Lost Fish – and Mufflers – on the Reservation

By Beacon Staff

Just south of Browning my muffler fell off. The timing seemed odd and strangely meaningful because, number one, I was in the middle of the prairie on the Blackfeet Reservation and, number two, it happened only a couple of hundred yards away from a giant field of broken-down cars and discarded auto parts. It was as if the muffler saw its brothers scattered across the plains and decided it was time to go. But I had no time for philosophizing over lost exhaust souls – I had fishing to do.

So I threw the muffler in the back of my Toyota Rav where my dog eyed it cautiously before nuzzling up to its warmth. This was last Saturday at about noon, 32 hours before I drove away from the reservation at sunset on Sunday night. I’m proud of my battle-worn Rav, which, with about 120,000 hard-earned miles under its drive belt, carried us through the exploratory weekend, stuffed with fly-fishing and camping gear, two guys, a big lab and its own muffler. The other half of our crew also made it out of the muddy prairies in a Subaru, but it seems like cheating when your car has all of its parts.

It should be conceded up front that we caught very few fish between us, though not for lack of effort. Between four obsessive fishermen, casting for hours on end, one would think the odds were in our favor. But in reality, the odds were just irritating, because as much sense as they seemed to make, they didn’t pan out. It didn’t help that it was our first trip to the reservation and a quarter of the lakes still had ice on them.

For me, though, adventure is at least 50 percent of fishing’s fun, though this statistic is subject to change depending on my mood and how many fish I’m catching. When I’m not catching anything, I say adventure is 80 percent of the fun. When I’m catching a lot of fish, I could care less about adventure. I could be fishing in a giant mud puddle in the middle of a field – which is kind of what you’re doing at some lakes on the reservation – as long as fish are hitting my fly.

I have an appointment tomorrow to get a new muffler so I will no longer be embarrassed by the ungodly noise my car makes when I accelerate. Right now when the blue two-door Rav idles at a stoplight, it doesn’t growl as much as it purrs and sputters, like a lion cub hitting puberty. It’s a pathetic sight, especially if a passerby mistakes my lack of a muffler for an ill-advised attempt at showing off the gritty manhood of my decidedly non-masculine car.

But the lost muffler, the mud holes in the prairie large enough to swallow the Rav whole, the relentless reservation wind, the lack of food – it was all part of the adventure and, considering I didn’t do well fishing, I have to say that adventure is 80 percent of fishing.

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