It must have been about 25 years ago that I took the teenage boy fishing. David was the second son of a couple that I have known since junior high school. The couple had married and had children young, but even in the late 60's and 70's when my life was very different from theirs we remained friends. Having gotten into the baby business much later than they, my own children were too small to fish at the time the mother suggested a fishing trip with their son.
We went to nearby Rocky Gorge Reservoir, the same lake where I now keep my canoe. At that time I was car-topping that canoe whenever I used it, so I guess David and I loaded it on whatever car I was driving 25 years ago. We had a good day fishing and kept the bass, catfish, and crappie on David's metal stringer. When I drove him home, neither he or his mother wanted to keep and clean the fish, so it was agreed I would take them. David insisted I keep the stringer as well as the fish. I did and my young family ate fresh fish that evening.
David and I never fished again. He grew into a man, and his family moved from Maryland to the mid-west. I stayed in loose touch with his parents and saw them periodically over the years, the last time at a high school reunion just over a year ago. Although most of my fishing since that trip with David has been catch and release, when I keep fish to eat I use that same stringer that he gave me years before. At those times I sometimes remember how I got it and the fishing that day. Since I last used it a few months ago, the metal stringer has been lying on the downstairs floor where I often sort my fishing tackle while watching TV.
Last night I received an e-mail from the couple informing me that their son David just died. The funeral will be back here in Maryland very near the lake we fished that day. I've thought about taking the fish stringer in the pocket of my suit when I attend the services. It might seem a strange thing to do, but somehow I think it's appropriate.