By G. E. Shuman
I’d like to relate three short summertime stories that I know I have shared in the past, but it was long ago, and you wouldn’t have heard of them. As I get a bit older, I realize that my stories also age a bit, but are, hopefully, still relevant.
Summer is my favorite season, and these short tales are ones I have heard along the way, during one summer or another. I hope you enjoy them.
The first was shared with me by a retired police officer as he sat at the lunch counter of a store I once ran in Concord NH. (Does anyone remember lunch counters?) This nice man would come in and have coffee with me from time to time and loved to tell the tales of his youth in the south, and of the (mostly harmless) mischief he and his friends would get into. I loved to hear his timeless short stories, told with Twain-like acerbic wit. This particular day, at the end of his fondly remembered story, he looked out the store window, obviously lost in his own memories, and softly said: “Nothing tastes better than a stolen watermelon.” Truly, that was wit, wisdom, and a window into the human spirit to match any other I have known.
The second story is from another friend from about the same era of my life. He was one who loved the adventure of riverside summer fishing, and related tales to me, both of the ones that got away, and of some that didn’t. He loved the pastime of leisurely fishing, which is fishing of a special type. My old friend realized, as do I, that the idea of this version of the sport was in the fishing itself. Actually catching something was an exciting bonus but wasn’t necessary to still have a great time.
I can still hear his voice and see his face as he would launch into one or more recollections of riverside adventures. I only wish I could better relate his tone as he told me of them. They were Huck Finn styled adventures, indeed. They were slow ones, enjoyed with the idea that the hot afternoon sun would crawl across the sky, and that fishing from the shade of a riverbank tree could easily consume the entire time that it did so. His final words, on one particular day, iced the cake of his story in a telling and beautiful way. He simply said: “I never caught a decent fish while I was awake.” What an amazing, comforting thought that was.
I’ll end this list of simple summer stories with another that has to do with fishing. This occurred many years ago when my children were young. We had rented a cabin on a small pond here in Central Vermont. On one early morning, I happened to be out on my very small sailboat, slowly plying the still water’s edge with what little breeze there was. It was a beautiful scene, to me, as I sailed around the rim of the pond. In one spot I noticed two older gents fishing from one of the docks. As I approached I called to them: “How’s the fishing?” to which one gave the perfect and surprisingly revealing response. Raising his hook from the water, he smiled and answered back: “Not fishin’. Just teachin’ this worm how to swim.” To me, wit isn’t packaged any finer than that.
I hope you enjoyed these summer ‘shorts’, and that you will enjoy this beautiful season even more. As you navigate the coming sunny days, listen to the casual comments of those around you. You never know what summertime wisdom you might hear.