Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fishing With Grandpa -- One Last Time

Bennett Spring in south-central Missouri pours 100 million gallons of fresh water into the tree-lined Spring Branch each day on it’s way to the nearby Niangua River. Spring Branch is stocked with rainbow trout for the thousands of fly fishermen who visit the spring each year.

“It is absolutely breathtaking,” said hunter and fisherman Chris Black, of Park Hills, Mo. “The water comes straight out of the ground, boils up from the unknown depths below, and fills this magnificent spring full of water.”

But in 1998, something other than fishermen visited Bennett Spring – something otherworldly Black wants to believe is true.

Black fishes at the spring a couple of times a summer, picking a three-day weekend and “basically making a holiday out of it.”

“This one particular weekend was no different than the rest,” he said. “I called and made my reservations like I normally do, got to my room, dumped all my junk, and went fishing.”

At the spring, Black put on his waders and stood in front of one of his favorite fishing holes. After a while, he realized he wasn’t alone.

“While standing there, fishing but not catching, an elderly man walks up beside me,” Black said. “I really didn't think that much about it at the time because I rarely look around. I'm so focused on catching fish, that I don't care who's around me, I just do my own thing.”

But as the man stood next to him in complete silence, Black grew curious.

“As I fished, I kept looking a little further to my right and finally got a glimpse of the old guy next to me,” he said. “My knees buckled, and I almost went down in the water.”

The man standing next to Black was his grandfather, or at least looked like his grandfather – his late grandfather.

“He was the exact spitting image,” Black said. “I could not believe what I was seeing.”

“Are you OK?” the old man asked.

“I stammered for a moment, I guess with my jaw wide open,” Black said. “I murmured a ‘yes, I'm fine.’ Then we began to talk.”

Black asked the man about his family, where he was from, and what he had done in his life, but the old man didn’t answer – he just gave Black his name.

“I came up with nothing,” Black said. “The strange thing about this whole incident was that he said that his name was Walter Black.”

Black’s late grandfather’s name was Walter Black.

“That really threw me,” he said. “I went through the whole family routine, and he didn’t know anyone in the family.”

Eventually the old man just walked away, leaving Black to stand in the stream alone.

“At the start of this, I (felt) that it was a beautiful day, and what a day that I would love to spend with my grandpa,” Black said. “I guess maybe I had.”

Black walked back to his truck, silent tears washing his cheeks.

“I had to go sit in my truck for a minute and contemplate what the hell had just happened,” he said. “Had he visited me? I would like to think so.”

Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt c/o The Examiner, 410 S. Liberty, Independence, Mo. 64050, or jasonoffutt@hotmail.com. Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”

Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” is here. Order online at: tsup.truman.edu, www.amazon.com, or visit Jason’s Web site at www.jasonoffutt.com.