“Come, Henry,” Colonel Birdwhistle called as he shouldered his cane pole. “We should be on our way. The day is ending and your mother will be spreading supper soon.”
“But we didn’t catch nuthin’” replied the glum boy.
“We didn’t catch ‘anything’, you mean. And catching fish is but a small portion of our purpose here. We are here primarily to enjoy each other and the beauty of creation. If a fish should happen to find our bait attractive, that, my boy, is simply a bonus.”
Unconvinced, Henry pulled at his pole hoping for a nibble that would keep them a little longer. Receiving nothing for his trouble, he reluctantly stood and followed the Colonel toward home.
The two had not gone far when they heard the sound of an approaching horse. Soon it came into view as it galloped their way. Noting its speed, they moved well off of the path. When horse and rider came alongside the pair, the man on top pulled back on the reigns bringing the chestnut to a stop in a cloud of dust.
“Hello there,” called the rider from atop his mount. “Is this the way to Warbler’s Ridge?”
“I believe it used to be…” began the Colonel.
“I’m in an awful hurry,” interrupted the man. “I have urgent business at the paper mill there. This must be the right way, it was given me by the sheriff. I believe Whitaker was his name.”
“Yes, Hub Whitaker is the local sheriff. But as I was saying, this road…”
“Big fella, your sheriff. I’d guess you don’t have to worry much about crime here with a huge man like that minding the wall.”
“No sir,” answered Henry. “Things are pretty quiet round here. But…”
“That’s good, son. Real good,” cut in the stranger. “Well, I ain’t got time to sit around here talking. Like I said, I’ve got important business in Warbler’s Ridge. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on my way.”
With a click of his tongue and flick of the reigns, he urged his horse forward while Henry held up an arm in protest.
“Mister, wait!” called Henry in futility, for the horse was gone. Turning to his companion, he asked, “Why wouldn’t he listen?”
“Henry, you have just learned an important lesson,” returned the Colonel. “Some people don’t understand that having a conversation means listening as well as talking. If he had taken a moment to close his mouth and open his ears, what would he have learned?”
“That the bridge he’s headed toward fell into the river a long time ago,” answered the boy slowly.
“I believe he should figure that out for himself any time now.”
As if on cue, a loud splash could be heard from the direction of the river. The old man and his young friend ambled quickly to the river and past the horse to help the fallen rider out of the water.
“You okay, mister?” asked Henry.
“Why didn’t you warn me, son?” inquired the dripping stranger.
“We tried, but couldn’t get a single word past all of yours,” returned the Colonel. “You missed a turn a ways back and need to follow the river a mile north to get to the nearest working bridge.”
Once more on his horse, the humbled rider continued on his way with every intent of listening for an answer the next time he asked a question. Henry and the Colonel headed home for supper, laughing the entire way. They may not have caught a fish, but they netted a good story to tell.
Photo credit: Ward, Lock, & Tyler of London [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons