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In September of 1924, Caleb Sypher had no money for a honeymoon, so he gave his new wife, Emma, his cane fly rod and took her down to the Clinch River for a fishing lesson and a picnic. They entered the river beneath the “no scavenging” sign, where the cascades ran deep and swift around an old train trestle, reflecting the deep turquoise sky. Small rainbow trout chased each other around the deep pools, flashing silver in the sun; native trout hung below the cascades, steady against the strong current, still and gray as bedrock. Hundreds of blue butterflies clouded above the cone flowers and chicory that grew out of the limestone bank. On both sides of the river, old mountains folded softly into each other. Patched with swirls of yellow, rust and green trees, they reminded Emma of the knitted afghan her mother spread across the foot of her childhood bed.
        The night before, Emma's mother had sat at the foot of that bed, explaining what would happen on her wedding night. She opened the family medical counselor to the chapter on “Love and Marriage,” called love making “sexual congress” and warned Emma that feeding her new husband calves' feet jelly, dandelion or too much salt would lead to reckless amatory feelings, causing irreparable mischief.
         “Don't go with him if he makes you nervous,” her mother concluded. “Marry him only if he loves you more.”
         Emma wasn't nervous around her tall, blond husband. She didn't know if he loved her more. She'd met him that August, when a coal car tipped off its track beside her father's company house down in War, West Virginia, spilling coal across the porch, nearly burying her family alive. Caleb was one of the train men who dug them out. A week after the accident, he'd sat beside her on her father's aluminum rocker out on her porch, offering her a house on ten acres of mountain farmland on a ridge above a valley called God's thumbprint. He'd married her at the courthouse in downtown Bluefield because the Catholic priest in the coal camp wouldn't perform the ceremony. A longshoreman passing through the camp had put out word that Caleb had been married during the war, to a girl from Naples, and that he'd stayed on in Italy to be with her after his tour of duty ended. He'd returned to the States alone a year ago, saying only that she was dead.
        For their picnic, Caleb carried two Irish potatoes, a slab of bacon and a short hunting knife in a pack on his back. He planned to catch and cook trout for her, but as long as he did not season them with too much salt, she didn't see cause for alarm. At twenty-six, his blond hair receded, and his shoulders stooped beneath his broadcloth shirt as he threaded the fishing hook through a grasshopper so skillfully that the grasshopper remained alive, grasping the line. I am married to this man, Emma thought. He is my husband. She was sixteen. She needed to hook these sudden facts into her mind.
        Caleb stood, his long legs striding easily across a path of stones toward the middle of a rapid. He turned back, beckoning to her. She hopped across the stones and took his hand. This was the second time he'd touched her; the first time was a quick, public kiss on the cheek during the wedding ceremony. Standing in the middle of the stream, she liked the feel of his callused hand as he pulled her toward him, how he gripped her rib cage with both hands to steady her on the dry, flat rock beside him. When he let go, the absence of his touch was like a pain, and she became unsure of what to do with her own hands. She watched him cast the line to the far side of a cascade, allowing the grasshopper to float down to the pool at the end where the dark trout waited, rising to snap up real flies. Caleb gave her the fly rod, stood behind her, positioned her arm straight out before her, teaching her a roll cast. She leaned into his chest and cast out, but the line sank quickly beneath the tumbling water, and she reeled it back in.
        “Try to get your hook to the other side of the cascades,” he said. “Let it float down naturally with the rest of the flies.”