The small stream has no name, so far as we know. Back then, when my brother and sister and I were young, and the woods near our camp served as our summer playground, that didn’t matter much.
In fact, we never really referred to the brook itself when we told our mom that we were heading afield in search of four-inch brook trout. Instead, we told her we were going fishing at “Bumpy Bridge,” a short, rickety-looking structure that spanned that wispy piece of water.
Gaping spaces between the old logs made up Bumpy Bridge, and determined anglers could lie on their bellies, peer between the logs, dangle a line and a worm, and (sometimes) haul an unsuspecting brookie up through a gap.
More often than not, we succeeded only in whacking the wiggling trout against one log or another, at which point the fish would drop down into the depths … if, that is, you can call 14 inches of water “the depths.”
One time, an older boy caught a real-live keeper at Bumpy Bridge. It was a foot long, according to my 10-year-old mind’s eye, fully three times longer than the typical trout we saw.
That ruined everything.
Up until that day, we were perfectly happy to lie on the bridge while occasionally venturing upstream to see what other pools might exist.
After that day, we caught the fever.
Fish — big fish — lived under Bumpy Bridge, in a shallow brook that every kid on our side of the pond had likely fished.
What if there are bigger? we wondered. What else is out there?
And finally, this: Where does this brook come from, anyway?
For years after that, we fished the waters at Bumpy Bridge Brook, as we began calling it. We’d start at the bridge itself, expecting little. That low expectation, shared by us all, was probably my first “self-fulfilling prophecy” experience, though I’m sure I didn’t know that phrase at the time.
Put in your time, and you’ll catch fish. Expect little, and you won’t. And we didn’t.
Emboldened or frustrated, or curious, we began heading upstream. First a hundred yards. Then two hundred. Then farther. Finally, we went as far as we could … which never proved to be far enough. That’s how adventures are, you see.
We never did find the end — or more accurately, the beginning — of our little summer brook.
Not that we didn’t try.
It’s just that real life conspired against us, time and time again.
We never left until after lunch, you see. And we were always under strict orders to return to camp by supper. Not a minute later.
If we’d left our fishing rods at home, and forgotten to pack a tin of worms, we might have fulfilled our quest. We might have found the best fishing hole in the world.
But each day, as we played that age-old game of young adventurers —“it’s got to be around the next corner” — we fished too much on our way upstream and ran out of time before we actually got to that last corner.
In later years, I’ve thought about that brook a lot. I’ve looked at maps, and searched it on-line.
I still can’t find a name for it, which is fine with me.
But I’ve learned where (according to the map-makers, at least) our quest should have ended … where the brook should have begun.
One of these days, I sometimes tell myself. One of these days, I’m going to visit again. I’ll walk and fish and find that precious pool where the big fish all live. I will.
I may not be back in time for supper.
But I will.