Grandma's FishI had an uncle who was widely acknowledged as being the funniest man on the planet. His name was Lloyd, but everyone called him Pard. That's also what he called everyone else. He was an economical man in word and emotion. Just one four letter word was all he needed to think of you as a friend.
Like most insanely funny people, he did it effortlessly and without trying to be funny. He just was. He had a sly air about him - sly and dry. Very dry. He favored big cowboy buckles and tinkering with things. He was a foreman at a phosphate mine. Before that, a butcher. He once built his own muffler that also doubled as a windshield defroster for his vintage Volvo station wagon. He was that kind of tinkerer. A man who hand-built what he could buy at a fraction of the price.
I'm not sure where he learned to be funny, but I'm pretty confident it wasn't genetic. He father was some sort of senior elder in the Mormon Church. Tabernacle approved and everything. Very religious. Very fire and brimstone. Pard always said, "You can't trust them damned Mormons." Of course, the elders in his small Idaho town didn't think of him as Pard. I believe they called him Lucifer instead.
Pard could fish. Really fish. I mean like tie your own fly with your eyes closed, strike out across the mountains with nothing but a rod and reel, find a stream only the grizzlies knew about, and cast your fly into a crevice four inches wide just to the right of that tree over yonder fish. I'm sure if he'd asked, the fish would have gladly just walked out of the stream and into the creel, but Pard wouldn't have seen that as a sportin' proposition.
"Gotta give the lil' bastards a chance," he'd say.
I once was riding with him across the high chaparral in southern Idaho. He said, "Lil' Pard (meaning me, not him), there's a damn fine trout stream over yonder. What say you and me do a little fishin'?"
Before I could answer, he pulled the old Volvo off the road and struck out across the sagebrush. I mean literally across the sagebrush. Sans road. Outback style. Navigating by the sun or some damn thing. I trusted that he knew where he was going because, well, he was Pard.
Twenty-five miles and 6,000 sagebrush later, he pulled up beside a cool stream, got out, and flipped his fly into the water. He was so good, so smooth I almost went after the damn fly. The trout had no chance.
I went to take a pee and returned to see he already had enough trout to feed the brood back at the house. I would have suspected anyone else of palming the fish and pretending to have caught them. But this was Pard. Fish didn't fear him, they were charmed by him.
"Gotta catch 'em before the grizzly comes back. He looked a lil' hungry," he said.
Back at home, he pulled the grill out onto the freshly mown lawn. The smell of the fire mingled with the smell of the fresh cut grass. It was a summer vacation smell. I still remember it.
Pard put the fish on and tended them with his omnipresent Oly - "It's the Tum Water" - and equally omnipresent Lucky Strike. He told me stories as he occasionally flipped the fish. He flipped them with the same ease as he caught them. Nice and gentle. They bounced softly when they hit the grill.
On the last flip before they were ready, Pard made the only error I'd ever seen him make. He flipped one of the fish into the freshly mown grass.
We both stood there looking at the crispy fish covered in a grassy blanket.
"Well damn," Pard said.
"Well damn," I said.
Pard bent down and picked the grassy fish up and gently rubbed it on the leg of his jeans. Once clean, he gently flipped it back on the grill and took a sip of his Oly.
"Lil' Pard," he said with a wink. "Don't tell anybody, but that one's for your Grandmother."
See what I mean? The funniest man on the planet.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Monday, December 18, 2006