Concy and MeSeptember 9, 2012

When I was a young teenager, one of my favorite places to fish in Yellowstone Park was Grebe Lake. It was about 150 acres in size and full of Arctic Grayling and 16” rainbows. My dad and I always fished it two or three times during our three-month summer stays in West Yellowstone. To get there from town we’d drive to Madison Junction, take a left to Norris Junction, then a right and start looking for a small sign on the left that said Grebe Lake Trailhead. The trail was actually a narrow sandy road that was blocked by a locked gate. It was an easy three mile walk from the gate to the lake, even carrying enough gear to stay a couple of nights.

Concy Wood, my high school football coach, frequently went to Yellowstone with us. One day he expressed the desire to fish Grebe Lake one last time. His legs were not good enough to make the walk and he suffered from the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, although we didn’t know it at the time. My request to the National Park Service for a one-time, special medical waiver to drive Concy through the gate to the lake was turned down. The very nice letter in reply explained that it was long-established policy to make no exceptions and the park executive who signed the letter made an earnest effort to explain to me the wonders of Yellowstone Park.


So we went to plan B. I put Concy on my bicycle, along with enough camping and fishing gear for an overnight stay, and started down the sandy road. It was an arduous task that required frequent periods of rest, but I was young and vigorous.

After three or four hours we moved aside so a portentous, black, limousine could pass. I watched in awe because it looked so out of place with its blackened windows and mysterious contents. It emphasized to me how necessary it was to just absorb some of life’s little disappointments.

When Concy and I arrived at the lake, an hour or so later, the best camping spot was occupied by a large tent. Four men wearing three-piece suits and patent leather shoes were standing around talking and probably expounding on how wonderful it was to be out in their wonderful national park and away from the rigors of Washington. One of the finely suited men was wearing white sneakers. He must have been the leader.

We had expected to be the only humans at the lake, and because our desired camping spot was taken, Concy and I moved around the lake another half mile and unpacked our gear near the water. We didn’t want to camp in a crowd.

The moon was full and Concy and I thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company, sleeping in the open, fishing and talking and watching a bull moose feed on the tender grasses under water. Just being out there is what it was all about for both of us, and I really slept well.

Early the next afternoon Concy and I decided to head out. Storm clouds were forming and we were at least five hours from the safety of our car. The mist on Grebe Lake made the air look ominous-white as we passed the other campers. The big black limousine was still resting, in all of its singular beauty, in the freckled shade of a few pine trees, and with two flat tires.

Concy said how odd it was that a car would have two flat tires at the same time. The VIPs appeared unwell as they stared at us, and I guessed that I was piling up demerits with aplomb.

Sentiment never obtruded, and to have even spoken would have diminished the magnitude of the feat. As I sit here now, sixty-six years later, I still enjoy remembering that final fishing trip with my old friend.


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