A bruised ego on the Brule
I don't know what it is, what particular quality I exude, that makes people think they can say almost anything to me. This has become a disturbing pattern, and at the risk of inviting even more abuse, I'd like to share a few experiences I've had....
I don't know what it is, what particular quality I exude, that makes people think they can say almost anything to me.
This has become a disturbing pattern, and at the risk of inviting even more abuse, I'd like to share a few experiences I've had.
One occurred on the Brule River in Wisconsin just a few weeks ago. I was there with a photographer covering the Wisconsin fishing opener, and we were leaving the river. A man in waders was getting his fly rod ready, and we struck up a conversation. He was a polite gentleman, probably about my age.
He asked me, eventually, if I was Sam Cook. I said I was.
"I wondered," he said. "But after reading your stories, I thought you'd be a little bigger."
What do you say to that? How do you stand there and tell someone, sorry pal, this is all there is to me? I threw my canoe onto my shoulders with as much authority as I could muster and strode briskly up the trail.
That encounter reminded me of a book-signing event I did in Virginia once. A middle-aged woman approached the small table where my books were stacked. A sign on the wall proclaimed who I was. The woman looked at me. She looked at the sign. She looked back at me.
"Are you him?" she asked.
"Yep," I said. "I'm him."
"Oh," she replied, seeming disappointed. "I was expecting somebody a little huskier."
It seems my full-bodied presence simply cannot live up to the swashbuckling image of me that some people carry in their minds. I always feel badly that my mere physical presence is such a letdown to people. I stand there in all my corporal inadequacy wishing I could be all the guy they want me to be.
I assume, now, that most people must be disappointed to meet me in person, although only a few are candid enough to tell me so.
But the other day, I had a truly deflating experience with the general public, and I wasn't even there to suffer it firsthand. A woman with whom I work was at Barnes & Noble at Miller Hill Mall. Here's her report:
"There was a guy in line with his wife," she said. "He must have been 70 or 75. He had one of your books in his hand. He showed the book to his wife and said, 'I better buy this Sam Cook book. He's slowing down. He's not doing as much as he used to. He may not write another book.'"
My co-worker could hardly contain her excitement at having heard this. She called me at the newspaper office immediately and shared this latest assessment of my current physical state. Not only am I not husky enough, now I'm actually withering away. I could falter completely at any moment.
Clearly, there's only one solution to all of these problems, and I've threatened it before.
See you on the river. I'll be the one busting out of his wool shirt.
SAM COOK is a flagging Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or firstname.lastname@example.org .