A Walk in the Park: A River Runs Through It

Rochester Municipal Park
Today I came here specifically to work on a confounding Literature assignment, “A River Runs Through It”, by Norman Maclean. I chose this park because it is my favorite and it has a river that runs through it, Well; a creek runs through it – Paint Creek to be specific. I hope that today’s walk can be of use in understanding this assignment. First I’ll introduce the park. Rochester Municipal Park is by far one of the most beautiful I have ever been to in terms of a city park. The famous and well-traveled Paint Creek Trail runs along the back of the park, or the front depending on what entrance you use.The water snakes diagonally through the center with a sturdy bridge that crosses it. It’s not that deep or treacherous here. In ‘A River Runs Through It’ a pastor teaches his sons how to fish. As luck would have it there are three men fishing. It comes to about mid-calf on them, and they don’t appear to struggle with the gentle current here. They smile and nod as I walk over the bridge gripping the rail to make sure my step stays sturdy. (I am not yet used to remembering to bring a cane.)

My hip isn’t bad this morning. I had a cortisone shot two days ago and it seems to be working. It feels weak, but there is no pain. I make it across the bridge and notice a bench overlooking a bend in the creek. I can see the current moving down the center, but the swirling water is calmer in one of the bends of the water. I take a seat on the bench, rubbing my upper thigh. I smile, there are no muscle spasms. It is the first time in years I have felt no spasms in my upper thigh. It feels soft and—weak, but pain-free.
A gentle breeze blows, and the leaves of the tall, mature trees rustle peacefully. Huge trees provide shaded areas around the park. The grass is well cared for, and the flowerbeds weeded. It is a storybook park if ever one existed. If this scene were in a movie I could definitely picture ‘the upper-class suburban’ theme music playing. It’s perfect here. Everything about it gently whispers ‘utopia’. I pull out my notebook and my copy of ‘A River Runs Through It’ determined to understand this thing, but instead of reading I allow the park to distract me for a moment, and smell the fresh air. I can’t hear what the fishermen are talking about, but I can hear the murmur of their chatter. They occasionally laugh at something. They are still standing in the middle of the creek.
A flock of about fifteen or twenty Mallard ducks are hanging out between me and the fishermen. About five or six are in the ‘calm’ bend of the creek fishing. They sink their heads under the water heaving their feathery butts up in the air. The ones on the bank are quacking, and milling about occasionally digging at the ground with their bills. There are videos of them on my YouTube Channel.
I watch the fishermen. After all, I am here to contemplate ‘A River Runs Through It’ a story about fishermen. I can still hear the mummer of their chatter. They are smiling and casting. Hopefully, I don’t look like an old cougar woman. I am not interested in that, what I want to know is what do men talk about while fishing? What is the draw to stand in the middle of a river with a stick trying to catch fish? I try to listen, but the creek’s bubbling and duck’s quacking drowns out the specifics of their voices. Probably just as well, it isn’t my business anyway. The only thing I can tell from here is that the men seem to genuinely be having a good time.
The ducks are not having such a good time. A fight breaks out between two males. There is angry quacking that almost certainly would translate into cussing and swearing in English. Tone of voice is a tone of voice, whether it is quacking or talking. Their wings flap and they nip at each other, one gets a face nip and runs off with the other nipping at his rear end. I smile, apparently the face-nipped duck didn’t consider the sweet revenge of the duck-poo position he was in. If he had, the females would have been his for sure. Duck or not, no woman wants poo on her man. The ducks settle down after their WWE Entertainment, and the sparrows swoop in to take the loose duck feathers for their nests. I glance over at the group of ducks swimming in the creek. They are still bobbing, unshaken by the boyfriend drama. They sometimes ride the teeny ‘rapids’ down a few feet and swim back against the current like it isn’t offering them any resistance, only to shoot the ‘rapids’ again.
It’s a perfect lazy morning in a perfect lazy place that is the perfect temperature to laze around in. Or, at least, it is today. One of the ducks in the creek breaks free of the gentle pool and floats down the creek about twelve feet until he reaches the shore. He pops out of the water and joins the other ducks on the grass that were fighting a minute ago. That’s when I noticed they are all standing up and facing in the same direction. They are no longer wandering about. An older man is approaching with a sack in his hand. He smiles as he passes out duck goodies. They scramble, bumping each other out of the way for the goodies. A vague picture of Walmart shoppers on Black Friday pops into my memory as I watch the ducks. Were the ducks waiting there for him the whole time, just like Walmart shoppers wait in their tents on Black Friday? Does Sleeping in a tent outside Walmart, on a holiday, serve the same purpose as fly fishing in ‘A River Runs Through It’? What can one do at 2 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning if not talk about anything and everything? Regardless, you wouldn’t catch me fishing, or sleeping in a tent outside Walmart, but you will see me dragging my daughter to help her poor lame mother walk the park and photograph ducks. I smile, an evil plan of togetherness is forming for the moment I get back home. Perhaps we could have lunch here later, and she could help me come take photos of the ducks?
There is a commotion by the fishermen, one of them has caught a fish. Not necessarily a teeny one for this small narrow section of the creek. He picks it up with both hands to show his friends. They congratulate him, offer what looks like a prayer before releasing the fish. They pack up.
Duck Goodie man notices squirrels who seem to say, “uhmmm, over here, kind sir.” He smiles at them and says “Don’t worry, I have something for you too.” He tosses peanuts out for the two squirrels who have gathered by the ducks. He continues tossing out his duck and squirrel goodies until he runs out, and then continues on over the Sturdy Bridge back to the other side of the park, and is gone.
One of the squirrels snatches up the last peanut, giving the other the unmistakable look of ‘sucks to be you’, then he backs away with a cocky squirrel grin. I can tell by the look in his eyes. They are actually shiny. He is beaming-It is easy to see. He continues to back away from the other squirrel, flicking his tail before running passed my bench and down to the rocks that border the edge of the water here. He disappears into the bushes and is gone. The other seems to blow him off, before picking up the goodies that the ducks missed. “Sucks to be who?” I am sure I heard, as he flicked his tail, and glanced over his furry shoulder toward the squirrel that ran away leaving the bulk of the booty on the grass.
The ducks are settling down to nap in the areas of spotted sunlight reaching the ground through the leaves above. The remaining squirrel sneaks off with his bounty. The floating ducks join their brothers and sisters in the grassy area. They seem to settle down for a morning nap. The fishermen are now long gone.
I take the hint and finally go for my walk, fidgeting with the pages of the book I am supposed to be reading. I pause on the Sturdy Bridge, and can see a family arriving with a St. Bernard pup. He is enormous, even for being a pup. I watch the crystal clear water flow under the bridge and lean on the railing. I can hear the dad tell the little girl (about eight) to leave “Bruno” tied up for now, that he will bring Bruno. The girl promptly ignores him and unties Bruno. Bruno seizes the moment and runs for the creek, with the girl dragging behind him, screaming “daddy!”
The ducks are unperturbed. They are unaware that Bruno is on the way and with his arrival their tranquil morning will be officially over.
“Daddy!” she screams again. He runs after her yelling for her to just let go of the leash. She does.
Bruno makes a great a leap into the center of the water, and with one more leap exits on the other side, making a B-line for the ducks, barking. They scatter and fly away, quacking. I am sure there were choice words in that quacking. They remind me of a flock of an angry Donald Duck throwing a fit.
Daddy dashes over the bridge in two great leaps. He runs over to Bruno and chases him in an attempt to grab his leash. He finally grasps it, yelling at the little girl that she is too small to control the dog. She seems unphased by his rebuke and skips to catch up to him and Bruno. It is the time of day for the children and dogs have their turn in the park. The early crowd is now gone. I head back to my car to drive home, still thinking about ‘A River Runs Through It.’
In a ‘River Runs Through It,’ for brothers Norman and Paul, the river is a sacred place. It is the place where the core of their family story unfolds. Sometimes the river is the only place they have a deep conversation because it is the place where they learned how brotherhood works. Beyond that statement, I will not spoil the book for you if you have not read it, I recommend it; it isn’t only for fishermen.
A visit to the park today showed the fishermen engaging in friendship. The ducks flocked together with the squirrels and sparrows to wait for a man to pass out goodies. And a little girl learned that her father isn’t full-of-it when he says to leave Bruno tied to the bumper. All of the humans, animals and waterfowl alike had a little bit of their story unfold by the water that runs through it today.
Since my hip is feeling well today I may as well take this opportunity to catch up on some neglected household chores.

May your week bring you peace.


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