Those Pesky Chalk-Laden Blackboard Erasers Of Life

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By Tank Hoover

I first noticed it as a kid. Hell, I even partook in the delightful dalliance known as daydreaming. You could even say I was a pro at it. Sitting in class, my mind would start to wander as I wondered what the heck it was the teacher was sayin’ — and why?

Before you knew it, I was no longer sittin’ in the front row — teachers decision, not mine — but was in Alaska, drivin’ a team of sled dogs, playin’ Nanuk of the North to a chorus of, “woof-woof, arf-arf, grrrr!”

“We ‘wuz’ in open tundra, after polar bear…” I’d be decked out head to toe in artic animal hides I shot and tanned myself, giving orders to the best dang dog team there was. Or maybe I was creeping along, deep within the tall grass, toting a beautifully engraved .576 best-grade Westley Richards double rifle, whatever that was, stalking a mean looking Cape buffalo in deepest darkest Africa.

Funny, but in third grade I may have had no interest in learnin’ the Capitols of all the states, but I sure as heck knew where all the action was for huntin’ adventure while stalking big game.

When that dreamy blank stare froze my face, Miss Lauer would bring me back to reality with a deftly aimed blackboard eraser, stiffly loaded with chalk dust. The ensuing thump of the eraser striking my head, complete with chalk-dust cloud — or was it a chunk of ice and frozen mist? — would always quickly return me to my front row seat of boredom and befuddlement.

When you get real good at daydreaming, you can actually displace yourself from your present location. Not really, but it sure seems like it. You’re so intertwined in your daydream, you really feel like you are “there.”

Abbra Kadabra…

I first saw this disappearing act as a kid during opening day of trout season. Pine Lake was packed with people and poles for the first of the ‘put and take’ trout fish.

An old man was fly-fishing, decked out in hip waders, smoking a burl-wood pipe, plaid shirt, laminated landing net hanging from his belt, along with a handsome handmade reed creel with shoulder strap. He had a stone-cold scowl “froze” on his face. Ya’ might say he even looked kinda’ mean!

As he stepped into the lake, standing in two feet of water, two feet from the shore, he would make glorious cast after cast, whipping his 8-foot leader-laden fly to the perfect spot, and then make his artificial lure skit and skirmish across the surface of the lake.

It was beautiful, but it was totally out of place for a buncha’ spinner-reel reprobates like us, using baits of worms, grubs and god forbid, commercial “Trout Bait” — that play-dough putty-like trout treat you rolled into little balls and placed on your hook. To an idealist like the old man, we were an insult to his purist pursuits.

Then transformation time.

But we all ‘seen’ it. As misplaced as the old man appeared, he had the most content look on his face. His mean mask melts and the hint of a smile actually emerges as the corners of his mouth curl up. It was like he wasn’t even here, even after my line got tangled-up with his for the 4th time. No, the look on his face told us he was somewhere else.

My guess is he was off in Montana, wading a rolling stream, looking at the far off “Rockies” flinging a hand tied wooly bugger, trying to entice a big ol’ Rainbow into slurpin’ up his wet-fly. Sure as he was standing next to us, we all “knowed” he was somewhere else. He was a master at displacing himself into his daydream. He learned to kick it up a few notches and ignore the flying chalk-laden blackboard erasers of life — even if just for a moment.

When he finally snapped out of his hypnotic displacement, his creel was full of the day’s limit of trout. He slowly turned to us kids and offered them to us. “Gee, thanks mister!”

I’ve never forgotten that trance-like look on his face, and how he transformed right before our very eyes.
But I understand it now.

We can unravel and solve life’s mysteries if we just store them away and occasionally dust ‘em off and peek at them from time to time.

Just as a good book can help us escape the doldrums, it seems daydreaming and displacement can take us just about anywhere, and transform our current state of mind in the process. You can go from grouch to goofy in no time at all.

Once we learn the magic, eh?

Where do you displace yourself when you feel the need too? Come on, you can tell ol’ Tank.

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