Richard Gary Brautigan was a 20th century American novelist, poet, and short story writer. His work often employs black comedy, parody, and satire. He is best known for his 1967 novel Trout Fishing in America.. American novelist poet and short story writer
Part 10 of Trout Fishing in America
WITNESS FOR TROUT FISHING
IN AMERICA PEACE
In San Francisco around Easter time last year, they had a
trout fishing in America peace parade. They had thousands
of red stickers printed and they pasted them on their small
foreign cars, and on means of national communication like
The stickers had WITNESS FOR TROUT FISHING IN AM-
ERICA PEACE printed on them.
Then this group of college- and high-school-trained Com-
munists, along with some Communist clergymen and their
Marxist-taught children, marched to San Francisco from
Sunnyvale, a Communist nerve center about forty miles away.
It took them four days to walk to San Francisco. They
stopped overnight at various towns along the way, and slept
on the lawns of fellow travelers.
They carried with them Communist trout fishing in Ameri-
ca peace propaganda posters:
"DON'T DROP AN H-BOMB ON THE OLD FISHING HOLE I"
"ISAAC WALTON WOULD'VE HATED THE BOMB!"
"ROYAL COACHMAN, SI! ICBM, NO!"
They carried with them many other trout fishing in Amer-
ica peace inducements, all following the Communist world
conquest line: the Gandhian nonviolence Trojan horse.
When these young, hard-core brainwashed members of
the Communist conspiracy reached the "Panhandle, " the
emigre Oklahoma Communist sector of San Francisco, thou-
sands of other Communists were waiting for them. These
were Communists who couldn't walk very far. They barely
had enough strength to make it downtown.
Thousands of Communists, protected by the police, marched
down to Union Square, located in the very heart of San Fran-
cisco. The Communist City Hall riots in 1960 had presented
evidence of it, the police let hundreds of Communists escape,
but the trout fishing in America peace parade was the final
indictment: police protection.
Thousands of Communists marched right into the heart of
San Francisco, and Communist speakers incited them for
hours and the young people wanted to blow up Colt Tower, but
the Communist clergy told them to put away their plastic
"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should
do to you, do ye even so to them . . . There will be no need
for explosives, " they said.
America needs no other proof. The Red shadow of the
Gandhian nonviolence Trojan horse has fallen across Ameri-
ca, and San Francisco is its stable.
Obsolete is the mad rapist's legendary piece of candy. At
this very moment, Communist agents are handing out Witness
for trout fishing in America peace tracts to innocent children
riding the cable cars.
FOOTNOTE CHAPTER TO
Living in the California bush we had no garbage service. Our
garbage was never greeted in the early morning by a man
with a big smile on his face and a kind word or two. We
couldn't burn any of the garbage because it was the dry seas-
on and everything was ready to catch on fire anyway, includ-
ing ourselves. The garbage was a problem for a little while
and then we discovered a way to get rid of it.
We took the garbage down to where there were three aban-
doned houses in a row. We carried sacks full of tin cans,
papers, peelings, bottles and Popeyes.
We stopped at the last abandoned house where there were
thousands of old receipts to the San Francisco Chronicle
thrown all over the bed and the children's toothbrushes were
still in the bathroom medicine cabinet.
Behind the place was an old outhouse and to get down to it,
you had to follow the path down past some apple trees and a
patch of strange plants that we thought were either a good
spice that would certainly enhance our cooking or the plants
were deadly nightshade that would cause our cooking to be
We carried the garbage down to the outhouse and always
opened the door slowly because that was the only way you
could open it, and on the wall there was a roll of toilet paper,
so old it looked like a relative, perhaps a cousin, to the Mag-
We lifted up the lid of the toilet and dropped the garbage
down into the darkness. This went on for weeks and weeks
until it became very funny to lift the lid of the toilet and in-
stead of seeing darkness below or maybe the murky abstract
outline of garbage, we saw bright, definite and lusty garbage
heaped up almost to the top.
If you were a stranger and went down there to take an in-
nocent crap, you would've had quite a surprise when you lift-
ed up the lid.
We left the California bush just before it became necessary
to stand on the toilet seat and step into that hole, crushing
the garbage down like an accordion into the abyss.
THE CLEVELAND WRECKING
Until recently my knowledge about the Cleveland Wrecking
Yard had come from a couple of friends who'd bought things
there. One of them bought a huge window: the frame, glass
and everything for just a few dollars. It was a fine-looking
Then he chopped a hole in the side of his house up on
Potrero Hill and put the window in. Now he has a panoramic
view of the San Francisco County Hospital.
He can practically look right down into the wards and see
old magazines eroded like the Grand Canyon from endless
readings. He can practically hear the patients thinking about
breakfast: I hate milk and thinking about dinner: I hate peas,
and then he can watch the hospital slowly drown at night,
hopelessly entangled in huge bunches of brick seaweed.
He bought that window at the Cleveland Wrecking Yard.
My other friend bought an iron roof at the Cleveland Wreck-
ing Yard and took the roof down to Big Sur in an old station
wagon and then he carried the iron roof on his back up the
side of a mountain. He carried up half the roof on his back.
It was no picnic. Then he bought a mule, George, from Pleas-
anton. George carried up the other half of the roof.
The mule didn't like what was happening at all. He lost a
lot of weight because of the ticks, and the smell of the wild-
cats up on the plateau made him too nervous to graze there.
My friend said jokingly that George had lost around two hun-
dred pounds. The good wine country around Pleasanton in the
Livermore Valley probably had looked a lot better to George
than the wild side of the Santa Lucia Mountains.
My friend's place was a shack right beside a huge fire-
place where there had once been a great mansion during the
1920s, built by a famous movie actor. The mansion was built
before there was even a road down at Big Sur. The mansion
had been brought over the mountains on the backs of mules,
strung out like ants, bringing visions of the good life to the
poison oak, the ticks, and the salmon.
The mansion was on a promontory, high over the Pacific.
Money could see farther in the 1920s and one could look out
and see whales and the Hawaiian Islands and the Kuomintang
The mansion burned down years ago.
The actor died.
His mules were made into soap.
His mistresses became bird nests of wrinkles.
Now only the fireplace remains as a sort of Carthaginian
homage to Hollywood.
I was down there a few weeks ago to see my friend's roof.
I wouldn't have passed up the chance for a million dollars,
as they say. The roof looked like a colander to me. If that
roof and the rain were running against each other at Bay
Meadows, I'd bet on the rain and plan to spend my winnings
at the World's Fair in Seattle.
My own experience with the Cleveland Wrecking Yard be-
gan two days ago when I heard about a used trout stream
they had on sale out at the Yard. So I caught the Number 15
bus on Columbus Avenue and went out there for the first time.
There were two Negro boys sitting behind me on the bus.
They were talking about Chubby Checker and the Twist. They
thought that Chubby Checker was only fifteen years old be-
cause he didn't have a mustache. Then they talked about some
other guy who did the twist forty-four hours in a row until
he saw George Washington crossing the Delaware.
"Man, that's what I call twisting, " one of the kids said.
"I don't think I could twist no forty-four hours in a row, "
the other kid said. "That's a lot of twisting. "
I got off the bus right next to an abandoned Time Gasoline
filling station and an abandoned fifty-cent self-service car
wash. There was a long field on one side of the filling station.
The field had once been covered with a housing project dur-
ing the war, put there for the shipyard workers.
On the other side of the Time filling station was the Cleve-
land Wrecking Yard. I walked down there to have a look at
the used trout stream. The Cleveland Wrecking Yard has a
very long front window filled with signs and merchandise.
There was a sign in the window advertising a laundry
marking machine for $65. 00. The original cost of the mach-
ine was $175. 00. Quite a saving.
There was another sign advertising new and used two and
three ton hoists. I wondered how many hoists it would take
to move a trout stream.
There was another sign that said:
THE FAMILY GIFT CENTER,
GIFT SUGGESTIONS FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY
The window was filled with hundreds of items for the en-
tire family. Daddy, do you know what I want for Christmas?
son? A bathroom. Mommy do you know what I want
for Christmas? What, Patricia? Some roofing material
There were jungle hammocks in the window for distant
relatives and dollar-ten-cent gallons of earth-brown enamel
paint for other loved ones.
There was also a big sign that said:
USED TROUT STREAM FOR SALE.
MUST BE SEEN TO BE APPRECIATED,
I went inside and looked at some ship's lanterns that were
for sale next to the door. Then a salesman came up to me
and said in a pleasant voice, "Can I help you?"
"Yes, " I said. "I'm curious about the trout stream you
have for sale. Can you tell me something about it? How are
you selling it?"
"We're selling it by the foot length. You can buy as little
as you want or you can buy all we've got left. A man came in
here this morning and bought 563 feet. He's going to give it
to his niece for a birthday present, " the salesman said.
"We're selling the waterfalls separately of course, and
the trees and birds, flowers grass and ferns we're also sell-
ing extra. The insects we're giving away free with a mini-
mum purchase of ten feet of stream. "
"How much are you selling the stream for?" I asked.
"Six dollars and fifty-cents a foot, " he said. "That's for
the first hundred feet. After that it's five dollars a foot."
"How much are the birds?" I asked.
"Thirty-five cents apiece, " he said. "But of course
they're used. We can't guarantee anything."
"How wide is the stream?" I asked. "You said you were
selling it by the length, didn't you?"
"Yes, " he said. "We're selling it by the length. Its width
runs between five and eleven feet. You don't have to pay any-
thing extra for width. It's not a big stream, but it's very
"What kinds of animals do you have 7" I asked.
"We only have three deer left, " he said.
"Oh What about flowers 7"
"By the dozen, " he said.
"Is the stream clear?" I asked.
"Sir, " the salesman said. "I wouldn't want you to think
that we would ever sell a murky trout stream here. We al-
ways make sure they're running crystal clear before we even
think about moving them. "
"Where did the stream come from?" I asked.
"Colorado, " he said. "We moved it with loving care. We've
never damaged a trout stream yet. We treat them all as if
they were china. "
"You're probably asked this all the time, but how's fish-
ing in the stream?" I asked.
"Very good, " he said. "Mostly German browns, but there
are a few rainbows. "
"What do the trout cost?" I asked.
"They come with the stream, " he said. "Of course it's all
luck. You never know how many you're going to get or how
big they are. But the fishing's very good, you might say it's
excellent. Both bait and dry fly, " he said smiling.
"Where's the stream at?" I asked. "I'd like to take a look
at it. "
"It's around in back, " he said. "You go straight through
that door and then turn right until you're outside. It's stacked
in lengths. You can't miss it. The waterfalls are upstairs in
the used plumbing department. "
"What about the animals?"
"Well, what's left of the animals are straight back from
the stream. You'll see a bunch of our trucks parked on a
road by the railroad tracks. Turn right on the road and fol-
low it down past the piles of lumber. The animal shed's right
at the end of the lot. "
"Thanks, " I said. "I think I'11 look at the waterfalls first.
You don't have to come with me. Just tell me how to get there
and I'11 find my own way.
"All right, " he said. "Go up those stairs. You'll see a
bunch of doors and windows, turn left and you'll find the
used plumbing department. Here's my card if you need any
"Okay, " I said. "You've been a great help already. Thanks
a lot. I'11 take a look around."
"Good luck, " he said.
I went upstairs and there were thousands of doors there.
I'd never seen so many doors before in my life. You could
have built an entire city out of those doors. Doorstown. And
there were enough windows up there to build a little suburb
entirely out of windows. Windowville.
I turned left and went back and saw the faint glow of pearl-
colored light. The light got stronger and stronger as I went
farther back, and then I was in the used plumbing department,
surrounded by hundreds of toilets.
The toilets were stacked on shelves. They were stacked
five toilets high. There was a skylight above the toilets that
made them glow like the Great Taboo Pearl of the South Sea
Stacked over against the wall were the waterfalls. There
were about a dozen of them, ranging from a drop of a few
feet to a drop of ten or fifteen feet.
There was one waterfall that was over sixty feet long.
There were tags on the pieces of the big falls describing the
correct order for putting the falls back together again.
The waterfalls all had price tags on them. They were
more expensive than the stream. The waterfalls were selling
for $19.00 a foot.
I went into another room where there were piles of sweet-
smelling lumber, glowing a soft yellow from a different color
skylight above the lumber. In the shadows at the edge of the
room under the sloping roof of the building were many sinks
and urinals covered with dust, and there was also another
waterfall about seventeen feet long, lying there in two lengths
and already beginning to gather dust.
I had seen all I wanted of the waterfalls, and now I was
very curious about the trout stream, so I followed the sales-
man's directions and ended up outside the building.
O I had never in my life seen anything like that trout
stream. It was stacked in piles of various lengths: ten, fif-
teen, twenty feet, etc. There was one pile of hundred-foot
lengths. There was also a box of scraps. The scraps were
in odd sizes ranging from six inches to a couple of feet.
There was a loudspeaker on the side of the building and
soft music was coming out. It was a cloudy day and seagulls
were circling high overhead.
Behind the stream were big bundles of trees and bushes.
They were covered with sheets of patched canvas. You could
see the tops and roots sticking out the ends of the bundles.
I went up close and looked at the lengths of stream. I
could see some trout in them. I saw one good fish. I saw
some crawdads crawling around the rocks at the bottom.
It looked like a fine stream. I put my hand in the water.
It was cold and felt good.
I decided to go around to the side and look at the animals.
I saw where the trucks were parked beside the railroad
tracks. I followed the road down past the piles of lumber,
back to the shed where the animals were.
The salesman had been right. They were practically out
of animals. About the only thing they had left in any abun-
dance were mice. There were hundreds of mice.
Beside the shed was a huge wire birdcage, maybe fifty
feet high, filled with many kinds of birds. The top of the cage
had a piece of canvas over it, so the birds wouldn't get wet
when it rained. There were woodpeckers and wild canaries
On my way back to where the trout stream was piled, I
found the insects. They were inside a prefabricated steel
building that was selling for eighty-cents a square foot. There
was a sign over the door. It said
A HALF-SUNDAY HOMAGE TO A
WHOLE LEONARDO DA VINCI
On this funky winter day in rainy San Francisco I've had a
vision of Leonardo da Vinci. My woman's out slaving away,
no day off, working on Sunday. She left here at eight o'clock
this morning for Powell and California. I've been sitting here
ever since like a toad on a log dreaming about Leonardo da
I dreamt he was on the South Bend Tackle Company pay-
roll, but of course, he was wearing different clothes and
speaking with a different accent and possessor of a different
childhood, perhaps an American childhood spent in a town
like Lordsburg, New Mexico, or Winchester, Virginia.
I saw him inventing a new spinning lure for trout fishing
in America. I saw him first of all working with his imagina-
tion, then with metal and color and hooks, trying a little of
this and a little of that, and then adding motion and then tak-
ing it away and then coming back again with a different motion,
and in the end the lure was invented.
He called his bosses in. They looked at the lure and all
fainted. Alone, standing over their bodies, he held the lure
in his hand and gave it a name. He called it "The Last Supper."
Then he went about waking up his bosses.
In a matter of months that trout fishing lure was the sen-
sation of the twentieth century, far outstripping such shallow
accomplishments as Hiroshima or Mahatma Gandhi. Millions
of "The Last Supper" were sold in America. The Vatican or-
dered ten thousand and they didn't even have any trout there.
Testimonials poured in. Thirty-four ex-presidents of the
United States all said, ''I caught my limit on 'The Last Supper.'''
TROUT FISHING IN AMERICA
He went up to Chemault, that's in Eastern Oregon, to cut
Christmas trees. He was working for a very small enter-
prise. He cut the trees, did the cooking and slept on the
kitchen floor. It was cold and there was snow on the ground.
The floor was hard. Somewhere along the line, he found an
old Air Force flight jacket. That was a big help in the cold.
The only woman he could find up there was a three-hundred-
pound Indian squaw. She had twin fifteen-year-old daughters
and he wanted to get into them. But the squaw worked it so
he only got into her. She was clever that way.
The people he was working for wouldn't pay him up there.
They said he'd get it all in one sum when they got back to
San Francisco. He'd taken the job because he was broke,
He waited and cut trees in the snow, laid the squaw,
cooked bad food--they were on a tight budget--and he
washed the dishes. Afterwards, he slept on the kitchen floor
in his Air Force flight jacket.
When they finally got back to town with the trees, those
guys didn't have any money to pay him off. He had to wait
around the lot in Oakland until they sold enough trees to pay
"Here's a lovely tree, ma'am. "
"Ten dollars. "
"That's too much. "
"I have a lovely two-dollar tree here, ma'am. Actually,
it's only half a tree, but you can stand it up right next to a
wall and it'll look great, ma'am. "
"I'11 take it. I can put it right next to my weather clock.
This tree is the same color as the queen's dress. I'11 take it.
You said two dollars?"
"That's right, ma'am."
"Hello, sir. Yes . . . Uh-huh . . . Yes . . . You say
that you want to bury your aunt with a Christmas tree in her
coffin? Uh-huh . . . She wanted it that way . . . I'11 see
what I can do for you, sir. Oh, you have the measurements
of the coffin with you? Very good . . . We have our coffin-
sized Christmas trees right over here, sir. "
Finally he was paid off and he came over to San Francis-
co and had a good meal, a steak dinner at Le Boeuf and some
good booze, Jack Daniels, and then went out to the Fillmore
and picked up a good-looking, young, Negro whore, and he
got laid in the Albert Bacon Fall Hotel.
The next day he went down to a fancy stationery store on
Market Street and bought himself a thirty-dollar fountain pen,
one with a gold nib.
He showed it to me and said, "Write with this, but don't
write hard because this pen has got a gold nib, and a gold
nib is very impressionable. After a while it takes on the per-
sonality of the writer. Nobody else can write with it. This
pen becomes just like a person's shadow. It's the only pen
to have. But be careful. "
I thought to myself what a lovely nib trout fishing in Am-
erica would make with a stroke of cool green trees along the
river's shore, wild flowers and dark fins pressed against
PRELUDE TO THE
"The Eskimos live among ice all their lives but have
single word for ice. " --Man: His First Million Years
M. F. Ashley Montagu
"Human language is in some ways similar to, but in other
ways vastly different from, other kinds of animal communi-
cation. We simply have no idea about its evolutionary history,
though many people have speculated about its possible origins.
There is, for instance, the 'bow-bow' theory, that language
started from attempts to imitate animal sounds. Or the 'ding-
dong' theory, that it arose from natural sound-producing
responses. Or the 'pooh-pooh' theory, that it began with vio-
lent outcries and exclamations . . . We have no way ofknow-
ing whether the kinds of men represented by the earliestfos-
sils could talk or not . . . Language does not leave fossils,
at least not until it has become written . . ." --Man in
Nature, by Marston Bates
"But no animal up a tree can initiate a culture. " -"The
Simian Basis of Human Mechanics," in Twilight of Man, by
Earnest Albert Hooton
Expressing a human need, I always wanted to write abook
that ended with the word Mayonnaise.
THE MAYONNAISE CHAPTER
Dearest Florence and Harv.
I just heard from Edith about
the passing of Mr. Good. Our heart
goes out to you in deepest sympathy
Gods will be done. He has lived a
good long life and he has gone to
a better place. You were expecting
it and it was nice you could see
him yesterday even if he did not
know you. You have our prayers
and love and we will see you soon.
God bless you both.
Love Mother and Nancy.
Sorry I forgot to give you the mayonaise.