Topic: "Gimme Head With Hair"(3)
Frodo, Legolas, Pippin, and Tom Bombadil all enjoyed doing things out-of-doors, given that both the mountains and the beach were within a few hours by motorcar. The River of the Potomac bisected both destinations, so the adventurers had frequent opportunity to canoe or hike, sun or swim, in a variety of settings. What united them in all these endeavors was a new-found pleasure in fishing. Rainy days were spent in sporting goods stores searching for lures more tempting than those owned by others in the Fellowship. Exploratory visits to farm ponds and the fish ladder at Little Falls of the Potomac filled warm weather days no matter what time of year. It remains a puzzle to Frodo that little Janet Perry and Cheryl Burke and Barbie Howard and Patsy Wetzel all seemed to tolerate the mutual lack of attention. Some of the opportunities lost make Frodo shake his head to this day.
It was the dead of summer, and the heat and humidity made it perfectly clear why the British Empire had declared foreign service in this end of the Shire as worthy of "tropical duty pay." Rain was infrequent, and the flow of water was lazy, if not stagnant, almost everywhere. To the Fellowship it was merely a challenge which allowed them to wade into areas that were usually torrent rapids, and to venture much further up river than at any other time of year. These locations included those where a smallmouth bass could lie in wait under a rock and grab a wayward minnow with little effort, then drift back into the same hole. It was locations such as these that the Fellowship sought early that morning.
Frodo's motorcar was parked on the Virginia side, at the end of an unpaved road that looked down a rock escarpment to the lazy river below. It was an easy slide down into the water, and an easier dog paddle to the checkerboard of rocks that would be their route to the lair of the virgin smallmouth bass upstream. For long periods of time, the quartet would leap from rock-to-rock, interrupted only by hopeful casts of "Tiny Lucky 13" or "River Runt" into a quiet pool. Laughter and horseplay, the cacophony of hormones which cement friendships for a lifetime grew silent only when a red-tailed hawk would circle overhead, and all stopped to watch, in awe.
Occasionally a canoe or a kayak would flash by heading downstream, and a friendly wave would yield a covetous remark about from one-or-the-other about having their own, some day. As the day wore on, more and more time was spent in pursuit of the catch-and-release prey. Frodo's memory tells him that they caught many, mostly small, but enough to make them travel on-and-on-and-on. When finally the adventurers made solemn eye contact, each knowing that it was past time to head back, there was a unified realization that they were tired, and a long way from Frodo's motorcar.
It was already growing dark when they found the wooden construction pallet caught between two multi-ton boulders. By the time they were able to free it, and launch it into the middle flow of the summer river, the sun had set, and the sounds of the night were all about. With one arm thrown onto the pallet, clutching fishing rod and gear therein, each of them paddled with the free arm and kicked and walked with both feet. Banging about off sharpened boulders and narrow aisles of water is difficult work, but considerably safer than leaping from rock-to-rock in the dark.
Pippin had a date with Barbie for which he was beaucoup late, and he lamented the eventuality until the rest could stand it no more. Tom Bombadil was totally absorbed in the natural world, and commented from time-to-time about a snake hanging on a tree limb, or some bright-eyed creature glaring from the shoreline at the preposterous craft trying to proceed downriver. Frodo and Legolas, soldiers that they were, paddled and kicked, paddled and kicked. Legolas, by far, was the strongest, and it took every ounce of Frodo's strength to keep the craft from drifting too far to his side. Frodo grew weary, perhaps mopreso thaan he realized.
At last they reached the base of the escarpment, and Frodo realized how steep it was and that he was now in water over his head. Frodo and Legolas kicked and held the craft in position so that Pippen and Tom Bombadil could scramble up the cliff. In so doing, the rocks became wet and muddy, making the scramble up more difficult for those now scrambling out and up. With Pippen and Tom holding the craft in place from shore, Legolas started up, just as Frodo lost his grip and began to sink beneath the surface of the tepid river. He was exhausted, and had little energy left to pull himself from his peril.
Frodo felt a pull from above and as his head rose above the surface, he realized that Legolas had him by his long mane of blond hair and was pulling him into the arms of all his friends.
Legolas' daughter, Erica, will graduate from Emory University this coming Saturday with a degree in Fine Arts. She would probably laugh at hearing this story, improbable it would seem to her that her father could get a grip on the head of hair she knows to be so thin and sparse.
Friendship is something Frodo has never been able to explain. He's just glad it is.