Along A Wider River
by Janice Daugharty
Copyright 2010 Janice Daugharty
First published in The Georgia Review
Now that he is ninety-some-odd years old and can no longer lumber down the banks of the Alapaha, he has to scooch low and back like a brittle old turtle. Down the root ladder set in packed gray dirt to the dais of roots below--under a broad tupelo and a cypress older than he is. Still, the cypress is sprouting tender green needles, and the tupelo struts out over the slow water. Cypress knees, like pagan idols, stand in the eddy along the edge, with gray- pied moccasins braided around some of them. The buzz of crickets and locusts join with a hawk crying over the banks of inward-leaning birches. The felled heart cypress and pine along the unsunned banks match the fish-roe tint of Dump Sanders who, in his patched khaki, blends right in while he fishes.
On the platform of roots he stands, cranking his backbone to straight position--he will fish now--then reaches for his cane pole in the wattle of bamboos growing along the bank. The pole has caught many a jack and more mudcats that he can count. He practically lives on fish, has raised a big family on fish caught out of this hole--that, and the corn and peas and such he grew on halves, plus coons he trapped in the muddy slews and hammocks of Swanoochee County.
Unwinding the line of his pole, he listens for sounds that belong--the river's rilling, a crow's sore-throated caw--sorting them from sounds that don't belong, the clank of wood on metal, which likely means somebody is fishing from a boat upriver.He goes dead still, his shadow merging with the shadows of maple switches on the sun-spotted water. As he gazes upriver, his cataracted eyes pick up the blur of boat and man spiriting from the tea-tinted shallows toward the smoky drop-off of Dump's fishing hole.