On Saturday I met Vernon Lloyd down at the river. I was on the Monongahela Monitor, coming across from the west side to clean litter off the east bank below the new hotel and conference center, and I saw this guy on the bank. In retrospect it's interesting that I thought he might be a drunk.
You see those sorts along the river. But Vernon had a pail and something else in his hand and I determined he was fishing. From about half way across the river I thought he looked like Ernest Hemingway.
I ran the Monitor up onto the bank and hopped ashore and started picking up litter and asked him if he was getting bait. He had a net he was throwing out, and the answer was obvious, but I just wanted to start a conversation.
He said he was catching shad for bait, little fish swimming in his pail, beautiful tiny flecks of silver.
He thanked me for cleaning up the river and said he could remember the Mon from 40 years ago. He said it used to be orange. "People just don't know how much it has changed, " he commented. Then he told me about his life and how he'd just missed Vietnam. He had enlisted after not-so-good grades in agriculture at WVU and his enlistment was up just before the US jumped into the quagmire of Southeast Asia. But he found his own quagmire: alcohol.
He hit the bottle pretty hard and lost everything he owned, including a house in Morgantown. "I had to get help - I had to get out of that!" Seems he found the Lord and AA. But, I thought he was, perhaps, a drunk.
From a distance.
But then I saw he had a pail and a net for fishing on the Mon River. Drunks don't fish, I've noticed.