The alarm pierces the silent darkness of the back bedroom of my grandparents’ home where I am sleeping. I roll over and fumble with the alarm clock before finally succeeding in the elimination of the annoying high pitched electronic squeal. The light clicks on in the bedroom next to mine where my grandparents are sleeping. As I listen to their mumbling, I suddenly remember why I had set the alarm to go off before even the first rays of light had made their appearance in the early morning sky. I am going fishing in the mountains with my grandfather. Before I even start to get out from under my blanket, Grandpa is in the bathroom beginning to shave and my Grandmother is on her way to the kitchen to begin making our lunches. I roll out of bed and suddenly become completely alert even though it is only a few minutes past four thirty in the morning. My grandfather and I have gone on so many of these early morning adventures that we have all developed very specific individual routines which are followed almost religiously as we prepare for our daybreak expeditions into the Black Hills of South Dakota. I find a pair of old, broken in jeans and a pair of thick wool socks and put them on. Then I put on a T-shirt, a comfortable, oversized, maroon turtle-neck, an old, dusty looking blue and black flannel shirt, and a plain, gray sweatshirt that is at least four sizes to big for me.
By the time I finish picking out and putting on my clothes, my Grandpa is out of the bathroom and in his bedroom getting dressed. I take my turn in the bathroom and head to the dining room. My grandmother has set the table with bowls, spoons, coffee cups, big glasses of apple juice with three ice cubes in each glass, and a plate for each of us with two pieces of toast which have been so perfectly buttered that they look good enough to be featured in a Parkay advertising campaign. A box of Grapenuts, a box of Cheerios, and a box of Shredded Wheat are placed in the center of the table along with a carton of milk and a small bowl full of sugar. My Grandmother is in the kitchen finishing off the preparation of our lunches. I sit down and my Grandfather joins me shortly after I have settled into the same dining room chair I have been sitting in every summer for as long as I can remember. The finish on the chair is darkened with age except for two light colored spots on the crossbar between the two front legs of the chair where the finish is worn away by my feet, the feet of my cousins, and the feet of whichever of my mother’s three brothers or three sisters have sat in this chair over the many years it has been a part of mealtime in my grandparent’s home. I manage to quickly eat two bowls of Cheerios, each with one tablespoonful of sugar sprinkled over the top, both pieces of toast, my apple juice, and a coffee cup of milk before my Grandpa is finished with his second piece of toast. We discuss our options of fishing locations and decide on the area above the Cheyenne Crossing General Store in Spearfish Canyon.
Once we know where we are going, I gather my dishes to take them into the kitchen. My Grandpa pours himself a second cup of coffee and a bowl of Grapenuts. My Grandmother has finished making our sandwiches and has everything from cookies, to grapes, to three kinds of potato chips, sealed up in plastic baggies and ready to be packed into coolers. My Grandmother always gives us enough food for lunch plus a little more for mid-morning snack since we are eating breakfast at a quarter ‘til five in the morning. According to our routine, this is the time when I am expected to go down into the basement and get the two blue coolers for our lunches. I also need to dig around in the freezer and find the plastic cold packs full of that thick blue ooze which screw into the lids of the coolers.
After retrieving the coolers and cold packs from the basement, I hand them over to Grandma and she proceeds to wash them out and arrange our food in them. My Grandpa has finished his breakfast and I can hear the garage door creaking and squeaking as the opener strains to raise the white with lime-green trim door as I go into my bedroom to make my bed and get my wallet. My Grandma passes by the door of my room on her way back to bed and I thank her for making our lunches, and she tells me she enjoys doing it, as she crashes back into bed. I grab the coolers and head out the front door toward the garage to help my Grandpa load our fishing equipment. In the garage, the blue Honda Civic station wagon is already running and my Grandpa has most of the equipment loaded. I toss in the coolers and throw in the last fishing pole while grandpa goes to the side of the house and turns on the sprinkler for the front yard. As we get ourselves into the car and pull out of the driveway, I notice the first rays of light are making their presence known in the east, and proceed to close the garage door with the remote. We motor on down the bumpy, poorly maintained road in front of the house to the town’s only stop light and turn onto the road out of town. The drive to Cheyenne Crossing is about an hour and a half. The hum of the tires on the road soon lulls me back into slumber.
Nearly forty-five minutes later, my sleep is disturbed by the winding roads of Spearfish Canyon. The only traffic we are encountering seems to be that of the logging trucks making their first run of the day. The sun is nearly up, but it has only penetrated the upper fourth of the canyon’s walls. Many deer can be seen in the damp, green meadows with the blooming, pink, blue, and yellow wildflowers. If you look at it and squint just the right way, this can make the floor of the valley look like a giant Easter basket full of meadow grass and pastel, wildflower jellybeans; and maybe the deer are really just those marshmallow thingys with the frosty sugar coating that are fun to stick wooden matches inside and light on fire…anyway…that’s a whole different story completely.
, the overgrown creek we will be fishing in is gurgling next to the road, occasionally winding under a bridge, presumably in order to do a little gurgling on the other side of the road. As we round a quite familiar looking corner, I catch sight of the Cheyenne Crossing General Store. We pull into the parking lot but we soon realize that it doesn’t open until eight o’clock which is still an hour and a half away, so we turn the car around and once again venture onto the twisty-turny roads of Spearfish Canyon. Just a few twists away, we turn onto a dirt road and cross the old log bridge into Hannah Creek Campground which has always served as our parking and meeting spot.
We park our car under a familiar spruce tree with a trunk as wide as my trigonometry teacher in high school, (trust me, she isn’t a small woman, she’s quite rotund), and branches as thick and strong as my high school rugby coach, (let’s just say it wouldn’t be a good idea to start a fight with this guy). I brace myself for the temperature change and open the car door, allowing an icy wave of early-morning mountain air to rush into the cabin of the car. My grandpa pops open the hatchback on the car and a wave of excitement rushes over us as we realized that this is the beginning of another day, fishing up and down Spearfish Creek for native Brown and Brook Trout. We assemble our fly rods and I first tie a fly onto the end of my line, and then, because eyes tend to be less than perfect around eighty years of age, I tie a fly onto Grandpa’s line. Our final step in preparation is to pull up the suspenders on our olive green chest waders and walk over to the stream. The sun has now crept halfway down the canyon walls and has revealed the mosaic created by the creek as it chewed at and carried away all of the earth that used to fill this canyon hundreds of thousands of years ago. We reach the bank of the creek and step down into the icy water. The cold makes its way through the rubber material of the waders as it is pressed against our bodies by the pressure of the water. As the frigidity of the water rushes through us, simultaneously, another sensation fills our bodies; the anticipation of the excitement which these cold, clear waters have given us in the past, are going to give us today, and will continue to give us in the future.