Wade picked a bad day for fishing – it rained steady; the kind of rain that drenches the bones and beats down the spirit. There was a covered dock on the east side of the lake and that’s where Wade drove.
He quickly grabbed his gear from under the tarp in the bed of his truck and dashed for the cover of the dock’s roof.
At end of the dock an old man sat on a bench. The old man’s name was Butch and he spent a lot of his days on that benh; the bench Wade thought would be a good place to fish.
Wade stopped a couple of pilings from Butch. He sat his gear down and started to bait his hook.
“You can sit down here,” Butch said. “I’m not staying too much longer.”
“That’s okay,” Wade said. “People come here to be alone with their thoughts.”
“That’s good of you,” Butch said, “the fishing is better here and sometimes our thoughts need the company.”
“Sure, I can hardly argue with that,” Wade said and gathered his gear.
He sat beside Butch and tossed his line in the lake.
“Sometimes that rain just drives fish crazy,” Butch said. “They just have to eat and sometimes they swim for cover, under a dock or a tree near the bank. If you can think like a fish you’re freezer will always be full of ‘em.”
“Sounds like you have experience,” Wade said.
“Some,” Butch said.
Neither spoke a word for awhile. The rain pattered heavy on the roof and pelted the water with countless tiny explosions.
There was something vaguely familiar about the old man to Wade, many years ago, perhaps when a boy.
“Were you ever in The Wheel?” Wade said.
“The Wheel,” Butch smiled, “that goes back some years. What a hoppin’ place that was. And you must have been a regular. People who didn’t know the place called it by its proper name, The Wagon Wheel.”
“Had a big neon wagon wheel right over the middle of the dance floor,” Wade said.
“Wait a minute,” Butch said, “you must have been just a kid when you went there.”
“Dad and Mom took me there to see that wheel,” Wade said. “And when I got a little older I’d go in to shine shoes. Lots of cowboys boots in that place.”
“Those were the days,” Butch said.
“I remember you most of all,” Wade said.
“I bet I know why,” Butch said.
“Friday and Saturday nights,” Wade said, “you played in the band, Marshal Butch Butcher And The Posse.”
“We was quite a crew,” Butch said. “Could have gone to Nashville.”
“Why didn’t you?” Wade said.
Butch grinned. “Not good enough, plain and simple. Those Nashville boys, got notes and chords that we hadn’t even dreamed about, let alone how to get there.”
“You know it was because of you I picked up the guitar,” Wade said. “I’d watch you and thought you was the greatest.”
“And look at me now,” Butch said, “just an old man with a head full of old memories.”
Butch’s smile faded as he looked across the splattered lake. “The Wheel, haven’t thought of that place in years. It’s too bad you can’t store the good times for later. Ya know, all the boys from the Posse are gone.”
“There was a woman that sung with you, wasn’t there?” Wade said. “I though she was the prettiest woman ever; dressed like a cow girl. Dale Evans was second to her.”
“That was Dot,” Butch said. “We was married 52 years before she passed. She could still carry a tune and I’d play alongside. Her and I would do that a couple times a week. Memories are sometime so heavy they can make a man just sink to the bottom of the lake.”
Wade quietly hoped for a fish to bite. The mood needed change.
“Remember this one?” Wade said and began to sing, “Good bye, Joe, me gotta go, me oh my oh. Me gotta go pole pig oh down the bayou…”
“Stop!” Butch interrupted, a look of scorn came across his face.
“I’m sorry,” Wade said, “I just thought it might lift your spirits.”
“If you’d get it right, that would lift my spirits,” Butch said. “It ain’t pig oh, it’s pirogue. It’s a boat they use in the bayou country.”
“Here I thought all along they was talking about sticking a pole through a pig and having a pig roast.”
“Now that you know,” Butch said, “Let’s take it from the top together. Remember it’s pirogue and try not to flatten out some of those notes.”
They sung that song and a few more.
“Before ya go, son,” Butch said, “I know ya come here to fish, but seems like they weren’t bitin’, but I’d like to pass something along to you. I’ve known all my life, but seldom used; memories can sink a man or help him float, it’s up to you to decide.”
Seems like Wade picked a good day to go fishing.