The pump in the well kept shutting off. I messed around with the pressure switch to no avail. And when I restarted the pump by hitting the breakers, it belched rusty water into the sink and the pressure wasn't strong enough to sprinkle the garden. The pump is 180 feet down there with its own dark and secret life. I call the plumber.
An hour later the plumber is in the well pit. I look at him in that gloomy hole with his rusty wrench, the water up around his ankles, the pale tuberous roots of vegetation sticking out of the cold earthen sides of the well. He asks me how I've been doing; he means with fish.
I go out to the mailbox and run into a man taking in the sights with his wife. He wants to talk. They live in a trailer near Red Lodge and he sells concrete animals for yards. He keeps a good quarter horse and is a weekend jackpot roper. He's looking to catch him a large trout, he says. It must be in the air.
I stood with fly rod in hand on my first day of trout fishing for the year. We were a mile above the bridge that leads to White Sulphur Springs. They were retrieving a strange souvenir of winter. A Texaco wrecker was backed to the bank, hauling a dead horse out of the river, hauling him up by his hind legs, swinging him out through the willows on the end of the boom in black, wet-meat totality. A sandbank had gone out from under him, and he was lost to the river as surely as today's water and streamside pasturage.
When the ice broke up, the flooded river had returned to its banks and the broad, dull floodlands reshaped along the road in their loops and meandering symmetry. By June the spring storms were light-shot and prominent, quite unlike the homogenous gloom of April: the first summer storms, perhaps. In the evening the Absaroka and Gallatin ranges overlapped like jagged sheets of palest slate under the pearly turbulence, and the river dropped from flood to a full canal gloss. Then, at last, the spangled river came out from under, braided in places like a glacial river, or lying along sandy bars in a green, bending slot of oxygen and trout.
Sunup got earlier and earlier until you woke under blue windows full of blowing cottonwood seeds, always with the feeling you had overslept. The pass above the ranch was already dropping its long lever of candied light into day. You could hear the creek from the bedroom window racing down stony terraces among dry junipers.
It was clear that if you weren't careful, another summer would slip through the net, trailing wasted time, mortgage payments and a number of things you could have saved.
The river stayed out of color well past the Fourth of July on our stretch. We hiked into the canyon of the Yellowstone to catch the last days of the salmonfly hatch, carrying rods and packs around geysers and poison springs with deer skeletons on their bottoms, and into pine copses through which sulfurous steam blew, and down long switchbacks of scree and crumbly rhyolite. The far side of the canyon rose trailless miles away with our slow descent. It seemed another world from us: absolute, remote and changing color with every hour's shift of light.
We were a true phalanx of trout bums, since dispersed as far away as New Zealand and as near as wives and families, that quicksand into which a troll's share is taken, generation after generation, spitting bamboo fragments and blue dun hackle, to join—with some decency—another of sport's secret mothball fleets.
Finally, at the bottom of this hot canyon there is the river, a terrific surprise. And the switchbacks jut in to trail along its sides. The river seems quite literally a crack in the earth, here so exposed as to be principally rock. So while our home stretch of the same river is still brown with spring runoff and irrigation, slough-connected and meandering among old ranches, here it is a lightning fissure in rock, empyrean-blue and slightly unearthly.