Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Fishtown, not Fishtown

May 8, 2018
Dear Friends,
It could be argued that Clyde Sanborn never lived in Fishtown. He never lived anywhere in the sense of setting up housekeeping and hanging up a dish towel. He flopped wherever he was and kept a few books here and there.
He did stay in that cabin where Black Dog Allen used to live. It was across the slough from Barge Island and downstream of Fishtown proper.
Crazy Peter lived on Barge island, or he did live there years later after Clyde died in 1996. Art Jorgensen spent his last years on the upstream tip of Barge Island. Art died too and I went to his memorial service at Al's Landing, upstream from all that.
Art was more of a true river rat  -- he never went to town, he never went anywhere. I used to go see Art at his cabin in Fishtown before they tore it down in 1989. That's when he moved over to Barge Island for his last years.
So when I call this story Fishtown, not Fishtown, that is what I mean. Art lived in Fishtown until they  tore his cabin down, but Clyde never did, and that makes him not Fishtown. And not Shit Creek, not Sullivan Slough, and not Brown Lily Hill. Clyde never really lived anywhere except where he was at the time.

He was a drunkard and a poet. You could argue that he was not a very good poet, and some people said that. They said he was just a drunkard who scribbled a few lines on scraps of paper. True. Clyde always said he was a poet, he never said he was good at it.
Just now published is Go With The Flow, a fabulous book of Clyde's poetry and biography, edited by Allen Frost. It costs $32 on Amazon, it costs that much because of all the color photos. I am so very happy to own a copy of this book. It captures -- no, does not capture, but does set free -- the moments of Clyde's life and you can read his poetry and hear stories from his friends.
I don't know. Maybe you just had to be there. I was there and I wrote five pages of this book, starting at page 135, in a story called Clyde's Bicycle. The story is not about Clyde or his bicycle, but Allen Frost put it in the book anyway.
A smart editor would have said, "well. Fred, this story you sent me is not about Clyde or his bicycle, so it doesn't exactly belong in here."
But Allen Frost never said he was a smart editor, he just really wanted to publish a book about Clyde Sanborn and I am so glad that he did. This is a really good book. You learn more about Clyde's life than you imagined. It's a wealth. A smart editor would have thrown stuff out and made it tighter, but this happy volume is not tight. More so, this happy volume is open and generous. That's how I got my story in, even though it's not about Clyde.
And yet it is about Clyde's world and where he lived, where he slept, where he drank his red wine and where he kept his boat.
As for his poetry, I will leave it to others to pass judgment. As for his drunkenness, yes, I never knew him to spend a day sober.  But he lasted for twenty years floating between LaConner and the river.  He lasted for twenty years because so many people liked him.
Clyde was always drunk and he could have made himself a better man. But he never hurt anybody, never got in a fight, never wrecked a car, never abused a woman, never stole anything, and never took more than his share. Clyde was rowing home one night in the spring of 1996. He fell out of his boat and drowned. They had a memorial service for him in Pioneer Park and more than 300 people showed up for that.

Later that Same Day. Oh, I could write old river stories all day. But you've already heard them. It's the old saying  -- many rivers flow into the sea, and at the mouth of every river there are some old fishing shacks where fellows hang out and watch the tide come and go. They call it Fishtown. Could be anywhere on earth.
Laurie and I were in LaConner last week for a two-day visit. We saw the tulips and spent time with old friends. We're planning to come back again in early September.
take care,

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

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