Willie and water

By Tina Hogue

It was hot that day, even in the hallways inside, and in the corner of a pen, a dusty bear-skinned dog named ‘Willie’ had his belly on the concrete trying to keep cool.

“He loves water,” the guy at the desk said, “he’ll just lay in it.”

“Maybe he’s part Lab?” we wondered. So we took him home and tried our best to bathe him, repeatedly.

Apparently, this dog did not like water.

He avoided the bathrooms at all cost, had a distaste for sprinklers, and got very suspicious whenever I turned on a faucet.

So imagine my surprise when one day, at Mayberry Park, this thing stuck his paw right into the swirling Truckee river.

He pulled it back immediately. I think he surprised himself a little bit. And then, I’ll be damned, he stuck it back in.

Standing there, wide-eyed and breathless, he looked like how children look when they stand in front of the ocean that moment right before something, deep inside, compels them to go on in.

Something, in the perpetual movement and gray-blue clamor of the Truckee, is just hypnotic. Ancient and ethereal, it curves around trees thick as sedans that it nurtured from seedlings and washes over beer cans from 4th of Julys past, soldered to the rocks by algae, those rocks older than 4th of July itself.

“Older than the flow of human blood through human veins,” wrote Hughes, each year bearing a new mark of age, but the path stays the same.

Up to his chest, staring intently at the water, I imagined Willie too was pondering the river, asking it in a child’s voice: How deep are you? Where do you go? How are you different from the water in my bowl? In my bath? And how long will you stay?

She is current: Raging and still

By Angela Spires

“Ducks! Ducks! Wanna feed the ducks!” my daughter Aspen shouted as we walked by the river waiting on the Artown vendors. I rolled her pants legs up and let her dip her feet in the water. I squatted behind her, held one hand, as she dipped the other into a carton of oatmeal for the ducks wading nearby. The river ran¬ slow and steady, and in that moment, reminded me of my daughter.

How she flooded and raged, poured full of emotion, until it drained from her and she sank to the ground in frustration and need. She was every current: fast, slow, everything in between, whatever the mood called for, whatever she felt she needed to be in that moment, unafraid. She was gentle, laying her face against mine to kiss my cheeks as the water kissed the banks. She was still, contemplating her next move, observing her surroundings, deciding which way to flow.

Aspen attempted to throw oatmeal into the water, most of it landing on her or within a few inches. I threw it further out. The ducks moved closer. She laughed as they nipped at her toes. More were moving toward us, floating down stream, frantically swimming upstream, to the source of food. Fighting over specks of flakes, though there was enough to go around. The river was calm, allowing more ducks to come. But calm was but one of her states. She was fierce, unpredictable, and beautiful nonetheless.

Now, my daughter unknowing mirrored the ducks she fed. Above the water, she kicked her feet on the surface. Below, the ducks kicked their feet to stay afloat. And I, I admired the beauty in what the river had made for us and what I had made for the river.

A summer waltz

By Hilary Hobbs

“I will be rocks , I will be water”

The crooning lyrics, sung by local bluegrass band Hick’ry Switch, rise up into the evening sky.

“Lift your head up to your wind.”

I do.

I sway in time to the guitar and voice as the create a new harmony, blending with the flow of the Truckee and the wisp of an evening breeze.

Sitting near the river’s edge, I watch the setting sunlight reflect off the Truckee’s surface, as the shallow water in turn dances and churns over smooth river rocks. The crowd listens reverently, quietly acknowledging that this moment, a gathering at twilight, at the River’s edge, is not to be disturbed.

Summer performances at Sierra Water Gardens on the north bank of the Truckee River are, to me, the quintessential celebration of this river.

There is something musical about the Truckee. At times, like during this spring’s torrent, the Truckee’s rhythm is an up-tempo fiddle tune. And at times, as it slows to a languid late summer flow, it is a waltz.

Staying afloat

By Gayle Brandeis

A few days after my dad’s death last year, my sister and I drove down the mountain from my home in Incline Village to spend the day in Reno before her red eye flight back home to Toronto. Our eyes were red already–the tears kept coming and going–but it was a supremely beautiful day and we were happy to be outside, walking along the Truckee River. We found ourselves at Whitewater Park, where a father and his two kids were practicing rolling their kayaks.

Gayle with her father. Photo courtesy Gayle Brandeis.

The sight stopped us in our tracks; we couldn’t pull ourselves away as each kayaker took turns maneuvering their craft down a tiny drop, water frothing around them, then flipping themselves upside down into the greenish current. We held our breaths until each colorful boat broke back through the surface, upright once again. The father called out encouragement to his kids and we laughed with them and then cried a little more, swept into the rapids of grief, the rush and swirl of it, our arms around each other like life-vests, keeping each other afloat.

The twelfth perfect day

It swirled to the left around this rock, and to the right around that one. The water making soft water donuts and crescent moons beyond the rocks.

I sat in a little donut of my own. Inflatable, classic blue and white, the same inner tube everyone else had. I pulled my cowboy hat over my face and let my head snuggle against my little headrest.

I could see a little fluffy cloud through the holes in my hat and tried to keep it in view as I slid softly round and round, barely making it downstream. It hung on a hook in the sky. The Stationary Shapeshifter. A flag, a sea turtle, a frog, a moose.

It was a low water year. The tubing was often more walking than floating, but it didn’t matter. We drank our PBR sometimes in companionable silence, sometimes with contagious laughter dancing through the trees.

A little smile as I took a picture of my feet framing the backdrop of a lush, tree-filled mountainside. And a video that couldn’t hope to do the river justice. The cooler floated over to me and I clipped it to my tube and pulled out another beer. My turn.

The twelfth perfect day in that still-early summer.

I think back to tubing the Truckee River. My haven, my little blue sliver of solace, my favorite part of summer.

Now my sweet, innocent river is full of rage. Rebellious and ornery after the long, long winter. Muddy and angry, frothing and hungry. Chewing up trees, leaping up to gnaw on bridges, tumbling boulders around and around – crushing them, making new sand. I want my happy, floaty, dreamy, beer-laden summer back.

But the world has other plans. For now.

So now I keep floating, swirling to the left through the Truckee’s eddies in my dreams.

Ode to the River

By Eric Hobson

Fishing, bait lure or fly
Cutthroat rainbow or Brown

Playing in the river
Kayaking tubing or swim

Walking on the bank
Tahoe Pyramid Trail or River Walk

Bridges crossings old and new
From Fanny to Pyramid Lake

Wildlife supported so diverse
Beaver Deer and more

Tributaries and diversions
Natural and man made

Dining along the flow
From fine to food trucks

Parks and recreation
Casinos to music venues and playgrounds

Crossed by highways and byways
City streets and pedestrian spans

Truly the aorta of a region
The Truckee runs through it

Featured photo by Cessie Pulleyn

Open Water

By Angela Spires

Since I didn’t believe in Fitbits, I walked at a brisk pace with my PokemonGo App tracking my ‘steps.’ My friend Tee, having just finished an hour of dancing, joined me. She shook her head at my game, that would interest her grandchildren, but we unwound differently. Warm night air blew past providing the perfect amount of breeze. Most nights held this ideal temperature by the Truckee River downtown. Tee’s feet ached and she wanted to dip them in the water. At Wingfield Park, we made our way down to the river. I didn’t especially like rivers or bodies of water in general. Actually, I hated being in open waters, mainly because of an irrational fear of things that lived there. Perhaps this came from watching horror movies at an early age. But what could possibly be lethal in a few inches of water? Hesitantly, I submerged my feet as well.

“This isn’t enough,” Tee said. “I’m going to sit on that rock.” She pointed at a rock covered in water and forming the curve of a slide. Slick and smooth, the water poured over it. Not caring about her skirt getting wet, she walked to the rock and sat, water surrounding her legs, feet submerged. “Come on,” she said. “You can do it.” I simultaneously admired the action and thought she was a little crazy.

Uncertainly, I made my way to her and sat. My heart raced. My capris quickly absorbed the cool water, the stone welcoming like a backless recliner. I slid a little further in and followed as Tee pointed out the yellow star that was actually Mars. The water brought a warmth and safety to me that I hadn’t expected and I let it wash over me, unknown, but safe, and we continued to talk.

Featured photo by Cessie Pulleyn

A Real River

By Tina Hogue

When I saw the Truckee for the first time I thought,

“So this is a real river.”

It looked relatively shallow from the passenger window, as I leaned back in my seat.

The rivers where I’m from are mostly stagnant ponds filled with mosquito larvae. Last year, the rains flooded the Guadalupe 20 feet in an hour. The worst in decades. Swept away a whole family. Never saw it coming.

A man at the foot of the trail stopped us.

“Path’s flooded, waist-deep,” he said.

He had on sturdy boots and carried a walking stick. I was wearing flip-flops with socks, blisters on my heels from my poor choice in shoes. My boyfriend had his sleeping bag rigged to his pack with cheap carabiners.

“We came this far,” was the consensus, and we kept on until we reached the river.

I clipped my flip-flops to my pack and held it up high. The river was stronger than it looked. The force of all the snowmelt sucked the wind from my lungs. Up to my waist half-way through, I doubted every rock. So smooth-looking from the bank, they felt rough as cut metal on my city feet. I cursed myself for taking off my shoes as the current pushed hard against my side, challenging my balance.

I worried my sleeping bag was wet. And my phone.

I remembered reading about the bodies found tangled in the oaks, covered in ants.

Silently, I pleaded with the Truckee gods.

We reached the bank, completely zapped. I yanked the towel I had protecting my Bluetooth, and dried off. Shivering there, completely humbled by the effort, I noticed how beautiful the river actually looked underneath the sun. I stood in my flip-flops, wiggled my numb little toes and felt gratitude for the warmth that came.

Featured photo by Cessie Pulleyn

A River’s Invitiation

By Eileen Bidwell

Reminiscent of my native Chicago, a river runs through the heart of our city, altering its geographic and cultural landscape. Our first encounter with the Truckee was 13 years ago. Strolling down Virginia Street during Hot August Nights, my husband and I noticed a sign directing us to a River Walk. Seeking respite from the crowds and automotive exhaust, we wandered across the Virginia bridge, and found a perfect spot to experience the river. That evening we watched the sun set beyond the mountains to the west. Vintage lamps illuminated the river’s ripples. They danced, animated, with a golden glow. At that moment I knew Reno would someday be our home.

We will never take the astonishing natural splendor of our region for granted. No day is complete without pausing to observe the Truckee’s many moods, from tranquil serenity to rapid rush—powerful and enchanting. Our favorite vantage points are looking west from the wooden bridge downtown, where the horizon is framed by sky and mountains, and from the Booth Street bridge, where we imagine how the river must have appeared before development and human intervention. Then, it meandered past pristine mountain vistas into a mysterious wilderness inhabited by native trees and creatures.

Just as we sought respite from the chaotic festival scene, the Truckee offers an intriguing contrast from the desert landscape, and, for us humans, a respite from the cares of daily life. Rivers are journeys that entice our imaginations to meander along with them. They change with the seasons, the weather, the time of day, and sometimes with the mood of the observer. They create a sense of adventure, a sojourn into an unknown region around each bend. In our urban context, the Truckee is a symbol of our connection to the natural world. And every evening after sunset, it meanders back into the realm of magic.

Featured photo by Cessie Pulleyn

Catch and Release

By David Bobzien

Catch and release morality gave way in the fading September light. I casted to visible risers, and successfully raised my rod to take after take of rainbows, as the hatch continued on the Truckee just downstream of the California line. Darkness imperceptibly replaced sunset glare on the water, and my precision tactics were swapped for blind casting figuring that striking on the mere suggestion of a trout’s take, whether by spying the rise form or hearing its splash, could produce one more fish to net for the evening.

This calculus balanced a sporting relationship between predator and intended prey, with no regard to the other actors on my riparian stage.

Dropping my rod tip to deliver the fly sharply to its target, unexpectedly my line flopped before me on the water. Bewildered and annoyed, the answer to my sudden puzzle was presented as a small fluttering mass in the current.

A bat had taken my #16 Elk Hair Caddis pattern sometime between my backcast and forward stroke. Chuckling to myself at the comedy and tragedy of this predator’s flight interrupted by another’s pursuit, responsibility directed my wading into the feeding lanes, line nippers at the ready, to provide apology and relief to my unwitting catch.

Surgical skill removing tiny hooks from the lips of fish wouldn’t be employed for this release. I opted instead for a cut to my leader a foot away from the still-splashing bat. The job completed, I cheered quietly for the little guy to make it to the bank, my fly and tippet strand his new possessions. Keeping my remorse at bay, I hoped he’d have a chance to resurrect his evening.

A few more splashes and he burrowed into the safety of the streamside brush. I too exited the water and retired into the night.

Featured photo by Cessie Pulleyn