hope is a silver minnow

by tobias crabtree

for over sixty years now my dad has traveled almost exclusively by motorcycle. he is a traveling evangelist.  he’s pretty crazy. he goes mostly to native american reservations and preaches jesus to the people of the earth. i don’t know if they care what he talks about but i know they like him because they invite him back. 

my dad is choctaw. i suppose that makes me a little bit choctaw as well. i live more like a native than my dad does and i can see the shine in his eyes when i tell him that i’ve been living under a tarp tied to the manzanitas for the last couple of months. we have an understanding, he and i. 

i traveled over 12,000 miles on the back of my dad’s motorcycle when i was a kid. he took me to every youth camp to which he was invited as a speaker. he would speak and i was turned loose into the woods. for whatever reason, my dad didn’t make me attend the camps’ meetings. i ran into the woods and looked for the world. without a doubt, this shaped me into who i am today. i remember finding the smallest streams, ones that could be heard but were hidden by the undergrowth. i remember my pounding heart as i looked into the pools and hoped to see that flicker beneath the surface. i carried a fishing pole…always. there is something i can’t explain about the magic existence of trout in a tiny stream. it’s as if they will be there for those willing to believe, otherwise, they do not appear. 

i remember traveling to the Jim Bridger Natnl Forest with ol’ pops one time. he had to spend a week at Pine Creek Bible Camp. as per usual, he turned me loose soon after we arrived. i had seen the creek as we crossed a tiny log bridge on the way into camp. it was a mile back along the 20 mile dirt road. i walked as the crow flies through the pines and heard the creek before i smelled it and i smelled it before i saw it and when i saw it, my heart leaped. it was wild…very wild. the trout were beautiful brown-backed cutthroat trout from the dawn of time. i watched a mink slink and hop back and forth on the far bank. i walked for miles and only fished a little because of everything else there was to see. that evening, as i walked back to where i first found the stream, i saw a mama moose with a calf standing in a meadow. i had never seen a moose and i’ll not forget the feeling. the earth was breathing under my feet.  i got back just before dark and my dad smiled at me, “did you see some things?”. the next morning, there was a large cat track just outside the door of the tiny cabin. i was off and running. i walked down through the trees and looked into the meadow. this time there was a bull moose and he was bedded down in the tall grass. his antlers looked like two trees with no leaves. he heard me coming and stood up and there was steam coming from his nose and rising off of his back. he was running on unimaginable furnaces and a thundering heart that allowed him to stay warm even in the brutal wyoming winters. i was shivering under my layers of coats and wool and i was afraid of that enormous beast. i stayed on the ridge above the meadow. he ambled off into my imagination where he lives, even now, 30 some years later. 

i really have never come back from that little excursion. i’m still out there. i’m far more jaded from the years of living, but i still believe in those little silver minnows that streak from under the bank where the roots of the pines dig down deep and grip the stones that come from the center of the world.