The accompanying photo has very little to do with the stories other than this fish, a nice fresh female chinook, was caught in the same general lower river area as my weird steelhead and where much of the action (or inaction) in Joan’s Odyssey took place. That, and I looked dang good back 25 years ago; my outfit was even color coordinated.
Joan, Larry McQueen’s brother, and I were fishing Douglaston. This is a privately-owned section of the lower river that, at the time this story took place, charged, I believe $5 per car. It was open public fishing when I caught the odd steelie. It is now $75 per person in the fall salmon season.
The McQueens are prone to wander when fishing, especially if there aren’t enough fish in front of them to keep their attention. So it was on this day: we saw one fish in over a mile of river that was low enough to see quite well. Joan went looking to see where the fish went. I called his real name, stalked up and down looking for him, questioned other anglers and still no sign of him. Frustrated, I left him a note on the gatehouse, “No fish here and I got tired of looking for you. I’m headed up to Dexter to meet Larry and I’ll be back at the end of the day. If you aren’t here, I’ll meet you at the Log Cabin Inn. Todd,” and headed roughly 30 miles up I-81 north to Dexter. Larry had to work that day and we agreed to meet there, as we thought there’d be fish in the Black River. He showed up shortly after I do, said Hi and started fishing.
“Where’s Joan, downstream?”
“Kind of. He’s downstream in Pulaski. I left him there.”
“You did what?”
“Well, you know how you McQueens are: he wandered off and I couldn’t find him, so I left him a note which said I’d find him at the Cabin.” (I think Larry was kinda mad; the only time in 37 years fishing together).
We drove down to the Douglaston gatehouse: no Joan and no note. We went into Pulaski, parked our cars and walked in the lobby of the Cabin and there was Joan’s waders in a pile on the floor and his fishing pole in the corner. We went in the dining room and there he was, just having finished dinner, all smiley and about four sheets to the wind. He was sitting across from a scowling young man who never said a word while we were there.
Joan says “Hi guys. I caught a fish, but because you weren’t there, I had to leave it.”
“Sure you did Joan.”
“This guy gave me a ride and bought me dinner and everything. He was going to let me stay with him if you didn’t come back.”
“Time to go home Joan; say good-bye.”
We poured Joan and his gear in Larry’s car and all of us set off for home. What the young man with the scowl and bad intent didn’t know is we may well have saved his life. You see, Joan was a full-contact regional karate champion. No matter how happy Joan seemed, any untoward advances, especially those involving touching, would have been very, very poorly received.
The album-we-never-showed-my-wife’s-parents story
Over the early years, I regaled my Log Cabin buddies with stories of different costumes I’d got up to: a drag Cpl. Klinger from M.A.S.H., an X-mass flasher, drag Santa, bank robber flasher, Father Time to New Year’s Baby switcheroo. Of course, they wanted to see the album.
One night, five of us are clustered around the bar looking at it. In came Grat, a short miserable drunk. His large, respectable friend turned from the album and, since there was no way they are going to serve him, says “go sit down at the other end of the bar til we’re done and I’ll give you a ride home.” Grat grumbled off down to the end of the bar and sat there muttering to himself.
Many of the depicted costumes debuted at holiday parties that, in the wild and wooly 70s and 80s, used to take place during work hours right in the county courthouse, and many of the costume displays happened at Probation parties. After the third mention of the word probation, Grat, who unbeknownst to us had come up behind us, roared “f***ing probation, lunged in, grabbed the album and flung it over his shoulder. It bounced off the table edge, dinging the spine and fell closed to the floor. Grat, who apparently was on probation at the time and didn’t much like it, was now drunkenly trying to line it up so he can stomp the offending album to death. Too slow: his big friend grabbed him, slammed him against the wall and yelled “Enough. Go outside and sit on the steps. I’ll be out to give you a ride in a minute. Now!” A few more muttered “probations” and out he staggers.
You can’t make this stuff up!