The Peripatetic Reviewer
IN FATHER-AND-SON fishing the father takes the stern of the canoe. This arrangement is dictated by youthful eagerness and by the acceptance on the part of the elder that it is as enjoyable to see a trout well hooked as to do the job oneself — a conditioning which is the result of age and affection. Time compels us to surrender our competitive spirit in tennis and golf, but with the fly rod one can retain a degree of authority even in the back seat.
The wind from the southwest had been gusty all day and in the late afternoon showed no sign of slackening. We agreed, as we hoisted our green aluminum canoe onto the car rack, that the Upper Iteservoir would give us the only chance of protection. Omens are important: on the way in we surprised an otter, head out of water, in the windstreaked Lower Reservoir; we parked the car at the sandy entrance to the Uppor and a kingfisher went screaming our arrival upstream; as we slid the bow in we could see that the water was high and chair and the current strong.
Nothing showed till we reached the Poacher’s Pool where the big pine had been mushroomed over by the hurricane. The water is eight feet deep here, and a little arrow darting toward the shallows could be a small trout pursued by a larger. The May alders were not as interfering as they would be in full leaf, but there was no freedom in back or overhead. With the bow shoved into the ooze of the left bank the angler made a side-arm cast toward the dark hole. He worked the little red and white streamer not too fast and had an immediate follow.
The first two fish came from the upper or freshman layer; the seniors were probably lurking down below.
“Let the fly sink before yon retrieve, suggested the stern. I his time there was an “Uugh!” as something solid hit underwater; but the uugh fish had survived by rejecting, and when the angler struck, the fly shot ten feet up into the alders. We left it there.
Positions were reversed when we came to the weir, and palernity added two half-pounders to the ereel: they were reversed again as we headed for the upper pools. The sun had set, and by the time we approached the final T the water was jet in the silver half-light. I his is a beautiful right angle with a brook flowing in at the crossing, the channel deep and the bushes to either side holding beneath them delightful summer houses for trout of size. The art is to drop the fly like an earring as close to the bush line as you can without hooking the same. It was past eight o’clock and the man in the stern was beginning to think of bourbon and supper; the wind had ceased and the redwings were voluble about us.
“That’s about it,” said the senior as he applied the priest to the seventh. “It’ll be dark before we get back to the car. But the bow was still eager. “There’s deep water to the left,” he said. “We’ll never hit it under better conditions,”So the canoe crept forward, past the big beech whose roots were underwater, with the fly flicking the narrow stream that led straight toward the wooded ridge and the still sky in which rode the very slimmest of new moons.
Suddenly a hump of water swirled into the path and there was a surface explosion. This time the elbow was well cocked; the tip of the rod went down and the hook was set. It was a big fish and strong. We could tell that from our glimpse of the black square tail. The stern back-paddled for the deep water, but nothing could stop the trout as it crossed under the canoe in its rush downstream. It fought as a brookio, not a rainbow, and what worried us was whether the gut leader, already horsed and worn, would live up to its Hardy reputation. So we came to him, following through the pool and taking great care to dislodge him from his grassholds along the bank. Twice the man with the net failed to intercept, and then at 8:25 the great trout, his strength spent, came dripping aboard. After a struggle like that the thought of release stays the hand and the priest is always reluctant. Two pounds, ten ounces he weighed, something of a record for that little stream in the cranberry bogs, an evening etching to be treasured by father and son for keeps.
The war to end us
I wonder if all this radiation has anything to do with it?" More and more people seem to be asking that question about phenomena they can’t explain — the fall-out of tornadoes which have scarred the Middle West or the number of deformed babies which hearsay has been multiplying. It was over thus — in times of threat and apprehension people looked for auguries and feared the worst. Nevil Shute, formerly of the British Navy, is one of the most prescient of novelists; his novels, warmblooded and appealing in their depiction of human nature, have a way of looking ahead and of warning and foretelling. In Ordeal, which was published nearly twenty years ago, he foreshadowed the Blitz and what it would do to England, Southampton in particular. In On the Beach (Morrow, $3.95), his latest, which the Book-of-the-Month Club, prompted by the disarmament discussions, has moved up for midsummer publication, he makes the appalling revelation of how lethal radiation had become in 1963 in the aftermath of the third world war.
This is not the story of that war, but of its result. The beginning was accidental, as such things often are. The Albanians dropped a bomb on Naples; then someone, identification unknown, lobbed another on Tel Aviv. The British and Americans made a demonstration over Cairo, and next day the Egyptians sent out all their serviceable Russian bombers, six to Washington and seven to London. A couple got through and the fat was in the fire. We turned on Russia; so did China. And when the seismic records were computed, more than 4000 hydrogen bombs had been exploded around the globe. This is the recapitulation which Commander Dwight Towers of the U.S.S. Scorpion, one of our two surviving nuclear-powered submarines, brings to his Australian hosts in Melbourne.
Propelled by the circulatory winds, the radioactive dust from the fall-out eats its way south. It has already reached Australia and is scheduled to blot out Melbourne, the last of the big metropolitan areas, in September. On the Beach tells of the illusion and fatalism with which decent people face up to the extermination — naval officers like Dwight Towers and his Australian counterpart, Peter Holmes; scientists like John Osborne; Moira Davidson and her steady-going father on their big sheep ranch. Children are cared for, gardens are planted, and plans made for the year ahead. Meantime the Scorpion is sent on its long submerged mission to see if there is any lessening in the creeping radioactivity to the north. Only a very humane writer could have told a story as desolate as this and made it seem at once so close and implacable. The book held a kind of cobra fascination for me. I didn’t want to keep on looking, but I did to the end.
The glen and the sheep
Dr. R. B. Robertson is a Scotsman who writes with a vivid sense of participation and a lively sense of humor. He likes the out-of-the-way. In his first book. Of Whales and Men, he told of a far voyage to Antarctica and of his life as senior medical officer aboard a floating blubber factory. His wife, a Connecticut Yankee, was excluded from that expedition, but she made up for lost time by proposing the next: they would live for a year in a shepherd’s cottage on the Scotch Border and reproduce the true story of pastoral Scotland, he with his prose and she with her photographs. The spot chosen was in a wee glen not far from the River Tweed, a community totally devoted to sheep, salmon, and kindred quiddities. In his medical service with the British Eighth Army and the American Fifth, in his doctoring of mental patients in London and in Lebanon, Dr. Robertson has become an exceptionally shrewd judge of men. The bucolic adventure in which he tested and was tested by the people of Lanzier forms the material for his amiable and informative book, Of Sheep and Men (Knopf, $5.00).
A little sheep go a far way for me, and you can have my share of the clippin’, dippin’, and lambin’. I am much more attracted to Kenneth’s dogs, Tim and Meg, and I enjoy Dr. Robertson’s encounters with the shepherds and even better with their wives. Mrs. Tam is his favorite and mine, and it is easy to succumb to her doings and her talk. Mrs. Tam is the legal agent of the glen. She supervises the government returns concerning the sheep; she is efficient at milking the cow, checking the lamb sales, and changing a cylinder-head gasket on the tractor. “What d’you do with your spare time?” Dr. Robertson once asked her by way of a feeble joke. He got a serious reply. Her hobbies included carv - ing ram’s-horn and ash for “lambin’ sticks”; rug making — she had made every one in the house and had two new ones on the loom — growing potted plants, and making gloves, slippers, and mats out of lambskins which she scraped and cured herself.
The men, particularly Barry Caven, the happy Highland vagrant; Auld Kenneth, chief midwife to the flocks; the talkative bartender, and the poacher, have juice and local color. The dialect falls musically on the ear; the isolation from world worries is calming to the spirit. When Dr. Robertson urged Mrs. Tam to send her promising young Tom to college, she became “roosed,” and here is what she said: “If my laddie gangs on tae they superior establishments, he’ll be takkit in twa or three years, pittit into uniform, an’ sent off to Formosa tae fight for Mr. Dulles or somebody he doesna’ give a bugger aboot. An’ if either o’ you twa college men can tell me what the hell Formosa and Mr. Dulles have got to do wi’ the three glens or the comin’ lambin’ season, then I’ll send my lad tae high school tomorrow!” Incidentally, in the course of the year Dr. Robertson and his wife also went down to hear the Golden Eagle, Billy Graham, hold forth as he described in our June issue.