students collaborate: faith hamlin and reed hutton

photo by Reed Hutton

The Saturday installment from JH Community School students: A whole new take on “middle earth” by Faith Hamlin, riffing off a photo by Reed Hutton.

photo by Reed Hutton

photo by Reed Hutton

Starting from Middle Earth by Faith Hamlin

Every material in ever color you imagine sits at my fingertips. It’s a world of hackle, feathers, animal hair, dubbing, hooks, thread, and tools, and it may not have been every 18 year old girl’s dream, but it was mine. I am Charlie, or at least that’s what I go by, but my real name is Charlotte. Charlotte has become a sour reminder of being the weak and lone girl in my family, that’s why I prefer Charlie. I am glad I am the lone girl actually, my mom wasn’t that great of a role model. She ran off when I was pretty young. I almost don’t remember her. She isn’t of much importance to me, since my brothers or I were not to her. On the contrary to my mothers behavior, my dad is a hard working-man, who has taken care of my brothers and me, arguably, better than anyone with two parents. My dad and brothers have shaped who I am. I wouldn’t know where the heck I was without them. With their help I haven’t just become Charlie: one of the boys, I have become known as Charlie who is better than the boys.

Like I said earlier, the place where I have everything at my fingertips is where I have developed who I am. My family likes to call that place middle earth, or as others may refer to it, the basement. In middle earth there are 4 desks that my four brothers and I share, along with my dad. Most weekends you can find that my brothers and I will have disagreements over which desk to have, or who gets to use the best vice to tie a fly. It’s really survival of the fittest down there. A couple days ago my dad had to come down and break up a fight between my brothers over who got to use certain peacock quill for their prince nymph. Things got ugly pretty quickly when my older brother called seniority. Other than the occasional disgruntlements over desks and supplies, once we start working, middle earth is silent. Although its silence makes it the perfect place for schoolwork, homework is forbidden from middle earth. My brothers and I made the no homework pact to keep middle earth sacred. We don’t want the fishing vibe to take a sour hit from school. My brothers struggle with tying overall, though. I think it’s because they have a little less patience, much bigger hands than I, and they can rely on me to tie a fly that won’t fall apart and is guaranteed to catch fish. Middle earth is my favorite place to be, it gives me a quiet place to shine at one of the aspects of fishing I can do best, besides catching bigger fish than my brothers and dad some days. Each desk has acquired its own materials to tie flies for fly-fishing. Every spool of every color of thread you can imagine. There is something special about creating a creature of your own, knowing exactly how everything would work, and then being able to use it successfully. It’s just my happy place to be with my family and to do what we love.

Sitting at my kitchen table, distracted, staring at my physics homework, I can’t help but to begin daydreaming about being on the river. These days I am just ready to finish school. It’s hard to see an end. Most days I don’t understand why I sit and learn pointless information. If schools could target what kids were good at, like fly fishing, I would be set for life. “That would be the dream, ” I thought. Then, my dad abruptly swung our back door open into the kitchen. With his first step in, he made the room rumble with his boots. Behind my dad came my two oldest brothers, Matthew and Luke. Matthew and Luke are never quiet when they enter a room. Luke immediately trotted over to the kitchen table and grabbed me around the neck and said “Hey there little sis”. As I tried to swat him away, Matthew pinched Luke in the arm and said, “Once you actually catch a fish bigger than your little sis, I don’t think you have a right to call her little.” My dad leaning over the kitchen sink rinsing a mug quickly turned around and chuckled adding, “On your own fly no less”. A sour look appeared on Luke’s face as he released me from his grip. I could only smirk and look back down to the physics homework I was pretending to do. Things in the house settled down again while Luke went to middle earth and Matthew escaped to his room. My dad was usually occupied with keeping the house orderly. My dad would always say that he found it soothing to clean the house, that’s when he sounded like a “Mr. Mom” so to say.

Outside, a car horn sounded and in marched my two younger brothers Christopher and Andrew. Christopher is the youngest of my family. He is still at a point where nobody in my family wants to give him a hard time because he is still the little baby. Although I participate in the babying Christopher pact, I think it might be going a bit far now that Christopher is in the 8th grade. Chris went for the fridge and grabbed the milk. Andrew walked over to where I was sitting at the kitchen table and slapped the newspaper in front of me. Before I could push the article off and swat my brother away from my working space he hissed at me to shush. “Dad, you might also want to come look at this,” Andrew announced to the kitchen. Before I could say anything I read the headline: Local Girl: Unlikely Winner of Fly Tying Competition. With that everything in the room went silent and I only focused on the article. I read so quickly and so excitedly that I could only read one line out loud to my dad. I read, “Charlotte Thatcher, or Charlie, is considered to be one of the most skilled fly tiers we have ever seen, she presents great skill in fishing and tying, which is why seems to be one of the most valuable advocates to the sport.” I was one of the most valuable advocates to the sport. Five minutes ago I was an average student in my physics class. It was my time. It didn’t matter that I was a high school girl. That was not how I was to be known now, I can simply be regarded as a fly fisherman.

Sitting in middle earth, feeling beyond inspired, I started on a new creation. I was interrupted by all four of my brothers. “Take a break all mighty fly fishing advocate,” Luke retorted. Matthew only responded for me saying, “Lay off on the sarcasm you lazy brute, you can’t even catch a fish on your own fly.” To any other family this would be not very insulting but in our house, especially in middle earth, it was. Luke slapped Matthew on the back of the head. Then Christopher blurted out and asked what this all meant. “Like honestly Charlie, what are you going to do?”, Andrew followed. What am I going to do? I have no idea what I am doing. “Charlie, you have to go off fishing, fish all over the world, tie flies all over the world, get out of this place and be the most valuable advocate anyone has ever seen” Luke said passionately. Then Matthew chimed in with a disagreeing tone, “Char, you have to finish school, you can be an advocate after you finish school.” Fishing all over the world doesn’t sound too shabby to me, but I want to be able to fish with my family, and help my dad with my two youngest brothers while they were still in high school. Andrew interrupted my thought saying, “Charlie, you really think you will leave us?” I could only reply with, “no probably not any time soon, bud.”

Sitting in bed looking into the darkness, I felt like I couldn’t sleep.  My clock won’t stop moving. I just need my eyes to close. With a huge alarming crack, Matthew stood in my room. “Get up. Dad is sick. He needs to go to the hospital,” yelled Matthew. “What?” I asked. “Get the hell up Charlie! This is serious! You’re driving” he replied. My shoes would not slip on fast enough. I ran downstairs and ripped the door open. Seeing my dad in the back of the car already I raced to the driver’s side. My cold hands quivered as they opened the door and put the keys in the ignition. I drove off.

“Help my dad needs help,” my little brother Christopher yelled right as we all entered the doors of the emergency room. Nurses were out next to me in seconds. They were in panic mode. My entire family was in panic mode. The nurses pushed me away and put my dad on a stretcher. Matthew walked up with my dad as the doors to the emergency room open, but another nurse stepped out and pushed him back to us. I needed to sit down. My eyes were heavy and my stomach keeps turning. I couldn’t help but fade out. I pass out into darkness.

With a shake, Luke helps me to regain consciousness. I saw the doctor standing and waiting right in front of me. “I am going to be sick,” I was thinking. The doctor spoke with a calm voice saying, “You’re father has gone into a state of shock because cancer has been eating at his colon. The good news is there is a way we think that we can help him and he can live, but the operation is extremely expensive.” Matthew stood up and asked to speak to the doctor in private. Watching him and the expressions I could tell the news wasn’t great for Matthew. He came back over with tears welling in his eyes, barely is able to get his words out. He said “Guys we need to go home, get some rest, and come back when we can see dad.” We all get up and head for the door. I watch all my brothers walk to the car and then Matthew and Luke tug on my arm and I am pulled back to talk to them. “Charlie,” Luke begins. “You are the only one who can help us save dad” Matthew said finishing Luke’s statement. “What?” I say out of confusion. “Charlie, we need the money from your fishing endorsements to get the surgery for dad,” Luke answered.  “We will help you get ready to leave tomorrow to meet Orvis for your pro deal”, Matthew said with tears. Luke continued, “It’s the only way Charlie.”


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