The True Nature of Things, From the Archives

By guest author John Marble

If you are going to be successful running a small business in a small town, especially a small town that you weren’t born in, you had better be able to get along with the locals. In Doc Larsen’s case, of course, this meant not only getting along with the cats and dogs and cattle, but being able to sooth the humans. Dave’s bedside manner was based partly on distraction. If a gal came in with a broken-legged dog, Doc would soon have her talking about her high school graduation party. A fellow whose favorite cat was dying of kidney failure? “Gosh, I see your grandson’s doing pretty well on the wrestling mat this season.” With me, he always talked about fishing.

And so, toward the end of cleaning up a nasty prolapse on a recalcitrant cow, I wasn’t really surprised when the Doc mentioned that he’d been spending some time up at Lost Lake, dragging in fat trout just for fun. He began to give a short lecture about the nature of catch and release as a management tool, but I cut him off. Knowing that Thursday afternoon was his traditional off-time, I jumped right in:

“How ‘bout we just run up there on Thursday and catch some fish?”

The presentation was perfect, I guess, and the hook was set.

“Uh, OK.”

On Thursday we slipped the boat into the water and made our way out to the deep hole. We were casting Wooly Boogers: heavy wet-flies made of hair and feathers and wire, designed to sink to the bottom and look like immature insects. I had learned about wet fly fishing from my father-in-law, a highly-skilled fisherman. Unfortunately, he wasn’t much of a talker or a teacher. I knew that you could catch a lot of fish on wet flies, but I never knew why. All I knew was that fishing wet flies required a much greater degree of focus and maturity than dry fly fishing did. There’s just something exciting about a rising fish breaking water and grabbing a fly. It’s like a shiny piece of aluminum to a raven. It just gets your attention.

Doc and I were pretty busy dragging in big fat trout with those ugly-bug flies, but I couldn’t help but notice that fish were rising occasionally, taking flies off of the surface.

Cast, cast, cast.

“So, Doc, how come we’re fishing wet flies when there appears to be a pretty good hatch going on?”

Cast, cast, cast.

“Well, it has to do with the bugs: they spend 99% of their time on the bottom, or making their way toward the surface. Doesn’t it make sense than that we should imitate them as wet flies, rather than the few seconds that they spend fluttering around on the surface? It’s just the true nature of things.”

Cast, cast, cast.

“Well, Doc, speaking about the true nature of things, I have a question for you on a completely different topic. And I’m afraid it is one that might be a little close to home.”

Cast, cast, cast.

“Alright. Shoot.”

(Here I should probably pause to remind folks that at this point, Dave Larsen was working his way up the ladder in Sweet Home hierarchy. He was a local businessman, a Rotarian, he was on the School Board and he did business with nearly every person in town. He had the pulse of the community, and that’s why I wanted his opinion.)

Cast, cast, cast.

“So, Doc, this “Golden Boy”, the one who’s in the paper every week, the one with all these big plans for developing Sweet Home into a tourist mecca, the one who’s leasing all of these properties down by the river…you know who I’m talking about?”

“Oh, yes. I know exactly who you mean.”

Cast, cast, cast.

“Well, do you think that guy is for real?”

Dave glanced my way for just a fraction of a second.

“Oh, hell no he’s not for real. I don’t know exactly everything he’s up to, but this whole thing is going to wind up blowing up in Sweet Home’s face. And it probably won’t take too long. And some people are going to lose a bunch of money”

Cast, cast, cast.

“So, why do you suppose he’s doing all this? And why are people so excited about the whole story?”

“Well, it’s just like these flies. They look kind of like the real thing. This guy is a great story-teller, and people in Sweet Home are hungry for a good story. In fact, they’re just starving for a good story.”

With that, Dave cast out again, then turned to me and peered over the top of his glasses.

“It’s just the true nature of things.”

And that, right there, was a fine teaching moment.

John Marble

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

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