The wading Conleys and a friend....
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Derek Conley is a man with a mission. Actions precipitating his mission go back a couple of generations in his family. According to Derek, his grandfather abandoned his grandmother when his father was a toddler. Following the tradition, a generation later Derek's father followed suit and abandoned Derek and his mother under similar circumstances.
As Derek approached manhood, he made himself a promise. “If I ever have a family, I will be the best father I can possibly be," he told me. Saturday afternoon at the Farindale Access point on the Saline River, Derek was making good on his promise, habitual behavior for Derek, I would find out later.
From left: John Lloyd, friend of the Conleys, Harley Conley, Derek Conley, and Matthew Conley. Though fishing seemed to be the reason for the outing, the root cause is fun and togetherness with a bonus of cool waters in sweltering heat.
The temperature and humidity on the last day of July were what one might reasonably expect in south Arkansas at this time of the year, a heat index in the range of 105-110°. This translates to sweat and plenty of it, and a primo time to break loose for one's favorite swimming hole.
The Farindale Saline River access is a legendary swimming hole. It is easily accessible and not terribly deep. Perfect for family swimming. I correctly predicted that I would intercept some swimmers there for a few pictures and a couple of comments, but had no idea I would stumble onto a great story.
As I descended the access road, I saw three boys hauling bicycles up the boat launching ramp out of the water. Just moments earlier, they had ridden their bikes at full speed down the ramp into the river. Having missed the access turnoff on my first pass, I barely missed the action while I was turning around. %$#@**#!!!
About that time Derek Conley, father of the two smaller boys, approached from his truck, which was parked in the shade under the nearby U.S. Highway 167 bridge. He was carrying a couple of spinning rods. In short order, the boys closed ranks on Conley and they all proceeded to wade into the cooling waters of the Saline River. Conley and the older boy fished while the two younger ones generally swam around, treaded water, and engaged in boyish water horseplay.
Some fishermen would have screamed to high heaven at this behavior, but Conley and the older boy patiently brushed off the boisterousness and laughed with the younger splashers.
To everyone's delight, Derek Conley chomped down on his fishing rod and swam to shore. He says being able to do that is how you can tell is a guy is a river rat.
They wandered around fishing and splashing for twenty minutes or so and only caught one small fish. But it did not seem to matter. What did matter was that all concerned were having the time of their lives. As they prepared to leave the water for a short break, Conley put the butt of his fishing rod in his mouth and swam toward the shore. As he exited the water he told me, "That's how you can tell if a guy is a real river rat. He can swim to shore with his fishing rod in his mouth."
While I was sorting out camera gear, they walked to their truck as another truck pulled up. The driver and Conley and his entourage and the new arrival struck up a conversation. I butted in, joined the conversation, and asked them to glance my way for a group shot. After getting the shot, Derek introduced me to his group: John Lloyd, the older boy, a family friend; Harley Conley, the shirtless boy; and Matthew with the blue shirt. That's when Derek told me his background and subsequent mindset on parenting.
He says that he and the boys do something together every weekend. In warm weather, it's mostly fishing and swimming. In fall and winter months, it's hunting, depending on the season. Looks like Derek is good for his promise. He and his wife are in their 17th year of marriage.
The other guy who drove up, Jim, is a friendly sort. He lives a couple of miles from the Farindale access and apparently is a frequent visitor. He allowed as how he wanted a break from whatever he was doing and decided to "come on down." So there we were, a bunch of strangers — never seen hide nor hair of each other prior to July 31, 2010, shooting the breeze and enjoying each other's company. There is hope.
N O T E S:
Most of the time, there is more to the Photo of the Week story than can be told in an essay. And most of the time there are more pictures to be seen. Presuming that some folk will enjoy being privy to this trove of information, I have created a blog, “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,” where I am showing and telling “the rest of the story." There are also some blatantly commercial mentions of some of the things we do to earn our beans and taters. Click on the Weekly Grist logo and go to the blog. — J. D.