There are three things a person can do to become famous. They are, in order, assassinate the president of the United States, invent a new kind of apple or tie a trout fly.
As for the fame associated with assassination, not only are you famous, so is your middle name. Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth come to mind. Mass murder might or might not accomplish this same result. Odds are you are a really bad person if people know your middle name.
As for famous apples there is the Haralson, the Granny Smith, the Whitney, the Cortlandt. I once knew Cortlandt of Cortlandt, he was from Massachusetts, a tolerably wealthy man who had a subtle passion for Morgan cars. And yes, his family was of the same fellow who in the mid-18th century grafted a tart, hard sort of apple to sundry wild root stock and ended up with an eating/pie apple that kept well to mid-winter.
And might even last till spring if wrapped individually in newsprint. Once famous farmhouses did this to apples in the days before you could buy fresh New Zealand kumquats on Super Bowl weekend, flown daily into O’Hare.
The number three route to fame is the trout fly. Forget the Nobel Prize, forget the MacArthur Genius award, forget the Higgs Boson… want to be really famous, invent a trout fly. Ever after known as the Grey Hackle or the March Brown, and like all truly famous things with the definite article attached: the Pope, the Kalevala, the Bible, the Rio Grande, the Lord God, the March Brown.
Clancey’s is a favorite watering hole of myself and others of Gaelic tilt, located in the comely village of Custer, named for Mister Yellar Hair himself. Never mind the stinking little theory that Ulysses S. Grant paid Sitting Bull in cash, condos and Henry rifles to knock off Yellar Hair, being he was absolutely gorgeous presidential material what with his long hair, that would have displaced American politics a full hundred years forward.
To arrive at the gorgeous-man of politics a hundred years before its due time, which the end of Custer put off at least until television came along. A reality that has cut off ugly but smart individuals from the chance at Commander in Chief, as explains Custer’s Last Stand better than most theories.
Custer is a small village, it more a crossroads than a village. U.S. Highway 10 nicks by the north side, intersecting with County K and Custer Road as leads off to the south and eventually to the Wimme family gravel pit where infrastructure is born. The true heritage of Custer belongs to the Soo Line track that traces a line from Green Bay to Stevens Point and Lake Superior; coal, potash, corn, nitrous oxide.
Clancey’s, the public house, has an Irishy taint, what in keen regions is called a pub which is also an architectural statement. Story is the building was once a livery, built of Ellis Hill sandstone a century previous attached to an odd half round Quonset-style roof.
Clauncey’s serves pretty classy fare for a country place, doing delightful things with potatoes as befits the original heritage of Custer whose most prominent structure is that brick warehouse up against the tracks built for the previous century’s trade in potatoes that gave central Wisconsin a reason for being. This when potato cellars defined every village railhead and farmers arrived in sleighs and lumber wagons for the joy of cash money, and kept places like Chicago and Cleveland and St. Louis alive, meaning fried potatoes.
The Clancey has Guinness Stout on tap. For some of us Guinness is an article of faith, the more cherishable found at a humble sort of place in central Wisconsin. Guinness on tap being akin to a siren song without the need to get naked. That a Guinness takes 20 minutes to draw reinforces the notion it is Irish and probably Catholic in principle.
To memorialize the Clancey I have tied a trout fly. I think it’s a dry fly designed for Tomorrow River oxbows, specific to rainbows and browns, but sensitive enough to leave cold water brookies safe from undue predation. Being consistent to Irish themes the fly is a large hook fly of green and orange.
Fly-tiers are well documented to have recipes, cockade of pheasant, feather of Rock Island rooster, brow of Blue Wing Teal, mane of horse, ruff of wombat. Specific ingredients are due-rigor of the fly-tying profession.
My tie, the one I’ve called the Clancey, is of a slightly different kind of recipe, to suspend the ire of PETA, and leave the horse and wombat unmolested. The orange comes by way of a dog-frayed tennis ball, but being true to fly-tying specifics, it is a border collie-frayed tennis ball. The green is courtesy of the lace ribbon from a Victoria’s Secret bra. A wonderful and luxurious green, looking good enough to eat as explains things. How you acquire this ingredient is your own darn business.
Actually the Clancey is a wet fly because by the time I attached all this junk, including the tin wings; it couldn’t possibly float even with a ring buoy attached. The wings are the tough part, delicately snipped from the cap of a bottle of Guinness, so the fly says “Guinness” right there on its wings. Tied with silk thread, a touch of copper wire and a good dab of caulk, so maybe it will float.
I am not the first to note that fly tying has the same etherealness as trout fishing itself. That there is a sort of creed attached, to take on momentarily the powers of creation that might create something beautiful even if it is a tiny Frankenstein sort of bug.
Whether it fools a fish whose brain is habitually numbed by cold water hardly matters. The fly itself is pretty hanging on the wall, pretty as the trout, which keeps PETA happy.