"It is the evening of the day ... "
Dateline: Muskogee Greyhawkin'
No matter what you do.
No matter what you do.
No matter what you do.
And if I had any doubt. No more. Not after tonight. Not after a conversation with a giant of a man.
A man in a pressed shirt.
Pressed black pants. Shoes with a shine.
A gentle man.
Who tonight, choose the sunset.
" ... I sit and watch the children play ... "
Portraits of Oklahoma Country Music legends lined the wall.
Tiny white lights hung from the rafters.
Stories put to chords filled the room.
As the band up front, sang on.
Cajun food. CO-2 keg beer. Dr. Pepper and Coca Cola in ice.
Round tables, folding chairs. The hum of air conditioning.
Shakes, hugs, pats.
Inside fish tales.
Outside, Bass 2010 sunset.
Two more days for some.
Next year for most.
The end, for one.
"I knew it was time to go, to retire while I was sitting there at registration."
Just 48 hours ago, when Guy Eaker knew.
" ... doin' things I used to do ... "
"Guy was fishing this when I was three years old, he's a legend, I can't believe he won't be out here anymore." Last year's Rookie of the Year Billy McCaghren told me this ... three times.
It was as if he had to keep telling me, so that at some point he would believe it.
"He lives the life we are all shooting for, he makes age irrelevant." And then Kelly Jordon leaned in and said, "You know, he's 70 years old."
Age is just a term we have invented to explain how yesterday becomes today.
Some are old, young.
Some are young, old.
Some go young.
Some go old.
Some yesterdays, stay.
"When I heard that Guy was retiring," Gerald Swindle is sitting across from me at a round table, two round tables away, sits Guy. That's where Gerald's eyes are. Thoughts are, "All I could think of was a saying I heard somewhere, 'put down your weapons the war is over, we'll take over from here."
"I stood there at the weigh-in line," JTodd Tucker said, "and I watched him in line with me and it was all I could do to hold the tears back. I almost broke down right there thinking of him leaving."
" ... they think are new ... "
A whisper, "He's one of the good guys ... " from Denny Brauer ... "Guy set one hell of an example ... "
The plastic fork barely made a sound as it was laid across the foam plate, "db ... " KVD stops to sign a card being passed around for Guy ..." db for all the years Guy has fished, there is no one in this room that has a bad thing to say about him ... never ... and that is something to say about the man."
And from his roommate on the road for many years, Paul Elias, "I'm not sure it has hit me really yet, it will when I look in my truck rear-view mirror, he always used to follow me in his truck, and it will hit me when I look back there and he is not there. Going to miss him, going to miss him."
" ... I sit and watch ... "
We are in a tiny exhibit room.
Country music floats, sooths.
Guy Eaker is a country music fan, "I pay $300 a year for that country music channel that I listen to as I drive."
Fitting, this place.
As Guy talks, I think this, Andy Griffith has left the building. Guy, from Cherryville, N.C., talks the language of black and white tv.
Talks with respect.
A gentle speak.
From a gentleman.
"You know, it's a wonder I didn't break down," he tells me, as I'm wondering the same thing myself. "I had a bad feeling about this."
He towers over me. Walks straight up, proud of what he has left behind from wherever it is he has just left. When he shook my hand, his engulfed mine, a tree shaking a twig.
His face, one of comfort. Chiseled, tanned, experienced, compassionate. Black and white tv in full color in front of me.
"Bad feeling ... as I was out there eating dinner I was looking around and it was hard ... a bad feeling ... I might not see any of these people again and I have watched so many of them grow up ... grow up ... family now to me ... watched them AND their children grow up ... I'll miss the fishing, yes I will, but, but what I'll miss most is my family out there, the fellowship out there."
And as we talk, I hear clapping, sustained clapping, I think Guy hears it, I hope he heard it, because as I learned later, the clapping, was for Guy.
Keith Alan: "I went up to the stage and said something about this being Guy's last day, and everyone stood up and gave him a standing ovation, but when we looked around he wasn't in the room ... "
He was with me, I hope hearing what was going on ...
" ... db, he's the only person I ever knew who got a standing ovation and he wasn't even in the room."
And here's why the universe made that happen.
Why the standing O.
Because Guy, choose nice.
But above all, in a lesson of yesterday's.
Guy Eaker, choose, love.
For his wife of 51 years.
"Pat has lots of stuff wrong with her that can't be fixed ... "
And the Andy Griffith voice quivers.
And the eyes of steel, rust.
" ... she ... she has supported me, taken care of me for 51 years ... and now ... now ... the least I can do is now ... my turn ... to look after her. My Pat."
As Tears Go By
The Rolling Stones
Don Barone is an award-winning outdoors writer and a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association and the Outdoor Writers Guild of the U.K. You can reach db at www.donbaroneoutdoors.com.