Tales from the Riverbank remain happy, contented ones

albert fitch bellows the river bank

Some of my best childhood memories center on a couple of years I spent fishing along the banks of the Colorado River.

Living in a rural Colorado town, my friends and I were able to make our way by bike to the river to while away countless hours fishing for trout and squawfish, poking through rushes and reeds, tangling with turtles and snakes, chewing tobacco and generally enjoying a Huck Finn-like existence

To this day, there is something about spending time along – and in – rivers that brings me great contentment.

When the weather is warm, which is often in South Carolina, I make a point to take my kids to rivers and streams across our state where we can swim, fish and explore, enjoying adventures that, unfortunately, too few American children seem to experience any more.

If I’m traveling across the state for work I’ll sometimes bring a fishing rod. On more than one occasion I’ve taken off my shirt and tie, rolled up my pants legs and waded into shallow rivers to try my luck.

More often than not I don’t catch anything in the 10 or 15 minutes I spend throwing a lure into distant pockets of water, but I always feel better afterward.

I was reminded of the serene beauty of gently flowing water when I recently happened across Albert Fitch Bellows’ painting The River Bank (above), at the Columbia Museum of Art.

According to the museum, it’s unclear whether Fitch’s 1861 work actually depicts a river or, more likely, a mill pond. But the beauty and serenity of the scene is inescapable.

Viewing the painting took me back immediately to my time on the Colorado River, when my friends and I would fish, swim and hunt to our heart’s content, with the only evidence of human existence being the occasional distant rumble of a Denver and Rio Grande Western freight train and the steam whistle signaling shift changes at a local plant.

Most rock lyrics are nothing more than unimaginative clichés, but among those I’ve come across that actually captures genuine feelings that I can identify with is the hauntingly beautiful Tales from the Riverbank, by The Jam:

Bring you a tale from the pastel fields
Where we ran when we were young
This is a tale from the water meadows
Trying to spread some hope into your heart

It’s mixed with happiness, it’s mixed with tears
Both life and death are carried in this stream
That open space you could run for miles
Now you don’t get so many to the pound

True it’s a dream mixed with nostalgia
But it’s a dream that I’ll always hang on to
That I’ll always run to
Won’t you join me by the riverbank

Paradise found down by the still waters
Joined in the race to the rainbow’s end
No fears, no worries just a golden country
Woke at sunrise, went home at sunset

Now life is so critical, life is too cynical
We lose our innocence, we lose our very soul

True it’s a dream mixed with nostalgia
But it’s a dream that I’ll always hang on to
That I’ll always run to
True it’s a dream mixed with nostalgia
But it’s a dream that I’ll always hang on to
That I always run to
Won’t you join me by the riverbank
Come on and join me by the riverbank

One of the blessing of my life is that I’m able to live in an area where I can recapture at least a little nostalgia of my youth, and also pass it on to my children.

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9 thoughts on “Tales from the Riverbank remain happy, contented ones

  1. Passing on to our own kids what we held as special is in itself more than special. Simple pleasures such as these can become family traditions – let’s hope your children will want to replicate it with your grand kids! Lovely post, and I love the Jam.

  2. Lovely post, CBC. And you KNOW I LOVE The Jam. While I’ve never been one for the fishing, I so love sitting by a body of water- lake, river, whatever- and listening to the water, and the trees and the birds… Oh, how I wish it was cottage season! Not least of all because it’s freakin cold here today. I felt warmer just reading your post.

    • Thanks, Cole. It’s chilly down here, but nothing like what y’all are experiencing. I’m definitely a warm-weather guy so I understand the need to get outside and enjoy nature. I keep telling myself it will only be a few months before I’m sweltering. One of the ways I make it through the winter is realizing that this time of year is great for exploring in the woods, when all the greenery is gone and you can see so much more. Also, there are almost no mosquitoes. which is a welcome relief. Thanks for stopping by and helping me envision the birds, water and trees.

  3. That took me back to my walking the hills with my father, and him showing me how to guddle for trout – catching them in your hands. I’ve no one to whom to pass it on, but your post brought it back so vividly…

    • I’ve never tried guddling – the water’s usually too deep or there aren’t any fish where we’re at – but have always wanted to give it a try.

      We have something somewhat similar called “noodling.” but it’s not for the faint of heart.

      Did you ever have much luck guddling? Sounds like a wonderful way to spend a day with a dad.

      • It depended on having a fairly fast stream, rocks and a pool below, and being aware of where the sun was to avoid casting a shadow…I remember too how cold my hands were after a while!
        We had some pretty variable results…the odd bonanza, but usually just a few…enough to take home to be rolled in oatmeal and fried for supper.
        Yes, it was a lovely time..I had my father to myself, he talked about any and everything, showed me plants and birds and we were out in some wonderful landscapes.
        Still, for me, can’t beat the colours of Scotland.

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