morning Plain Dealer to guests 
of that very same hospital.

David and a friend had been fishing that day, perhaps at some farm 
pond on the road to Chatham. Maybe it was the fishing hole 
in the branch of Black River that flowed through Richman Farms. 
As he descended the bricks of State Route 76 his pole engaged the 
spokes of his front wheel and the boy catapulted hard ahead of his 
ride onto the pavement above Perkins Jewelry, by the iron bridge.

Remember when you went fishing?

Did you ride your bike? Where did you fish, a lake or pond, 
a river or stream. Maybe you cast flies, repeatedly whipping the 
surface of a cascading brook for trout. Perhaps you surf-fished for 
whiting or Atlantic croaker, or on a Gulf Stream excursion for 
marlin.

David was an only child. His parents married well into their 30s 
and were pleased to be blessed with a son. The father owned a 
prosperous manufacturing plant common in small towns throughout 
the  industrial north, a supplier to the auto assembly plants in 
Cleveland.  They had the means to care for their boy at home, and 
as they travelled with him frequently, they installed a pneumatic 
lift in their driveway so to slide his gurney into their Oldsmobile 
wagon with ease.

The path to the bank of Black River started at the barbed-wire fence 
by the gravel township road. We waited until the bull was out of 
sight before crossing the pasture, dodging the cow pies wider than a 
skillet. Then, crawling under another fence, continuing the path 
through a blackberry thicket for a few yards to the sandbar by the
stream. Our forward hike startled the bullfrogs that dived in 
sequence  into puddles ahead of our steps. We had packed sandwiches, 
a bamboo pole, extra line and hooks, a scaling knife and a tobacco 
can for bait, having filled it before dawn with nightcrawlers fused 
together in a mucousy bond of worm lust.

David’s parents encouraged neighbor kids to visit. He spent his days 
in a parlor off the living room, lying on his gurney next to a large 
aquarium, tropical fish in bright clear water. Nothing like the 
tepid creek he’d fished where thirsty dairy cattle waded.  
Often, we’d go visit as they returned from a Sunday drive to see how 
he got to descend to the driveway on the lift from the vehicle. 
He smiled a lot; he must have liked us.

Bluegills are a species of sunfish common in these waters. 
The stream is slow, shaded by willows and sycamore trees, and our 
catch of panfish would be on display en route home, tethered to our 
handlebars as trophies awaiting the frying oil.

Remember Saturdays in the fall, squirrel season? 
A Ford pickup passes with one or many severed tails bannering 
from the radio antennas. Or bucks in bondage on the front grills of 
Jeeps driving back from deer hunts.

What did David catch that day, hours before permanent paralysis? 
Bass was the holy grail, but carp and suckers often took the bait. 
Catfish were too bony to keep. We always found turtles, box 
turtles to taunt, but we kept a respectful distance from 
the snappers. And snakes.

I don’t know if David liked berries.  Wild strawberries had ripened 
the day he went fishing, smaller than cultivated berries, but 
sweeter  like no other fruit. We harvested berries all summer, 
raspberries, blackberries, elderberries by the drainage canal. Our 
bikes balanced pine-peck baskets filled to the top, one on each 
handlebar as we hurried home passed by tractor-trailers hauling 
down Route 42. 
Ricky, leading our convoy in front of me, skidded onto the gravel 
shoulder of the highway, smashing his fruit into blood-like 
puddles on the side of the road. Once arrived at the house we’d 
transfer our catch to pint and quart boxes and sell door-to-door 
to neighborhood pie bakers, fifty-cents apiece. 
I wonder which ones his mom spoon-fed to David.

During football season we gathered apples from the orchard behind 
our house, several heritage varieties all but disappeared now. 
There was a cider press in Medina that squeezed the bushels we 
picked into glass gallon jugs, charging only by keeping a 
percentage of the yield for their use. Just as with our berry sales, 
we marketed the fermenting apple juice house-to-house, 75-cents per 
jug, keeping some to drink before it turned vinegar.

I can’t recall when David ceased his smile, could no longer see 
his bettas and angelfish that glowed in the dark, but it was after I 
stopped delivering newspapers to his address. The Beacon Journal cost 
seven cents then, with the carrier getting two cents from the price. 
I saved enough to buy a fiberglass rod with a cork handle and 
lightweight cast aluminum reel that I aimed straight in front of my 
handlebars, above the front wheel, when I raced down Elyria Street 
with a bass hanging in the wind.

About orangeacorn

We are, I believe, and everything is, in perpetual unfolding/enfolding/evolving. By surface appearances, we're in turmoil and fearfullness, but in fact our existence is on the edge of a new way, beyond the US versus THEM we have grown with. I encourage you to join me over coffee or tea in face-to-face encounters. I call this exercise, "CAFFEINE COMMUNION: Encounters with Paradigm Pioneers." I'm a Columbus, Ohio husband, father and citizen. I practice string band sounds from the ridges of Pocahontas County, West Virginia, the vortex of the ancient drone.
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