The River Flows On

by Ricky Ochs


I consider myself a very lucky man.

A big part of my daily routines associated with my job includes traveling throughout the region to perform various official newspaper duties. I enjoy these experiences thoroughly. I can be in downtown Fort Collins on Tuesday and spend Wednesday somewhere southeast of Johnstown. But I savor the days I can travel west of Loveland and venture the highways and roads that parallel the Big Thompson River.

Loren Eiseley wrote in his book, The Immense Journey, that there is a magic on this planet and it is contained in water. The Big Thompson River is full of magic and it has touched me through the years in many beloved and painful ways.

When I visit my mother, our typically benign conversations sometimes regress a few years as she recalls some mischievous act I carried out or something incredibly cute that I said when I was three. Sometimes though, her eyes glaze a bit and she talks as if I werent really there. She sighs as she relives the summer of 1968, when our family moved to Loveland. The duplex we rented had a large, fence-less yard that backed into the mighty Thompson. The river was a part of my first summer in Colorado, it was a part of my play day and even at the age of four, the river was a part of me.

Certainly I fished the river, and I waded through it on hot summer days. But many times I have sat on its banks searching for answers or seeking solace within its magic. From time to time I need to be reminded that the flow of the river is constant. Even if my life is at a standstill there is flow within the river. And it is not always good.

I was at the banks of the river that dreadful Sunday in July of 1976. My friends and I watched as debris from the great flood sped by the spot we liked to fish. The river was dark and swift. Even the wood, metal and debris crushed by the surging waters could not alter the flow of the river. But not all memories are as bad.

My dad taught me how to fish on the Big Thompson River. And he showed great patience in his efforts. Every year I place a Mepps #2 spinner on the plaque of his grave. It is my tribute to him. It is my way to honor the man who will one day fish with me yet again in a place far better than here and in a river that flows eternally.

I drank my first beer on the river. My first real kiss was within earshot of the running water of the river. I once crossed the river wearing nothing but my underwear. I had to tie my short and pants around my neck to keep them from getting wet. My mom would have killed me if she knew we spent that day at the river, especially after she forbid me to go there.

Before we married, I took a very special woman to the river on our very first date. We parked by the falls and for hours we talked with the sound of rushing water in the background. We didn’t need the car radio to fill the gaps of uncomfortable silence for we had the magic of the river.

So now when I leave my office and drive towards the west, I make sure to pack a lunch and spend an hour on the banks of the Big Thompson River. Sometimes it is a happy occasion and sometimes sad. But I know that no matter what is going on in the world or in my life, the river flows on. And in that I find tremendous comfort.