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Uncle Wes

Portrait of a Mountain Man

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I knew him better than most as we spent countless hours together on the lakes and rivers fishing so I figure I can tell you what I know about this modern day mountain man. Some folks called him eccentric, a recluse, or even a loner I just called him friend. The one question I have and still don?t understand is why live this life of loneliness and solitude? Had life dealt him so many disappointments and tragedy that this is how he escaped from it all or was he genuinely happy with this arrangement in life? I don?t think I will ever know the answer to that one. He was admired by some, liked by most, and hated by a selected few but all in all a decent man who gave more than he received. He used to say that he had a hand full of friends and even less than that the he trusted and the rest were just aqaintences.

His face was like tanned leather the wrinkles in it were battle scars of life that had begun to take its toll. His body had started to break down, bad knees, a back that went out on him now and again, a trick shoulder, and fingers that had been broken more than once. He often joked that it took him twenty minutes just to straighten out in the morning before he could get out of bed. They say the eyes are the window to your soul if this is true you could look into his eyes and feel a sense of sadness that you just couldn?t quite put your finger on but you could feel it and knew it was there. Although he wasn?t a rich man he always seemed to get by and end up with the things he needed, by all accounts a very remarkable man. He was by no means a saint like he said he fractured a law or two as a youth, every now and again he would have a streak of meanness but after all he?s only human.

He woke everyday and set about accomplishing his tasks at hand, completely trustworthy and honest he was well respected for these characteristics as he preformed them day in and day out. He seemed to be genuinely concerned for the well being of others and would help when and where he could even if it meant cutting himself short on some of his personal items. I don?t think that he ever fully realized the positive impact that he had on others around him but then again I don?t think he ever gave it a second thought. I think that every once in a while he was taken advantage of for these traits but it never seemed to bother him or at least he never let on either way. He once told me he had given up on love long ago but I think deep down he was still holding out for that miracle, someone he could share his life with and the beauty that surrounded him if you just looked for it.

He was an acclaimed storyteller he could keep you on the edge of your seat as he told his tales and he got even greater pleasure in telling them to the kids. He seemed to really enjoy having children around he said the one thing about kids is that they kept everything pretty black and white no gray areas just they way he liked it. He was a jack of all trades and master of none, I considered him to very remarkable man he continually amazed me with some of the things he knew about. I always got great enjoyment watching people under estimate him only to have it come back and bite them in the butt, his knowledge of different subjects always amazed me. There was always one thing you could count on if you asked his opinion on a subject that he didn?t really have any knowledge of he wouldn?t have a comment but ask him about a subject he was very keen on then expect an honest answer he wouldn?t sugar coat it he?d tell it just like it was.

He had his quirks and superstitions but I think all of us do to some extent. He once told me that he had gone 8 weeks without speaking to anyone except his wild cat, if he got tired of people or the drama that surrounded them he would just simply retreat to his cabin and mind his own business I have to admit I admired him for this trait of being able to shut everything out and not let it bother him. There were times he would ask me what day it was and he honestly wasn?t sure, now you?ve got to admire a guy like this he didn?t know and really didn?t care. He was also very supersticious if he was on some kind of winning streak he wouldn?t change a thing including his clothes that use to amuse me a great deal just to see some of the stuff he came up with.

But his main love was fishing I swear this man could catch a fish in a mud puddle. I first met him on the local lake and would observe him for hours as he hooked and released trout after trout and nobody else out there seemed to get a bite he was like watching poetry in motion he was one with his surroundings it was like he had a sixth sense out there. One day I met him at the boat ramp and started talking to him and asking questions about his remarkable success rate, well one thing led to another and he invited me to go with him the next day. I?ll tell you I was excited about this opportunity that had been presented to me. The next day I was an hour early because there was no way I was going to miss this adventure and the possibility of learning from a true master. I can remember it just like it was yesterday and this took place four years ago.

On this day he was bigger than life to me this man was a fishing legend in the area and his feats as a fisherman were always discussed where anglers gathered everyone knew of his reputation as one of the truly greats not only in the area but around the state. I can honestly say this was the day that I truly learned about fishing a lake effectively and the reason you do your homework before you attempt to go out. We loaded all of our gear in the boat and started out he explained to me what we were going to use and just why we were going to work the area he was headed to. As we motored out into the lake he pointed out different areas and explained to me why one area was better than others during certain times of the year also things I should be looking for in early spring, summer, fall, and winter. These were things that I never really gave a second thought to and showed me how much I really had to learn.

He also told me that to say you were going to go trout fishing was a very ambiguous statement to make because each species of trout had different needs and habitat to survive this was really an eye opener for me part of the education I was hoping to receive. As we got to the section of the lake he intended to work for the day we let our lines out and then he started to teach me how to bracket a lake down to locate the trout this was turning out to be quite an experience and I was soaking it all in. I watched him as he was checking out the water looking for a hatch so he could find a fly with matching colors or the exact matching fly in less than twenty minutes we had hooked and released two rainbow trout a piece from twelve to sixteen inches telling me not to worry that those weren?t the ones we were looking for. We were looking for big game in the five-pound range, which was fine by me something that big would be an all time best for me. And to tell you the truth I was getting excited at the prospect of hooking into something that big.

As the day wore on and he taught me lesson after lesson we had hooked and released over thirty fish apiece several in the two to three pound range I finally had a hook up that completely took me by surprise I seen it come out of the water and couldn?t believe my eyes it was huge the biggest I?d ever hooked into I played him for about a half hour as he leaped out of the water and made several more runs on me I finally got him close enough to the boat to put a net on him a beautiful eight pound rainbow. As I looked at him he had this great big grin on his face and said ?there?s your dinner.? I got him home that evening and filet him out had a few friends over for dinner mainly because I knew no one would believe me if I told them. Now the reason I?m writing this story is that I had noticed he hadn?t been on the lake lately and the fall was his favorite time to fish the lakes so I made a trip up to his cabin to make sure everything was alright.

I knocked on his door and got no answer so I went in to find that it was empty, everything was gone. Evidently he just packed up and moved on without any fanfare or good-byes. I don?t know if this community realizes the loss that they have suffered when this living legend and icon had left but I think eventually they will but it?s to late now. I only hope that he finds what he?s looking for and if you should happen to see him tell him I said hello and thanks for everything. This man is one of a kind and it?s worth your time to get to know him.

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