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The Baby Otter and My Latest Book

May 9, 2014

I went fishing on Wednesday full of anticipation of a myriad of large trout but also with a sense of uneasiness at releasing my latest book two days earlier.Fly fishing and writing combine to be the counterpoint of my life’s rhythms.

After arriving at the North Mills River, I was sweltering from the unusual heat but still eager to tie into a few fish. I waded in and tied on a small soft hackle green nymph figuring the fish were bound to be on the bottom. I was right…. they were on the bottom and apparently comatose from the heat. The fishing progressed slowly without so much as a bump (to use a bait tosser’s term). I had arrived tired and the mid-day sun seemed to have whispered, “You should have stayed home fool….” I went to autopilot casting mode as I was quickly convinced the day was going to be a total wash. Staring at the soft swirls below me, my mind drifted to the book.

Of the seven books I had published in the last two years, this one was perhaps the closest to my heart but also the text that left me most exposed. The title was simple enough: Three A.M. – The Complete 1970s Song Lyrics. But early in the writing  process, I had decided to include back scenes to help explain each song’s origins, performance and recording histories as well as provide my personal comments on the lyrics. I even intentionally included some of my worst work in an honest effort to show they’re not all gems. In the process I had decided to put a lot of myself out on the thin limb of general public’s internet experience. I had included a lot of really personal stuff from years gone by and was having a bit of buyer’s (writer’s) remorse.

My head popped back into the moment as I finally hooked a pathetically small Rainbow trout. He came to me without a fight and I sent the little fellow back on his way to hopefully grow a bit. I looked up at a breathless, cloudless sky and saw no confirmation of my efforts as a writer or a fisherman. I was about to wade out of the stream and go have a sandwich when I heard a chirping behind me. I glanced over my shoulder to look for what I thought would be a familiar North Carolina cardinal. Nothing! I heard the noise again but a bit closer and I checked the brush again. Nothing! Then I heard the sound a third time and glanced at the water upstream. I saw something, a bump at first, that slowly transformed into a baby otter. When I say baby, I mean really small. It must have been this little guy’s first foray out on his own.

The baby otter swam past me, then suddenly turned and paddled himself upstream to within six inched from my waders. He looked up and then barked at me over and over again. Comical to be sure! We shared several minutes together, each musing at the other as I wondered about the juxtaposition of the small and large things in life. I believe something changed for both of us in those moments. He encountered his first human with curiosity and was not hurt nor punished in anyway. I met my first baby otter on the North Mills River and took away from the experience a much needed new perspective on my latest book. If a tiny creature was not afraid to approach me, then why should I be reticent to put a bit of myself in front of strangers as well.

We parted company. The baby otter went on down the stream looking for the fish that I could not catch and I left the water with a new confidence that I had borrowed from him. It was an excellent exchange and I think we were both better for the experience.


  1. Reblogged this on Author Joe Perrone Jr's Blog and commented:
    Allen is a good friend of mine, and I always enjoy his stories. I hope you like it, too.


  2. Enjoyed both versions of this story: the oral one and the written one. Nice job.


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