For Steve McReynolds, 13, and Mike McGuff, 12, there were no pestering kid sisters, no pontifical big brothers and no mothers to scold them about wet clothes or fuss over scratched legs and dangling shirttails. It was a day on a stream in the Ozarks—a day all their own. The boys walked along a treelined gravel road, sometimes passing pastures where belled cows solemnly grazed in the early-morning mist that rose from sloping green meadows. The loudest sounds were the scuffing of their feet and the whistle of a quail. At a spring-fed brook, Steve and Mike pulled back clumps of watercress (they tasted it first) from the clear cool water (they tasted that, too) and reached down to snare crawdads for bait. Walking on to the stream, they caught fish—goggle-eyed perch and black perch—and they also caught the mood of a summer's day. Suspended in time, their isolation defined, it became something important for two boys to remember through the coming years.
Although much of their day was spent fishing, there were many other important things to do and to think about while waiting for the fish to bite. The boys listened to squirrels chattering in the trees around them, and they watched hawks and buzzards circling far above in the summer sky. From the stream's depths a bullfrog surfaced and contemplated them with its wise and bulbous eyes, and a turtle (left), too trusting or too slow, became Steve's temporary prisoner.
In the heat of the afternoon the boys found the proximity of the clear stream too tempting. They waded downstream, where the water deepened, and took a swim, clothes and all, in a quiet pool. But they soon got back to the business at hand, and Mike (left) even shinnied up a limb to get to where the fish were. At dusk Steve and Mike waited one more long moment before going back down the gravel road to the world of grown-ups.