SI Vault
John Underwood
June 29, 1981
At 62, the Splendid Splinter is none too slender, but he still is hard-hitting when talking of baseball and the outdoor life
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June 29, 1981

Ted Williams At Midstream

At 62, the Splendid Splinter is none too slender, but he still is hard-hitting when talking of baseball and the outdoor life

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A stunning rendition of reveille, full and reedy and unorthodox, stirred the camp at first light. Ted stood in the open area between the main house and the guest cabin. He had his heels together and his backbone arched, and he let his stomach—no longer a splendid splinter, he—thrust forward unchecked. With his forefinger and thumb curled and pressed hard to his mouth to form a facsimile of a bugle's mouthpiece, he blew again, toward the river, only this time the music was the Marine Hymn. As a former Marine fighter pilot, he finds it applicable to almost any situation—a call to dinner, a salute to a passing duck, a response to a smart-aleck remark.

The second burst drew a shout and a wave from a bulky gray silhouette on the Miramichi. Ted watched the angler cast, and from that could name him. "He was in my pool again yesterday, in his canoe," he said to Roy. "I'm going to have to have him over for a drink so I can tell him he's fishing right over the hot spot." Ted said he didn't mind the natives fishing his pools, but "you'd think a licensed angler would have the courtesy to ask."

"Maybe you're jealous that he can handle a canoe," I said.

"Maybe you don't know how lucky you are to be here," he said, lifting the side of his mouth.

He walked to the truck where Roy was loading waders and rain gear. During the night, sheets of rain had slashed into the camp, and there was threat of more. He said I was about to join the "best fishing team on the Miramichi, Williams and Curtis," and that I would do well to pay attention.

Edna came out with lunch in a bulging brown bag, and we piled into the pickup, Roy at the wheel, Ted at the other window. They'd decided to try Ted's pool at Grey Rapids, downriver toward New Castle. The pool washes into a long stretch of rocky, active public water and makes a first-rate salmon run. By canoe, it's no more than two miles from Ted's camp, but it's a half-hour drive by truck. We circled back the 10 miles to the nearest town, Blackville, crossed over onto Route 8 and then picked our way down a series of unpaved side roads.

"Why not just use the canoe?" I asked.

It wasn't done, Ted said. "And that kind of fishing holds no fascination for me. They use canoes a lot on the Restigouche, but I don't like it. You can't make subtle moves in a canoe. You can't get right down there with 'em, where it's intimate." He raised his eyebrows.

On the side roads we passed knots of schoolchildren waiting at unmarked bus stops in the gray light. Brightly clad and scrubbed-looking, they stood out like bouquets against the beaten-looking houses and farms. Ted waved and called to those he knew. At the property line of one larger spread, he leaned out the window and began yelping and banging on the door. "Yip! Yip! Yip!" We were almost to the fence on the other side of the property when a German shepherd suddenly shot out from its hiding place behind a bush and ran toward us, barking ominously. At the fence the big dog pulled up short, but continued to bark. Ted responded, holding up his end of the duet. "Yip! Yip! Yip!" Ted and Roy laughed happily. "Bastard does it every time," Ted said.

We turned down a dirt road. Roy grunted as he worked the gears, the pickup hammering and pawing along, gaining and losing and regaining traction.

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