Fishing With God

by Alan Cleveland


My grandfather epitomized the outdoorsman.

As a child he would row his boat from Percival Landing to the road. Then, as it was before the invention of school buses, hike another 2 miles to Garfield Elementary. He was not necessarily a rugged child, but merely a short portion of the population that did what it had to do in the years preceding the First World War.

By the time he was 10 years old, grandpa would spend his weekends among the Indians (thats what they were called then) at Squaxin Island .. A mere 15 miles to the north.

The native population not only embraced him, but received him as if he were a part of their community. They taught him about things natural, and he brought them new ideas and teachings from a world quickly advancing on their own.

As a young man during the Second World War, Grandpa was piloting tug boats between Puget Sound and the Alaskan Panhandle. As someone who had grown up in the unspoiled Northwest, he was fascinated with the great forests, unspoiled wilderness, and culture of Alaska. At the end of the WAR TO END ALL WARS he and his buddy flipped a coin on where they would build their futures. His partner chose "heads" for South America and Grandpa chose "tails" for Alaska.

For as long as I can remember, I have been in love with this GREAT LAND. A legacy provided by one. A man, who on the toss of a coin, wrestled a bear, married an Eskimo, and, in every conceivable way, became what is known in the LAST FRONTIER as a Sourdough.

Throughout his life, my grandfather had been courted by publishers to tell his stories. The same stories that I could listen to time and time again by stirring him up with my ignorance. Whereas he was created through genuine experiences, I had been raised on Disney and Wild Kingdom. He was not about ot let me forget that Marlin Perkins had not seen as many wolves as he personally had killed during his stint in predator control for the USFWS.

With that foundation laid, there is one thing that stands out in my mind more than anything else my grandpa ever said. During an interview, after his retirement, a reporter had asked him about his faith in god. My grandpa, always both slow to speak and willing to make a point, suggested that there is no way anyone could spend any amount of time in the wilderness and accept it's existance as accidental. It is just to perfect and pure to be random.

Last summer while I was fishing with a friend in one of the thousands of inlets here in Southeast, I was reminded of my grandpa, of God, and of the design of it all. With no one around for miles, and deep in the fjord, my friend let out a yell. The echo resounded around us at least 7 or 8 times before the air settled and we looked at eachother in amazement.

On the same trip we caught a few halibut and a few salmon, but nothing as memorable as recognizing the handicraft of something - someone greater than ourselves.

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