Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1137
Aleck Maury’s love for hunting and fishing begins in childhood. At the age of eight, Aleck goes coon hunting with Rafe, a black handyman at the Maury household. Not long after, a mill owner named Jones takes the boy fishing and encourages his lifelong love for that sport. Aleck is always happiest when he is out in the fields. One of five children, he is reared by his oldest sister after his mother dies. Until he is ten years old, he is educated at home by his father, who puts great stress upon the classics and teaches his children nothing else.
At the age of ten, Aleck goes to live at Grassdale with his Uncle James and Aunt Victoria Morris and their son, Julian. There, his education is broadened under the tutelage of Aunt Victoria, a learned woman. Aleck’s life at Grassdale is pleasant, centering chiefly on sport.
When Aleck graduates from the University of Virginia, he has a classical education but no plans for making a living. He tries several jobs. He clears out a dogwood thicket for a set sum of money; he works on a construction project on the Missouri River, in the city engineer’s office in Seattle, and as a day laborer on a ranch in California. While working at the ranch, he contracts typhoid fever and is sent back east, as far as Kansas City, to stay with some relatives there. At last, through the efforts of his family, Aleck becomes a tutor at Merry Point, the home of Mr. Fayerlee, near Gloversville, Tennessee.
Aleck, living with the Fayerlees, becomes the local schoolmaster for the children of most of the landowners in the area. Aleck’s first interest, however, is not in the school or the students he teaches but in the possibilities for fishing and hunting.
During his stay with the Fayerlees, Aleck falls in love with Molly Fayerlee, and in 1890, they are married. They continue to live with the Fayerlees, and Aleck continues to teach school. During his first year of marriage, Aleck acquires the pup Gyges, a small but thoroughbred bird dog. He trains Gy from a puppy and becomes greatly attached to him. The next fall, Aleck’s son, Richard, is born. Two years later, Sarah, nicknamed Sally, is born. They all continue to live at Merry Point.
When Richard is seven, Aleck is offered the presidency of a small seminary in Mississippi, and over the protestations of the Fayerlee family, the Maurys leave Merry Point. On the way, while spending the night in Cairo, Aleck loses Gy. The dog is never heard of again. They continue their journey to Oakland and the seminary. When Aleck arrives, he finds that the school is running smoothly under the able direction of Harry Morrow, his young assistant, who is interested in administration rather than teaching. A few months after arriving at Oakland, Aleck acquires an untrained two-year-old pointer named Trecho from his friend, William Mason. Once again Aleck starts the slow, arduous training of a good hunting dog.
When Richard is fifteen, Aleck tries to interest him in the joys of his life, hunting and fishing, but his son, although a splendid swimmer and wrestler, has little interest in his father’s fondness for field and stream. That summer, Richard, while swimming in the river with a group of his companions, drowns. The boy had been Molly’s favorite, and his loss is almost more than she can bear. Aleck thinks it would be best for all concerned to leave for different surroundings.
He decides after some correspondence with friends that he will start a school in Gloversville, and the family moves back there. Settled in the small Tennessee town, Aleck finds much time for fishing and hunting. He meets Colonel Wyndham and from him learns a great deal about casting, flies, and the techniques to be used for catching various fish. Finally, he begins to grow tired of the same pools and the same river, and it is with pleasure that he accepts Harry Morrow’s offer of a job on the faculty of Rodman College at Poplar Bluff, Missouri, of which Morrow is president.
Aleck’s main reason for accepting the position is the possibility it offers for fishing in the Black River. Thus once again, after ten years in Gloversville, the Maury family is on the move to newer fishing grounds. Sally, however, does not accompany them but goes to a girls’ school in Nashville. The faithful Trecho is also left behind, destroyed at the age of twelve because of his rheumatism.
At Rodman, Aleck has only morning classes, a schedule that leaves him free to fish every afternoon. This pleasant life—teaching in the morning, fishing in the afternoon—continues for seven years. Then Molly dies after an emergency operation. Mrs. Fayerlee and Sally arrive too late to see her alive. The three of them take her body back to be buried in the family plot at Merry Point.
Aleck returns to Poplar Bluff and continues teaching there for several years, but he at last resigns his position and goes to live at Jim Buford’s, near Gloversville, where he spends the next two years restocking Jim’s lakes with bream and bass. Later, he decides to go to Lake Harris in Florida to try the fishing, but he finds it disappointing because of the eel grass, which keeps the fish from putting up a fight. About that time, he receives a letter from Sally, who has married and gone touring abroad with her husband. The letter informs him that she and her husband are soon to return home and that they hope to find a quiet place in the country on some good fishing water, where Aleck will go to live with them. Aleck writes and suggests that they start their search for a house near Elk River.
Four weeks later, he meets Sally and Steve at Tullahoma, only to learn that his daughter and husband, who arrived the day before, have already discovered a place they would like to own. They tell him it is the old Potter house, close to the river. When Aleck sees the big clapboard house, however, all his dreams about a white cottage disappear, and when he looks at the river, he decides that it would probably be muddy about half the year. Seeing his disappointment, Steve and Sally promise to continue looking for a more ideal house, but at the end of the day’s search, they decide that they still like the old Potter house the best. That night Aleck boards a bus bound for Caney Fork, the place where he really wants to live, and he goes to stay at a small inn located there. The fishing is always good at Caney Fork.
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