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My Favorite Photo

June 12, 2022

I have thousands upon thousands of old family photographs. Some date as far back as the very first days of the camera. I look through them regularly and I enjoy those silent trips down memory lane accompanied by faceless friends in the darkness of the evening. However, there is always the same one that draws my attention the most. It is my favorite photo and it’s pictured above.

The year was 1972. My father and I, after a long absence of closeness, decided to rekindle our relationship with a marvelous hiking and fishing trip along the San Joaquin River in Northern California. We had both done this trip many times before but never together. The time had finally arrived.

My previous year had been filled with personal problems. My marriage was falling apart and I was uneasily handling the prospect of being a single parent. My whole life seemed to be a dark shit hole and I needed to rectify my perceptions. Returning to my beloved Sierra Nevada Mountains seemed to be the only cure available. I forget whether it was my father’s idea or mine but at any rate I remember him driving in his Mercedes Benz to Red’s Meadow behind Mammoth, California so that we could depart together on a fishing journey down the San Joaquin. In those days, it was a rough hike from Red’s Meadow to Fish Creek but we were up for the game.

Leaving Red’s Meadow, one of the first things you encounter along this river is Rainbow Falls. It is a spectacular spot that even 50 years ago was a popular tourist destination. It is only after the falls that the trail gets rough and is traveled by only the hardiest of the bunch. We proceeded past the falls with just a short stop to admire the scene before descending into the canyon below.

As I remember it was late September and the dry dirt seemed to swirl up into my face at every step. As we moved down the canyon, we bailed over the side of the path to fish. The San Joaquin at this point is strewn with large boulders so one has to boulder hop and fish the pocket water of small pools. We did so at several points and finally made camp for the night, eating our limit of trout for dinner.

The morning brought some much needed warmth into the recesses of the canyon. The night had been cold enough to cause me a little discomfort sleeping on the rocks in a sleeping bag. We proceeded onto the juncture of Fish Creek, fishing as we went along. As we fished, we didn’t talk much as I recall. The communication was more in the act of fishing and we both seemed to have understood what needed saying without too many words. We were both catching lots of fish so there was none of that father-son envy going on. We moved slowly back up the canyon to the point where we had camped and spent the night again at that same spot in the forest. The silence of the day spoke volumes.

When morning came, we decided to fish back on up to Rainbow Falls and head for our homes that evening. I vividly remember parting the brush to ford a small side stream only to see a four point buck deer staring at me. Although I was armed and it was hunting season, I just gazed at the beast as he looked back at me. He didn’t bolt but finally meandered off as I crossed through the water. My father was just a few steps behind me and he had the same reaction. The encounter with the deer seemed to set the mood for the day: Forgiveness and reflection.

When we finally reached Rainbow Falls again, we were both a bit tired so I sat down by the rim of the canyon to take a little breeze. As I turned around, my father snapped this photo. It shows a proud but confused young man on the verge of change. I am porting my grandfather’s Smith and Wesson .38 revolver as I always did back then. On a close examination of this old photo, one can see the hope for a better future in those tired eyes. That better future did indeed evolve. That is why this photo sits in my den to this day; to remind me that nothing is impossible and that perhaps all that is really needed in life is love and a supporting family.

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  1. That IS a nice photo, Allen, and the story behind it makes it even better. Thanks for sharing this great story. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. sugarplum39 permalink

    Loved your photo, but loved the renewed companionship between Father and son, even if few words were spoken. Best of all, loved that you didn’t shoot the deer. Can you use a 38 to shoot a deer. Shows you what I know. A Mercedes’ huh?

    Liked by 1 person

    • You CAN shoot a deer that close with a .38 but it’s not my thing. Yep, dad bought a new Mercedes – He figured he deserved it after working so hard so many years.


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