No three sounds go better together than the whish of neon orange fly fishing line, the effortless trickle of water rushing over smooth, washed rocks, and the crisp click of aluminum followed by seething bubbles of Keystone Light. Following my first gulp of bitter, watered-down, and cheap brew, I saw my brother down river casting into the “honey hole”, with ambitions of catching a prized steelhead salmon. His slender figure was silhouetted behind shafts of light prodding through towering furs that line the river. 27 winding miles away from cell phone service our afternoon of fishing the Yellow Bottom River concluded early, cold, fishless, and slightly drunk. Yellow Bottom River is riddled with the scars of heavy machinery. Trees carelessly sawed down peppered throughout the banks. The remains of 1.5-inch steel dredge cables with edges frayed like an elderly woman’s long silver hair blowing in the wind. The deepest section of the river is only about 8 feet and at it’s widest point only about 40ft. The river lives in a deep valley dug to bedrock by 1960’s gold miners. Evan and I made the hike up the lush valley walls, gathering firewood along the way. Our home for the night was a classic lean to shelter with one horizontal support professionally built as if Bear Grylls himself constructed it. My brother’s knife blade rode the edge of the steel, it shot gunned embers into the kindling doused with lighter fluid, igniting amber flames. Within a matter of minutes we were dry and warm, and no longer cared that our hours of fishing were for nothing.
My culinary skills may be keen in a standard kitchen but cooking over a primitive fire pit and being slightly intoxicated make grilling sirloin steaks in the woods quite difficult. From Pokémon to 1 on 1 driveway basketball Evan and I have always had weird rituals and traditions, and grilling steak while camping is certainly one. The crimson tipped flames poked the bottom of the steak overcooking the edges while the interior was still too pink to be safe. To the right of my grilling station buried in the coals was a boiling can of Campbell’s hearty potato soup. That night’s dinner consisted of steak, soup, a peanut butter sandwich, half a box of dill Triscuits, and cheap cinnamon whiskey to wash it all down. The perfect meal. Nights like this make me forget our rocky past. A week before my 13th birthday my brother and I lost touch for a period of years when my parents asked him to leave our house. After several warnings with no compliance he continued to abuse drugs. I vividly remember the tennis match of my dad’s raspy voice at its loudest volume and my brother trying to mimic the frightening tone of voice. My mom held me trying to cover my ears with her small hands because she knew this was devastating to me, my role model, my best friend, my brother, using drugs and moving out. We weren’t allowed to talk to each other for weeks. That harrowing day will be with me forever. Years later we sit around an opalescent fire, full stomached, listening to the crackling wood and river’s gurgle. My iPhone blasted our mutually favorite band Modest Mouse out of its scratchy speaker and we rocked out the air guitar and attempted to match the unique and croaky voice of the lead singer, something that we’d never do sober. The drinks kept coming and conversation got easier. We reminisced past vacations, laughed at each other’s childhood awkward stages, talked about how revolutionary the Game-Boy Color was to our lives, etc. We both wished we could go back to the simple, worriless,