Over the past year, I worked hard to improve my physical health so I could fish again, but I had a lot to overcome. The year I retired from Clemson at age 65, I was diagnosed with diabetes. When I turned 70, my health took another nosedive. First, I had kidney cancer, which required the removal of my left kidney. Then I had brain surgery to correct a condition called hydrocephalus, or fluid on the brain, which was causing me to stumble and fall after walking short distances. Soon, I was stumbling again — this time because of pain in my back. Surgery provided short-term relief, and further testing revealed a slipped disc.
Damn. I was getting a little depressed. Would I ever be able to fish again?
After studying the spinal tests, the surgeon who did my brain surgery recommended against further surgery and instead sent me to a pain management doctor, who injected steroids into my spine. Within days, my pain was gone. I began to exercise five days a week and, as I gained core strength, walked farther and more frequently without pain.
My good fortune didn’t last very long. About two years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Thankfully, this cancer hasn’t been a big problem so far, and I am still able to go on weekend hikes with my hiking group at the Downs. And my little 14-year-old Shih Tzu Dolly takes me on about five short walks each day.
But it had been almost 10 years since I had seriously wet a line. Would the fire I had for fishing still burn in my veins? And if I went back to the Calfpasture, would the land still be as I remembered it? It had been about 60 years since I had been back, and just about everything in my world had dramatically changed during that time. It was hard to imagine the Calfpasture had not changed too. I would soon find out.
Rick’s home was in Mechanicsville, about 20 miles from Richmond and 300 miles from Clemson. Jud, who lives just outside Atlanta, picked me up on the Saturday morning of Columbus Day weekend and drove me to Virginia. We spent the night at Rick’s house, got up early on Sunday and drove the three hours to the Calfpasture.