A River Runs Through It Script - Dialogue Transcript

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A River Runs Through It Script



Long ago, when I was a young man,

my father said to me...



"Norman, you like to write stories."



And I said, "Yes, I do."



Then he said,

"Someday, when you're ready...



you might tell our family story.



Only then will you understand

what happened and why."



In our family, there was no clear line

between religion and fly-fishing.



We lived at the junction of great

trout rivers in Missoula, Montana...



where Indians still appeared

out of the wilderness...



to walk the honky-tonks and brothels

of Front Street.



My father was

a Presbyterian minister...



and a fly-fisherman.



Though it is true that one day a week

was given over wholly to religion...



even then he told us about

Christ's disciples being fishermen.



And we were left to assume,

as my younger brother Paul and I did...



that all first-class fishermen on the

Sea of Galilee were fly-fishermen...



and that John, the favorite,

was a dry fly-fisherman.



The poor without Christ

are of all men the most miserable.



But the poor with Christ...



are princes and kings

of the earth.



In the afternoon,

we would walk with him...



while he unwound

between services.



He almost always chose a path

along the Big Blackfoot...



which we considered our family river.



It was there he felt his soul restored

and his imagination stirred.



Long ago rain fell on mud

and became rock.



Halt a billion years ago.



But even before that,

beneath the rocks...



are the words of God.






And if Paul and I listened

very carefully all our lives...



we might hear those words.



Even so, Paul and I received as many

hours of instruction in fly-fishing...



as we did

in all other spiritual matters.



As a Presbyterian,

my father believed...



that man, by nature,

was a damn mess...



and that only by picking up

God's rhythms...



were we able to regain

power and beauty.



To him, all good things, trout as well

as eternal salvation, come by grace.



And grace comes by art,

and art does not come easy.






So my brother and I learned to cast

Presbyterian style:



on a metronome.



He began each session

with the same instruction:



Casting is an art that is performed

on a four-count rhythm...



between   :   and  :  .



If he had had his way, nobody

who did not know how to catch a fish...



would be allowed to disgrace a fish

by catching it.



So it was with my formal education

as well.



Each weekday, while my father worked

on his Sunday sermon...



I attended the school

of the Reverend Maclean.



He taught nothing but reading

and writing. And being a Scot...



believed that the art of writing

lay in thrift.



Half as long.



So while my friends spent their days

at Missoula Elementary...



I stayed home and learned to write

the American language.



Again, halt as long.




Now throw it away.



Norman! Norman!



Wait for your brother!



However, there was a balance

to my father's system.



Every afternoon

I was set free...



untutored and untouched

till supper...



to learn on my own

the natural side of God's order.



And there could be no better place

to learn than the Montana of my youth.



It was a world

with dew still on it...



more touched by wonder and possibility

than any I have since known.



Goddamn it,

open up the door!



What the hell is goin' on?



- Where are you guys going?

- Chickens!



Move out of the way.




But it was a tough world, too.

Even as children...



we understood that

and admired it.



And of course,

we had to test it.



I knew I was tough because

I had been bloodied in battle.



Get him!



Don't be a sissy!

Come on!



Yeah, come on.

Let's see some blood here.



Paul was different.



His toughness came

from some secret place inside of him.



He simply knew he was tougher

than anyone alive.



Grace will not be said

until that bowl is clean.



Man has been eating God's oats

for a thousand years.



It's not the place of an  -year-old boy

to change that tradition.






Oh, God...



rich in forgiveness,

grant that we...



may hold fast the good things

we receive from Thee.



And as often as we tall into sin, be

lifted by repentance through Thy grace.






Norm, what do you want to be

when you grow up?



A minister, I guess.



Or a professional boxer.



You think you could beat

Jack Johnson?



I think you could.

I'd bet on it.



- What are you gonna be?

- A professional fly-fisherman.



- There's no such thing.

- There isn't?



I guess a boxer.



Not a minister?



In      World War I

came to Missoula...



taking with it

every able-bodied lumberjack...



leaving the woods

to old men and boys.



So at    I did my duty...



and started working

for the U.S. Forest Service.



It was a life of timber and toil...



with men as tough

as their ax handles...



and more mountains

in all directions...



than I would ever see again.



Being too young to join me...



Paul took a job as lifeguard

at the municipal swimming pool...



so that during the day

he could look over the girls...



and in the evenings he could pursue

his other purpose in life: fishing.



Be Thou my vision



O Lord of my heart



Naught be all else to me



Save that Thou art



Thou might press on



By day or by night



Waking or sleeping



Thy presence my light



Preacher, come on.



Preacher, come on.



Shut up!



Have I told you what a fire sounds like

coming down a mountain  o miles an hour?



Him and his forest fires.



I've got a great idea.



- I know how we can go down in history.

- How?



We borrow old man Seitert's rowboat

and we shoot the chutes.



- You can't shoot the chutes.

- You can try.



- You can die trying.

- They'd bury us with honors. Tell him.



- We would be the kings of Missoula.

- We'd be famous.



All of you would get your photographs

in the paper.



I'm doing it. I am.



You'll die. No.



- Let's do it. Come on.

- I'm with you.



All right.



Let's go!



I'll get the oars.



Whose idea was this?



- Which way we goin', Pauly?

- This way.



I need a woman!



Jesus, Mary and Joseph!



Okay, we'll put in upstream.



Flip it.



Okay, hop in.



Come on.

We can all tit.



I don't think so.



All right.

Just me, Norm and Chub.



Geez, Pauly.



I guess it's just the Macleans.



Be careful!



You ain't goin' over, Pauly.



- They'll pull to shore.

- See you in heaven!



Come back a second.

I gotta tell you something.



See you later, boys!



Rudder on the right.



On your right.

Watch your right.



- Steer around.

- Right!



Watch it!

On your right.



Hang on!



Oh, geez.









Hey, Chub.



What the hell!



You crazy son of a bitch!



- You guys okay?

- Where's--



Preach, you okay?






You will go to church this day

and pray for forgiveness.



Your mother spent the night sick with

worry. Did you think of her feelings?



Mrs. Campbell called.



- Who gave you the boat?

- We borrowed it.






Boys, what have you done?



You will work off

every cent of its value.



Yes, sir.



I'll work it oft.

It was my idea.



What're you making?



Know what you need?

Ham, cheese and sardines. Delicious.



- I don't want sardines.

- I'll show you.



Those guys will tell everyone

the class of '   did it.



I should write an article.



- "Macleans conquer chutes."

- I don't like sardines.



You could get it in the school paper.






"Geez, Pauly!"



- What a skeezicks!

- I don't want any goddamn sardines!



No! Stop it! Stop it!



You hit her,

you son of a bitch!



You knocked her down,

you bastard!



- Son of a bitch!

- Please, I slipped!



I just slipped.

That's all.



That was the only time...



we ever fought.



Perhaps we wondered afterwards

which one of us was tougher.



But if boyhood questions aren't answered

before a certain point...



they can't be raised again.



So we returned to being gracious

to one another...



as the church wall suggested.



I then saw something remarkable.



For the first time, Paul broke free

of our father's instruction...



into a rhythm all his own.



They're both marvelous.



I'd say the Lord

has blessed us all today.



It's just that He's been

particularly good to me.



The year ended with my acceptance

into Dartmouth College.



Father had told me I could attend any

college in the world I could get into.



I knew he earned no more

than $     a year...



so his offer meant more to me

than anything in my life.



Do your best.



I will.



All aboard!






So in the autumn of     

I boarded the Northern Pacific...



for a     -mile trip east

to the unknown.



To the son of a Montana minister,

Dartmouth was more than an education.



It was a revelation, exposing me

to a world I'd only guessed at.



As part of my degree, I was required

to enlighten incoming freshman...



on the wonders

of the Romantic poets.



And although I was unaware

of it then...



teaching fit me.



But most of the time I sat in

the card room of my fraternity house...



giving my bluenose brothers a lesson

in Front Street poker.



In all, I spent six years

at Dartmouth...



away from home nearly all that time.



On the other hand,

Paul stayed home for college...



unwilling to leave the fish

he had not yet caught.



After graduation, he took a job

as a reporter for a Helena newspaper...



and moved to that town...



his connection with the family

growing as slight as my own.



It was not until the spring

of     ...



that I finally did come home.



Dinner is in half an hour,

so you have time for a bath.



Do I look thin?



Do I look old?



No, you look--



I wish Paul could've been here tonight.

He's working late.



Norman, would you come in?



I'm sorry Paul won't be here.



The life of a newspaperman.



You know how Paul likes to--



I do.






I also hear that he--



I hear everything, don't l? God forbid

my flock keep me in ignorance.






You can bet everyone from here to Helena

knows the details of your education.



It is an achievement.



To what use shall you put

this achievement?



- I'm considering the Forest Service.

- As a career?



No. For the summer.



As a break.



That's a good idea.

The body fuels the mind.



- That's what I was thinking.

- And after?



I'm not sure yet.



You've had six years

to become sure.



Have you considered

an advanced degree?



The law? Medicine?



The ministry?



I've applied

for several teaching positions.



- Have you?

- College level. I haven't heard yet.



No, it's early.



You have taught classes already,

haven't you?






Did you find that rewarding?



That is to say, do you feel

this could be your calling?



My calling?



Dinner, gentlemen.



If it's so tunny, how come I'm

not laughing? Yes, pee in their pants.



- Paul Maclean?

- In there.



The Anaconda Mine rules

say no breaks...



not even for the john, so they

stand there and pee in their pants.



- What about the late--

- George Masterson.



I'll take that widow.

She's    and built like--



- You take the Anaconda.

- I'll interview the grieving widow.



But I'm the boss, Maclean.



Fine by me, boss.




Look at you.



Boys, this is my big brother,

the professor.









- Thanks for visiting me last night.

- Yeah, damn.



I am sorry.

Wanted to be there.



Wanted to hear the old man say, "Norman,

could you come into my study, please?"



Geez, the professor.



We should celebrate.



A little early for me.



The East is making you soft.



Is that right?



Do much fishing out east?









What do you say?

Big Blacktoot.



- You set?

- Yeah.



- Take this hole. It's a good one.

- That's all right. You go ahead.



It's a good hole.



Too tight.

Try a roll cast.



The fish are out further.



Just a little further.



Cast your line into the current. It'll

give a better base and add distance.



You're just rusty.

That's all.



He called it shadow casting...



keeping his line above water

long enough and low enough...



to make a rainbow rise.



And I realized

that in the time I was away...



my brother had become an artist.



My coach comes up to me and says,

"Mac, how'd you like to meet...



John L. Sullivan?"



The John L. Sullivan, the last

bare-knuckle champion of the world.



It was then I knew I was home.



Standing on the steps

of the Missoula Library once again...



late at night, telling stories

to the same boys...



who had sat on those steps

and listened a hundred times before.



And who had, in my absence,

become men.



It goes to show

the world is full of bastards...



the number increasing rapidly the

further one gets from Missoula, Montana!






That's why you need to stick

around here from now on.



Where's the gargle?



Yes, pass this way.



Every girl you need to know

will be at the  th of July dance...



without mama.



Find you a little Sheba.



Gentlemen, it's been swell.



Where're you going?



Heavy date, Paul?



- With a poker table.

- You see them new signs?



"Does your husband misbehave?

Grunt and grumble, rant and rave?



Shoot that brute

some Burma Shave!"



- The road to where?

- Lolo.



Lolo Hot Springs.



Being back in my father's church

seemed to complete my return.



More than anything else,

I realized it was my father's words...



that made me feel most at home.



In the glow of awakened memories...



when the deepest feelings of the heart

are all astir...



we are reminded of the poet

who sings...



"Backward, turn backward,

O time in your flight.



Make me a child again...



just for tonight."



Recognize anybody?



You've been gone too long, son.



- Who's that?

- Who?






Oh, yeah?



A little infatuation?



Who is that?



Jessie Burns.



From Wolf Creek.

Her brother went to Hollywood.



Jessie Burns.



Would you like to dance?



Would you be a doll

and get us a drink?



Jessie, who's that?



- Here you go.

- Thanks.



You're a lifesaver.



How ladylike!



I have to be careful or

I'll wipe off all the powder.



Phantom of the Opera.



Pack up all my care and woe



Here I go, singing low



Bye-bye, blackbird



I heard Louis Armstrong

sing this song once...



in a little speak

in Greenwich Village, New York.






Best jazz in the world.

Colored jazz, you know?



The real McCoy. Not like Paul Whiteman

or the Kliquot Club Eskimos.



My mother loves

the Kliquot Club Eskimos.



Does she?









Let the fireworks begin!



- Guys, come on.

- Jessie, come on.



I have a wonderful idea.



What better lesson for those girls

than a trip to the reservation...



to learn a real Christian message

of giving, don't you think?



I'll organize it.

Don't lift a finger.



Thank you. This is the most

charitable idea I've heard in years.



Do you know those Indian children don't

even have shoes? Do you need the phone?



- No, I don't have to.

- No, you go ahead.



- If you need to use it--

- No, I have work to do.



Hello, Mrs. Hatcher.



Hello. I'd like--



She's fine. I'd like--



Yes, everybody's tine.



I'd like the Burns residence

in Wolt Creek, please.



Yes, I know it's long distance.



Thank you.






Is Jessie there?



This is Norman Maclean,

but I don't think she--






No, I'm the one

who brought you the drink.



No, we didn't get a chance.

The tireworks started.



We talked about music.



And I said I heard

Louis Armstrong sing the--



Yeah, that's me.



I was a little nervous.






you were so je ne sais quoi.



I thought I could come and listen to the

Kliquot Club Eskimos with your mother.






I called because I wanted

to see you again.



How about Saturday?



 :  ?



I'll see you then.






Hey, here they are.






Jessie, this is my baby brother Paul.



- And this is Monasita.

- Mabel.



Shall we?



- What do you say, Pauly?

- Murph.



- Preacher.

- Preacher?



- How are you, Murph?

- Long time. Long time.



Good to see you.



You know the house rules

as good as I do, Paul.



No lnjuns. Period.



I don't like the house rules, Murph.



Me neither.



What are you going

to make me do, Pauly?



Get us a table for four.



- Last time, Paul.

- Hello, Judge.



You can get him back.

Get drunk and dance naked on the table.



And beat the hell

out of the son of a bitch.



- Molly, my darling.

- Hi, Paul.



They've got swell hooch here.

They even wash the glasses.






What'll it be? Jessie? Jessie.



I'll have a martini, Paul.

It is Paul?



Righty-o. The usual for Norm.

Gin and prune juice.



Make that a double.



Excuse me.



I'd like to order a drink, too.



Whiskey, double.



So, what are you doing now, Mabel?



I sell bait.



You have the most beautiful hair

I've ever seen.



Should I get it bobbed?



No, not in a million years.



"The candle burns at both ends.



It will not last the night.



But, ah, my toes,

and oh, my friends...



it gives a lovely light."



That's nice.



How about to my editor,

the old curmudgeon? Excuse me.



He took me off the Anaconda story.

I'm a reporter at The Bee.



- I know.

- How do you know?



I'm famous.



- Fishing newspaperman.

- You know he fishes, too?



- I thought everybody knew.

- You've been away a long time.



- I'd say so.

- It's seems my editor--



- The old curmudgeon.

- Yes, exactly.



He's been getting calls.

No names, just threats.



Real threats?



It's nice to know you're touching

a nerve button.



What did they say?



What did they say?



- What did they say?

- You'll have to cut it out of him.



The usual. The boys will come down

and pay me a little visit.



Fit you with a pair

or concrete galoshes, see?






I have to dance.



Watch out!






Now, The Muskrat Ramble.



Watch it!



I'm nowhere near as good as my brother,

but would you do me the honor?



I'd love to.



"Dear Jessie, As the moon

lingers a moment over the Bitteroots...



before its descent

into the invisible...



my mind is filled with song.



I find I am humming softly...



not to the music,

but something else.



Someplace else.



A place remembered.



A field of grass where no one

seemed to have been except the deer.



And the memory is strengthened

by the feeling of you...



dancing in my awkward arms.









What's wrong?



It's okay, Mother.

Who is this?



I'm Norman Maclean.



No, he doesn't have

to post bond.



He covers the police beat

and has friends here.



Just look at him

and take him home.



What did he do?



He hit a guy and

the guy is missing a couple of teeth.



Why did he hit him?



It says, "A remark was passed concerning

the Indian woman he was with."



The guy deserved it.



We're picking your brother up

too much lately.



Is that right?



Besides, he's behind

on the big stud poker game at Lolo.



It's not healthy to get behind

on that game at Lolo.



- Is he hurt?

- He's not hurt. He's just sick.



He drinks too much.



At Lolo, they don't drink too much.



You better go in

and get your brother.



I'm tired and I wanna go to bed



I just had a drink about an hour ago



It went right to my head



No matter where I roam



By land or sea or foam



You can always hear me

singing this song



Show me the way to go home



It you need any money, Paul...



or anything else,

I want you to know that--



She lives past the slaughterhouse.



I can help.



Turn here.



Well, chickens haven't come home

to roost yet, Al.



Not bad.



Are you all right?



- Clara, was that your jelly?

- Yes, it was.



It was wonderful.

And is this Norman?



Yes, it is.

Yes, we're very proud of him.



- Nice to have you back.

- Thank you.



Her daughter's turned into a beauty.

There she is.



Twenty only a week ago.

She's bright as a light.



Mr. Murchison, how are you?



How are you?



- Quite well, thank you.

- Good, good.



- And this is Paul?

- No, this is Norman.



- Oh, Norman! You're looking good.

- Yes. Hasn't he grown up?



- Paul's here. Come on.

- I'm sorry, I can't.



I'm meeting Jessie Burns' family.

Her brother's coming in from California.



Oh, well, now.



- I'm late.

- Should we have this girl to dinner?



Perhaps, Mother.



Well, well!



Hello, Paul.



- Hi, Sam. Let me borrow those.

- Sure. Why not?



- Hello, Father.

- Son.



First shot, bangs it right up there.



The Burns family ran a general store

in a one-store town...



and still managed to do badly.



This is Norman.



They were Methodists, who my father

called "Baptists who could read."



- Pop.

- It's a pleasure.



This is my mother.



A pleasure to meet you, Norman.

Jessie tells me you're a poet.



- Related to the fishing newspaperman?

- That's my brother.



- Jessie says you just got your degree.

- Yes.



Jessie was at the university.

She was majoring in--






Science, I believe.

Wasn't it?



- She dropped out.

- Aunt Sally!



She could learn from you.




Let the young man breathe.



He's not used to all this.

He's a Presbyterian.



Oh, Neal! He's here!



Jessie's brother Neal stepped off

the train trying to remember...



what a Davis Cup tennis player

looked like.



You look so good!

He looks a little thin.



How are you doing?

You look great!



Neal, this is Norman.

Norman, my brother Neal.



Hello, boy.



- Did you sit up all night?

- I met some nice people.



- Did you get my card from Yellowstone?

- What do you think about this tie?



- Let him breathe. He just got here.

- Let's go eat.



I've got chicken salad sandwiches

in the car and baking chickens at home.



Mrs. Miller has given us cherries.

I can make your favorite pie.



- Not the homemade beer.

- Boy, was a good year.



Over the lips, past the gums,

look out, stomach, here she comes.



What's the first station

out there now?



When I traveled that way,

San Berdoo was there.



San Berdoo and a lot of sand...



and a lot of desert,

a hell of a lot of desert.



We came back to Salt Lake City.



We had to change at Salt Lake City.



- There was a hotel there that--

- Served oysters.



Served oysters. Yeah.



- Norman, do you drink? Does he drink?

- A little bit.



Here's to the ol' fam-damn-ily.



- The tam-damn-ily!

- Here! Here!



Down the trenches.



He's fine. He's just tired.

It's a long trip.



At least he still has his appetite.



How long are you planning to stay?



Sport! Come here.



I don't know.

I miss the ocean.



What's it like?



It's big and blue.

People ride on the waves.



I was getting pretty good at it.



Damn it! Bad dog! Bad!

Geez, Ma!



You get him so excited.




- Anywho, what was I talking about?

- The ocean.



Oh, yeah! So we'd ride those waves

all day long, all the boys.



Ramon, me, Ronnie Colman.



Ronald Colman?



- I love Ronald Colman.

- People say I look like Ronald Colman.






I can't picture Ronald Colman

riding on waves.



Some Kodak, huh?



Well, Ma...



it's been a long trip.



Maybe you could go fishing

with Norman sometime.



That's a good idea.






- Wonderful, wouldn't it be?

- Fishing?



You do fish?



- Of course!

- He has a pole and everything.



- Oh, yes, everybody does.

- You betcha.



- When would be a good time for you?

- Friday.



- Friday's good.

- Yeah. What time?



-  :  .

- A.M.?



Oh, yes, he'll be there.

Won't you, honey?



- Thank you. That's very kind.

- My pleasure.



Maybe Paul could come, too.



That would be nice.



I'm sure Paul would love

to go fishing with us.



- Can I come?

- Not this time, honey.



Next time, okay?



Why don't you go with Neal, Norman?



Make your plans.



Oh, yeah.



The only plan Neal had was a trip to

Black Jack's bar, an old freight car...



set in the woods where any honest

policeman would be unlikely to find it.



It was this otter and her pups.



l had a hell of a time tracking them

because they turn white in winter.



After a few shots of this vile whiskey

brewed by Black Jack himself...



Neal began to hold forth.



He'd chosen Montana subjects to spin his

lies about shooting, hiking, trapping.



Probably to impress

the only other client at the bar.



A ploy that was beginning to pay off.



Anywho, she tried to lose me...



again and again.



She went by the name of Old Rawhide.



About ten years before, she'd been

elected beauty queen of Wolf Creek.



She rode bareback standing up through

the     inhabitants, mostly male.



Her skirts flew high,

and she won the contest.



It's stiff!

l couldn't feel my hands!



I'm thinking about my dog Sport

that's with me.



If it gets any colder,

l may have to slit him open...



and stick my hands in

to keep them from freezing.



It would have been a tough thing

to do.



But, hell, I did it before

at the Yukon.



God knows I love that damn dog.



She still wore the divided skirts

of a horsewoman...



although they must have been

a hardship in her new profession.



There, on a branch

waiting to jump on their first deer...



is the goddamn otter!



Hey, buster.



What's an otter doing on the top

of Roger's Pass?



l thought they swam in the creeks.



Why don't you bring this lady

a whiskey?



I've got to shove off.



Don't forget, ol' boy,

Friday, fishing.






What say?



They said I'd find you

at your other office.



Yeah, deadline.

Can't work there.



You come for a drink?



A favor.



Go fishing with me?






That's marvy,

because Jessie's got a brother...



in from California and--



I'm not gonna lie.

He's a world champion peckerwood.



- Bait fisherman?

- He didn't say.



Good Lord! George.



He's going to show up

with a coffee can full of worms.



Red can. Hills Brothers.

I'll lay a bet on it.



l promised Jessie.



Are you getting serious?



- What?

- You son of a bitch. You're serious.






l don't know.



Then we ought to do it.



Whoa, whoa.



As I live and breathe.



Buster here wants to fish.



You're late, Neal.



Yeah, I didn't get in till late.



l didn't get in at all,

but I was here.



Neal, Paul.

Paul, Neal.



In Montana, three things we're never

late for: church, work and fishing.



Righty-o. Anywho--



- This is--

- We've met.



Don't go away.



Watch the first step.

It's a lulu.



- So.

- You ready to--









Buster wants to fish.



Neal, what about the bait?



Dumb Dora!



We're not going to catch anything.

It's too damn hot.



May he catch three doses of clap.



Sure glad I didn't go home

and get some sleep.



Where is he?



- Oh, God.

- Geez!



I'll catch up.






l know. You got   .



- Couldn't you find him?

- The hell with him.



l thought we were supposed

to help him.



How the hell do you help

that son of a bitch?



By taking him fishing.



He doesn't like fishing. Doesn't like

Montana. Sure as hell doesn't like me.






maybe what he likes

is somebody trying to help him.



- You sank the beer, yeah?

- You bet your life.



Let's go.



Oh, geez, I can taste it.



- Should we kill him?

- Shit!



Goddamn it!



Holy Christ!



This is not good.



She's got a tattoo.









l can get in myself.

l don't need help.



You got anything to drink, buster?



Buster's the one

with the red ass.



- I'm in deep trouble.

- Yeah. Want me to come and protect you?



Mrs. Burns would love to meet

the girlfriend.



l ain't burned.



The sun don't bother me.






What do you think about me spending

the night with you and the folks?



We come back here tomorrow,

wipe this day oft the books.



It's a deal.



Come on, buster.

I'm as dry as dirt.



Hark, fair Juliet speaks.



Good luck.



Sweet Jesus!



What have you done to my boy?



He tell asleep in the sun.



Oh, my Lord in heaven.

It's all right.



It's all right, honey.

We'll fix it.



You left him alone?



He brought someone, and--



You better go home.



l need a ride home.



You better hang on.



What are you--



l don't think you--



They send trains down here

all the time, without a schedule.



You're not--



I don't think they can see us

in here.



Well, thanks for the flight.



You're funny.



Oh? How am I funny?



You don't like my brother, do you?



No, I do not like your brother.



l don't know any card tricks.



But I like you,

and I want to see you again.



- Hello, Jess.

- Hey, Paul.



- How's your brother?

- You both left him alone.



I'm sorry about that.

That was my fault.



You're not forgiven.



Was Norman forgiven?



Norman's not funny.



I hung fresh towels

on the washstand for you.



Did you remember to powder

my toothbrush?



Let Paul tell his latest story.



Which one? The murder,

the wreck or the fire?



l think they should put you

on the church beat.



l agree.



Quote: "The Reverend Maclean had a nice

roast while dining with his family.



All, except for the poor, elder son...



enjoyed it immensely."



- Norman, what's the matter?

- He's not funny.



- Pardon me?

- He's not tunny.



There are more

important accomplishments, Norman.



It's all right it you're dull.



We're very proud of you.



l do have one story.

No murder, no mayhem.



l interviewed the President.



- Calvin Coolidge?

- The President?



- Mr. Coolidge?

- When?



A few days ago.

He was in Dakota, fly-fishing.






Fly-fishing in a suit and tie,

white gloves and patent-leather shoes.



l asked him.

l went right up to him.



l said, "Excuse me, sir.

Can you tell me what they're biting on?"



He says, "The end of my line."



- What? What?

- The end of my line.



Then some of the locals came over,

tied on a fly the size of a chicken.



Ol' Cal, he heaves it out there.



Figured if he can't catch a trout,

he'll scare one to death.



Did you get a picture?



Yeah. It'll be

in the Sunday paper.



"Closemouthed Cal communes

with the crappies."



Mother, that was amazing.



He usually only eats

what he can hit on the road.



That was tunny.



l do worry about you.



- I'm gonna run over-- Hmm?

- What?






l was just going to say...



l thought I'd go meet some of

the old pals, being in town.



Don't you wait up.



l plan on eating the rest of this

when nobody's looking.



l understand he's changed

the spelling of our name.



"MacLean", with a capital 'L'.



Now everyone will think

we're lowland Scots.



Howdy, Norman.



Hi there, Mr. Sweeney.



Who do you know

at the University of Chicago?



Chicken in a car,

car won't go.



That's how you spell "Chi-car-go!"



"Though nothing can bring back the hour

of splendor in the grass.



Of glory in the flower,

we will grieve not.



Rather find strength in what

remains behind."



"In the primal sympathy

which having been must ever be."



"In the soothing thoughts

that spring out of human suffering."



"In the faith that looks

through death."



"Thanks to the human heart

by which we live.



Thanks to its tenderness,

its joys, its tears.



To me the meanest flower

that blows...



can give thoughts that do often lie

too deep for tears."



- Good luck. We'll be rooting for you.

- Here's sandwiches.



It was one week exactly

before I spoke to Jessie again.



She called to tell me Neal

was going back to California...



and that he would appreciate

me seeing him off.



We love you. Good luck.



Though surprised by the invitation,

l asked only one question of Jessie.



Did she want me to come?

And she answered "Yes".



l love you.

Don't forget to write.



If he came back next summer,

would you try and help him?



It you wanted me to,

l would try.



- He's not coming back.

- At least he's got friends there.



Who? Ronald Colman?



Why is it that people

who need the most help...



won't take it?



l don't know.



l don't cry, Norman.



Can I show you something?



Only it it's something good.






What do you think?



What do I think?

l think it's the berries!



-You do?

-Yes. To get away. Chicago. It's heaven.



- Have you ever been?

- No, not anywhere.






God, congratulations!



The truth is,

I'm not sure I want to leave.



Montana? Why?

It'll always be here.



Not Montana.



Then what?






I'm not sure

l want to leave you.



l just come from there,

downing my liquid lunch.



You got to watch it, Fred.

They're after you.



Well, now.



Give us a couple boilermakers.



Two up.



Well, here's to the heart,

goddamn it.



Oh, Lordy.



I'm in love with Jessie Burns.



Jesus Christ, Norm.



With all the fish in the river.



Not like her.



Oh, right.



Not like her.






I'm real happy for you.



Well, goddamn it, let's get the hell

out of here and go celebrate.






Bananas today



We've got homegrown potatoes



- And vine-ripened tomatoes

- It's a stinker.



- What?

- It stinks.



What do you mean?

It's a classic!







We have no bananas



We have no bananas today



Where are we?



Where are we going?



- Lolo.

- Yup.



Figured you felt lucky tonight.



l could use some of the luck.



Jesus Christ!

No, don't.



Don't be the professor tonight.






Hello, Frank.



Well, my gal Sal.



Sal? Hey, Sal?



Get a drink for my brother.






In fact, how about a round on me?



He's in love.



Hang on.



Take care of him, Sal.



Not a good idea, Paul.



Fellas, got a chair for me?



Not for you, Paul.



- What do you want?

- What?



Cards? What?



- What do you want?

- Nothing.



A buck. I know Paul says

he's paying, but--



Just games. Only games.



Let's go. Now.



We're getting out of here.






Bye-bye, sonny.



- I'm not leaving.

- What?



These hands are hot.

l can feel it.



What? You can't go back.



It's fine. I'll be tine.



They won't let you play.



Yes, they will.



With what? You're in debt

up to your neck!



Norm, it's my debt.



Okay? It's my debt.



Jesus Christ!



We never got to go fishing again.



Maybe we could go tomorrow.

We could get Dad to come.



You ask him.



 : o.



Boy, something smells good!



- Morning, everybody.

- It's the muffins.






We're so glad you could make it.



- I wouldn't miss it.

- Have any new stories to tell us?



A story?



All righty.






l have one.






I've been offered a job

at the University of Chicago.






Teaching literature.






Starting tall term.



I'm going to take it.



l am pleased.



Yes, I am pleased!



- Well.

- A professor!



A real professor.






I'm proud of you.



Be sure to take pictures.



- We're gonna catch some big fish.

- Yes, we are.



Let's go!



Remember those rocks

we used to build our fireplace?



- Those were big rocks.

- Nearly a billion years old.



- Halt a billion, Norman.

- Come on.



Well !



l believe the high road

will suit me better.



There was a time.



You'll make a killing.



He'll make a killing.



- Let's fish together today.

- Good.



- What are they biting on?

- What?



- What are they biting on?

- Louder!



l said--



Bunyon bugs.



Want me to bring you one?



No, I'll come and get it.



Bunyon bugs, stone fly number two.



Thank you, O merciful professor

of poetry and trout.



I'm going to ask Jessie to marry me.






quite a day.



Why don't you come with us

to Chicago?



It's      miles away. They've got

more than a dozen papers there.



You'd be right

in the middle of things.



What do you say?



Come with us.



I'll never leave Montana, brother.



Oh me, oh my!



Look at that fish!






At that moment I knew

surely and clearly...



that I was witnessing perfection.



You are a tine fisherman.



Only need three more years

before I can think like a fish.



You're already thinking

like a deadstone fly. Pictures!



Mother's pictures.



- Hurry up.

- One.






My brother stood before us, not

on a bank of the Big Blackfoot River...



but suspended above the earth...



free from all its laws,

like a work of art.






And I knew just as surely

and just as clearly...



that life is not a work of art...



and that the moment

could not last.



When the police awakened me one morning

before Jessie and I left for Chicago...



I rose and asked no questions.



He drove me back home

down the length of the river...



so that I could tell

my father and mother...



that Paul had been beaten to death

by the butt of a revolver...



and his body dumped in an alley.



Is there anything else you can tell me?



Nearly all the bones in his hand

were broken.



Which hand?



His right hand.



As time passed, my father struggled

for more to hold onto...



asking me again and again

had I told him everything.



Finally I said to him...



"Maybe all I really know about Paul...



is that he was a fine fisherman."



"You know more than that",

my father said.



"He was beautiful."



That was the last time

we ever spoke of my brother's death.



Indirectly, though, Paul was

always present in my father's thoughts.



l remember the last sermon

l heard him give...



not long before his own death.



Each one of us here today will,

at one time in our lives...



look upon a loved one who is in need

and ask the same question.



"We are willing to help, Lord...



but what, if anything, is needed?"



It is true we can seldom help

those closest to us.



Either we don't know what part

of ourselves to give...



or more often than not,

the part we have to give...



is not wanted.



And so it is those we live with

and should know who elude us...



but we can still love them.



We can love completely...



without complete understanding.



Now nearly all those I loved and did

not understand in my youth are dead.



Even Jessie.



But I still reach out to them.



Of course, now I'm too old

to be much of a fisherman.



And now I usually fish

the big waters alone...



although some friends

think I shouldn't.



But when I am alone

in the half-light of the canyon...



all existence seems to fade to a being

with my soul and memories...



and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot

River and a four-count rhythm...



and the hope that a fish will rise.




all things merge into one...



and a river runs through it.



The river was cut

by the world's great flood...



and runs over rocks

from the basement of time.



On some of the rocks

are timeless raindrops.



Under the rocks are the words...



and some of the words are theirs.



I am haunted by waters.



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