“Interested in fishing this afternoon?” asked Steven.
Knowing from experience that Steven’s enthusiasm occasionally outpaces his judgment in these matters, I gave his question serious thought before answering. The idea had some obvious shortcomings…most notably that the thermometer read 9 degrees. On the other hand, the day was young, sunny and still. Standing there atop the sled hill with a bundled knot of parents and friends, the conditions felt quite comfortable. Surely it would be downright toasty by early afternoon I reasoned. And his proposal did have real upside potential. I’d be fishing, after all, instead of doing house chores.
“Oh, heck yeah!” I replied, confident that I’d done the appropriate due diligence, and arrived at the best possible decision.
John “Howdy” Mack, my high school football coach, may not have seen it that way. He had an interesting take on decisions. “Young man,” he’d once told me, lighting his pipe and gazing into the middle distance, “you’re going to make some good ones, and you’re sure as hell going to make some bad ones. That’s just fine. But understand this… The world keeps a ledger. Where you stand in life is nothing but a simple accounting of your decisions to that point. You gotta think about that bottom line before you make up your mind. ”
I guess he’d seen a penchant for pigheadedness in me, and felt compelled to impart this life lesson before our paths diverged. I didn’t then, and don’t now, fully agree with his premise, but it does make for a handy measuring stick.
His system for evaluating decisions is a helpful tool, for example, when barreling toward the mountains in February, with fly-rods rigged and temps in the teens. Finding myself in such blatantly questionable circumstances often makes me think back to Coach Mack and wonder… has my decision making matured at all in last twenty years?
As we approached the turn-out, Steven thumped my in-dash thermometer with the palm of his hand, snapping me back to the bitter cold present.
“Hit it again,” said Jeff from the back seat. “Damn thing’s stuck.”
“Japanese truck,” explained Steven, “must be 18 Celsius.” Then he hit it once more for good measure.
“Dry flies only boys,” I added to our gallows humor slapstick routine. “Make your own choices, but I’ll be strictly fishing grass hoppers.”
The stiff upper lip bravado continued for the next four hours. We gave it the old college try, knowing all the while that frostbite was a legitimate possibility, and that fish bites were a long shot. By the time we finally retreated to the truck to struggle with iced-over boot laces and wrestle out of rigid waders, I had my answer. No, apparently my decision making hasn’t matured much. I’m still just as obstinate as ever.
So long as the bottom line keeps adding up to me standing in the mountains, next to a river, I’m just fine with that. I think Coach Mack – God rest his soul – would agree.