A River Runs Through It (1992) 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.

There is one yonder...

And 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 favourite, 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.

And it was there he felt his soul restored and his imagination stirred.

Long ago, rain fell on mud and became rock.

Half a billion years ago.

But even before that, beneath the rocks...

...are the words of God. Listen.

And if Paul and I listened very carefully all our lives...

...we might hear those words.

Even so, Paul and I probably received as many hours' instruction in fly-fishing...

...as we did on all other spiritual matters.

As a Presbyterian, my father believed that man by nature was a damned mess...

...and only by picking up God's rhythms could we regain power and beauty.


To him, all good things, trout as well as eternal salv ation, 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 ten o'clock and two o'clock.

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.


...half as long.

Good. Now throw it away.



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!

Hey! What the hell is going on?

Hey, where are you guys going? Chicken!


Go on, move over.

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'd been bloodied in battle.

Get him! Get him!

You sissy!

Come on!

Come on! Let's see some blood here! Go on! Lots of blood!

Go on!

Paul was different. His toughness came from some secret place inside 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 eight-year-old boy to change that tradition.


Oh, God...

...who art rich in forgiveness, grant that we may hold fast...

...the good things we receive from Thee.

And as often as we fall into sin...

...be lifted by repentence through Thy grace.


Norm, what do you wanna be when you grow up?

Minister, I guess.

Or a professional boxer.

You think you could beat Jack Johnson?

I dunno.

I think you could. I'd lay a bet on it.

What are you gonna be?

Professional fly-fisherman.

There's no such thing.

There isn't? No.

I guess... a boxer.

Not a minister?

In 1917, World War One came to Missoula...

...taking with it every able-bodied lumberjack...

...leaving the woods to old men and boys.

So at 16, I did my duty...

...and started working for the US Forest Service.

It was a life of timber and toil...

...with the men as tough as their axe handles...

...and more mountains in all directions than I would ever see again.

Too young to join me, Paul took a job as lifeguard at the municipal swimming pool.

During the day, he could look over the girls...

...and in the evenings he could pursue his other purpose in life...


# Be Thou my vision

# Oh, Lord of my heart

# Nought be all else to me save that Thou art

# Thou my best thought by day or by night

# Waking or sleeping Thy presence my light#

Preacher, come on! Please be quiet!


Look at that baby! Preacher!

Come on! Shut up!

Did I tell you what a forest fire sounds like coming down a mountain at 60mph?

Shut up!

Damn it, the forest fires!

I've got a great idea. I know how we can go down in history.

How's that?

We borrow old man Seifert's rowboat and we shoot the Chutes.

You can't shoot the Chutes, Pauley. You can try.

You can die trying.

They'd bury you with full honours. Tell them, Norm.

Well, we would be the kings of Missoula. Yeah, kings! And famous!

And all of you would get your photographs in the paper.

I'm doing it.

I am. You'll die.


Let's do it.

Come on! I'm with you!

Let's go!


All right!

# Row, row, row your boat Gently down the stream#

Let's go! Whoo!



I'll get the oars.

Whose idea was this, anyway?

Come on! This way!

# Row, row, row your boat Gently down the stream#

I need a woman!

Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

OK, we'll put it upstream.

Aagh! OK.

Flip it!

OK, hop in.

Come on! We can all fit.

I don't think so. No, I uh...

Cluck! Cluck! Cluck!


All right. Just me, Norm and Chub.

Jeez, Pauley...


Then I guess it's just the Macleans.

Be careful!

They'll come ashore.

You got it!

Let me tell you something.

See you later, boys!

On the right!

On your right! Watch right!


Look out!


Watch it! On the right, on the right!

Right! Right!

Hang on!

Oh, jeez.




Hey, Chub!


What the hell...?


Ha, ha!

Son of a...

Jesus Christ!

Crazy son of a bitch!

You guys OK? Where's...?

Preach, you OK?


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, um... We borrowed it.


Boys, what have you done?

Well, you will work off every cent of its value.

Yes, sir.

I'll work it off, Father. It was my idea.


What you making?

Know what you need on that?

Ham, cheese, sardines. Delicious. I hate sardines.

I'll show you. Can you believe those guys?

They'll be telling everyone the class of '19 did it.

I should write an article.

"Macleans Conquer Chutes. " I don't like sardines.

You could get it in the school paper, I bet.

Chub! Jeez, Pauley.

What a skeezix! I don't want any goddamn sardines!

No! Stop it!

Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop!

You hit her, you son of a bitch! You knocked her down, you bastard!

Son of a bitch! Please, I slipped, I slipped, 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 marvellous.

I'd say the Lord has blessed us all today.

It's just that he's been particularly good to me.

North Coast! Stops in Helena, Bozeman...

The year ended with my acceptance into Dartmouth College.

Sometime before, Father had told me...

...I could attend any college in the world I could get into.

I knew he earned no more than $1,800 a year...

...so his offer meant more to me than anything in my life.

Well, do your best.

I will.

All aboard!

Hey, Norman! Norm!

So, in the autumn of 1919...

...I boarded the Northern Pacific for a 3,000-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 had to enlighten incoming freshmen 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 blue-nosed 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 1926...

...that I finally did come home.

Dinner is in half an hour, so you have time for a bath.

Do I look thin, Mother?

Do I look old, Norman?

No, you look, uh...

I wish Paul could have been here tonight. He's working late.


Won't you come in?

I'm sorry Paul won't be here.

The life of a newspaperman.

Well, you know how Paul likes to...

I do.


I also hear that he...

Well, I hear everything, don't I?

The Lord forbid my flock keep me in ignorance.


You can bet that everyone from here to Helena knows all about your education.

It is an achievement.

To what use shall you put this achievement?

Uh... Well, I've been considering the Forest Service.

As a career?


No, for the summer.

As a break.

Well, that's a good idea.

The body fuels the mind. That's what I was thinking.

And after?

I'm not absolutely sure yet.

Well, you've had six years to become sure, Norman.

Have you considered an advanced degree?

The law? Medicine? No.

The ministry?

I've applied for several teaching positions.

Have you? College level, but I haven't heard yet.

No, no, it's early, but...

Now, you have taught classes already, haven't you?


And did you find that experience rewarding?

That is to say...

...do you feel this could be your calling?

My calling?

Dinner, gentlemen!

Pee in their pants?

If it's so funny, how come I'm not laughing? Yes, pee in their pants.

I got a better story.

Paul Maclean? In there.

The rules at Anaconda mines say "No breaks, not even for the john. "

So the poor bastards pee in their pants.

What about the late, uh... George Masterson!

Oh, I'll take that. She's 23 and built like a brick shithouse.

No, no! You take the Anaconda thing...

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.

Gentlemen. Hiya!

Come on!


Thanks for coming to see me last night I am sorry about that. I wanted to be there.

I wanted to hear the old man say "Norman, come into my study, please. "

Jeez, the professor!

We should celebrate!


A little early for me.

Oh! The east is making you soft.

Is that right?

Do much fishing out east?



Well, what do you say? The Big Blackfoot.

You set? Yeah.

Why don't you take this hole? It's good. No, it's all right.

No, 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 you better base, add some 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 realised that in the time I was away...

...my brother had become an artist.

And one day my coach says "Mac, how'd you like to meet John L Sullivan?"

John L Sullivan?

Yes, 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 there and listened 100 times before.

Irish or Scot? Scot.

And who had, in my absence, become men.

It just goes to show the world is full of bastards...

...the number increasing the further one gets from Missoula, Montana!


See, Professor, that's why you need to stick around here from now on.

Hey, where's the gargle?

Yes, pass this way!

I'll take you to the Fourth of July dance.

Every girl you need to know will be there... without Momma!


Find you a little Sheba.

Gentlemen, it's been swell...

...but I have to rush.

Where are you going?

Heavy date, Paul? Where you going, Pauley?

With the poker table! They got new signs on the way down.

"Does your husband misbehave?"

"Grunt 'n' grumble, rant and rave?"

"Well, 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 realised it was my father's words that made me feel most at home.

And in the glow of awakened memories...

...with the deepest feelings of the heart all a-stir...

...we are reminded of the poet who sings.

"Backward, turn backward O time in your flight Make me a child again Just for tonight. "



Recognise anybody?

Well, uh... Oh, you were gone too long, son!

Who's that?



Oh, yeah?

A little, uh, infatuation?

Chub, who is that?

Jessie Burns.

From Wolf Creek. She got a brother went to Hollywood.

Jessie Burns.

Excuse me. Would you like to dance?

Would you be a doll and get us a drink?

Jessie, who's that?

Here you are.

Here you go. Oh, great. Life-saver!

Oops! How ladylike

I'll have to be careful. I'll wipe off all the powder.

Phantom Of The Opera!

# < she sings along to the music>

# Pack up all my cares and woe

# Here I go, singin' low

# Bye-bye, blackbird...

You know, I heard, uh, Louis Armstrong sing, this, uh, song once...

...in a little speak in Greenwich Village, New York.


Best jazz in the world. Coloured jazz, you know?

The real McCoy, not like, uh...

...Paul Whiteman of the Cliquot Club Eskimos.

My mother loves the Cliquot Club Eskimos.

Does she?

# Blackbird, bye-bye!#



Yowsa, yowsa, yowsa!

Let the fireworks begin!

Come on!

Come on, Jessie!


I have a wonderful idea.

What better lesson for those girls than a trip to the reservation?

To learn a real Christian lesson in giving. Hm? Don't you think?

I'll organise it. Don't lift a finger.

Ah, thank you, Eva. This is the most charitable idea I've heard in years.

Do you know those Indian children don't even have shoes, Norman?

Mm? Are you waiting for the phone?

No, I don't have to. No, you go ahead.

OK. If you need to use it... No, no, no, I have work to do.


Hello, Mrs Hatcher.

Hello, Mrs Hatcher. I'd like...

Oh, she's fine. I'd like...

Yes, they're fine, everybody's fine. They're all fine, Mrs Hatcher.

I'd like the Burns residence, Wolf Creek, please.

Yes, Mrs Hatcher, I know it's long-distance.

Thank you.


Is Jessie there?

Oh, 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 fireworks started and...


We talked about music.

And I said I heard Louis Armstrong sing the...

Yeah, that's me.

Yeah, I was just a little nervous. Mm?

Well, because...

...you're so je ne sais quoi.

I thought maybe I could come over...

...and listen to the Cliquot Club Eskimos with your mother.


Well, I called because I wanted to see you again.

Well, um, how about Saturday?

Uh... eight?



Then I'll see you then.


I could do that again!

Hey, here they are!


Hi. Hi.

Jessie, this is my baby brother, Paul.

And this is Monasetah. Mabel.


Shall we?

What do you say, Pauley? Hey, Pauley!


Preacher! Preacher?

How are you, Murph?

Long time, long time.

Good to see you.

Uh, you know the house rules as good as I do, Paul.

No Injuns. Period.

I just flat don't like the house rules, Murph.

Me neither.

Well, what are you gonna make me do here, Pauley?

Just get us a table, for four.

Last time, Paul. Hello, Judge.


Oh, you can get him back. Get drunk and dance naked on his tables.

And beat hell out of the son of a bitch!


My darling! Hi, Paul.

They got some swell hooch here. They even wash the glasses.


What'll it be, Je... Jessie?

Uh, I'll have a martini, Paul. It is Paul?

Righty-ho! The usual for Norm...

...a gin and prune juice.

Make that a double!

Excuse me!

I'd like to order a drink, too.

Whisky... double.

So, uh... what are you doing now, Mabel?

I sell bait.

You know, you have the most beautiful hair I've ever seen.

You think I should get it bobbed? No, no, not in a million years.

Well... The candle burns at both ends.

It will not last the night.

But, ah, my foes, and oh, my friends, it gives a lovely light.

That's... nice.

How about "To my editor, the old fa... the old curmudgeon. " Excuse me.

You know, he took me off the Anaconda story.

I'm a reporter at the Bee.

I know. How do you know?

Oh, I'm famous.

The Fishing Newspaperman.

You know he fishes, too? I thought everybody knew.

Brother, you've been away a long time.

I'd say so.

Anyway, it seems my editor... The old curmudgeon!

Yes, exactly. Has been getting calls. No names, just threats.

Real threats?

Well, it's nice to know you're touching a nerve, but...

Well, what did they say? Mm?

What did they say? Mm?

What did they say? You'll have to cut it out of him.

The usual.

"The boys are gonna have to come down and pay me a little visit. "

Ah! "Fit you with a pair of concrete galoshes, see?"


I have to dance.

# < slow jazz>

Hey, hey!

Watch out!


And now, the Muskrat Ramble!


Watch it! Hey!

Get out of it!

# < slow dance starts>

I'm nowhere near as good as my brother, but would you do me the honour?

I'd love to.

"Dear Jessie, as the moon lingers a moment over the Bitterroots...

...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. "

"The memory is strengthened by the feeling of you...

...dancing in my awkward arms. "

"Norman. "


What's wrong? Who is it?

It's OK, Mother! Who is this?

I'm, uh, Norman Maclean.

Ah, he doesn't have to post bond.

He covers the police beat and has friends here.

All you have to do is look at him and take him home.

What did he do?

He hit a guy and a guy is missing a couple of teeth.

Why did he hit him?

It says here a remark was passed...

...concerning the Indian woman he was with.

Well, the guy deserved it.

You're picking your brother up too much lately.

Is that right?

Besides, he's behind in the big stud poker game at Lolo.

It's not healthy to get behind in that big game at Lolo.

Is he hurt? He's not hurt, he's just sick.

He drinks too much.

Down at Lolo, they don't drink too much.

You better go in and get your brother.

# I'm tired and I wanna go to jail

# I just had a drink about an hour ago

# It went right through my head

# No matter where I go...

# On land, or sea, or foam

# You can always hear me singing this song

# Show me the way to go home#

If you need any money, Paul, or anything else...

...I want you to know that... She lives past the slaughterhouse.

I can help.

Turn here.


Come here, Queenie, come here!

I got it! Whoo, whoo, whoo!

Look at that! Ha!

Well, the chickens haven't come home to roost yet, Al.

Not bad.

Are you all right, Norman? Clara.

Was that your jelly? Yes, it was, Ethel.

It's wonderful. Thank you so much.

And is this Norman? Yes, it is.

Yes, we're very proud of him.

Nice to have you back. Thank you.

Her daughter has turned into quite a beauty.

And there she is over there. Twenty only a week ago.

She's bright as a light, Norman.


Mr Murchison! How are you?

How are you?

How are you? Oh, quite well, thank you.

Good, good.

And this is Paul?

No, this is Norman.

Norman. Oh, Norman!

You're looking good. Yes, hasn't he grown up?

You're looking so good. Oh, Paul's here. Come on!

I'm sorry, Mother. I have to meet Jessie Burns' family at the station.

Her brother Neal's coming from California.

Oh, well now.

So I'm late. Should we have this girl over to dinner?

Perhaps, Mother.

Hello! Howdy!


Paul! Well, well...

Hey, Maclean!

Paul. Maclean.

Let me borrow those a moment. Sure, why not?

Hello, Father.

Come here, come here!

Yes, you are! No!

The Burns family ran a general store in a one-store town...

...and still managed to do badly.

This is Norman.

They were Methodists...

...a denomination my father always referred to as "Baptists who could read".

Glad to know you. It's a pleasure. This is my mother.

It's a pleasure to meet you, Norman. Jessie tells me you're a poet.

Are you 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...


Wasn't it?

She dropped out. Aunt Sally!

She can learn from you. Stick-to-activity.

Oh, now, just let the young man breathe.

He's not used to all this. He's a Presbyterian.

Ooh, he's here! 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!

You look great! You look great!

Neal, this is Norman. Norman, my brother Neal.

Hello, boy.

What, did you sit up all night on that thing?

Did you get my card from Yellowstone?

I did. I got that. What do you think about this tie?

Come on, guys. Let him breathe. He just got here.

Let's go eat. That's a good idea!

I got some chicken salad sandwiches in the car...

...and I've got some baking chickens at home.

Mrs Miller has given us some cherries so I can make your favourite pie.

Mrs Miller's still alive?

Not the home-made beer!

It was a good year!

Over the lips, past the gums, look out stomach, here she comes!

So what's the first station out there now?

When I travelled 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...

...and had to change at Salt Lake City.

There was a little hotel there that used to...

Serve oysters. ... serve oysters.

Norman, do you drink? Does he drink? Oh, a little bit.

Well, here's to the old fam-damn-ily!


Hear, hear! Fam-damn-ily.

He's just tired. It's a long trip.

At least he still has his appetite!

So how long you planning to stay, Neal?

Sport! Sport, come here!

I don't know. I miss the ocean.

What's it like?

Oh, it's big and it's blue. People ride on the waves.

I tell you, I was getting pretty good at it! Ow!

Down, man! Bad dog, bad!

Jeez, Ma! Well, you get him so excited!


Anyhoo, what was I... What was I talking about?

The water. The ocean.

Oh, yeah. Yes, yes, yes.

So we'd ride those waves all day long, all the boys...

...Ramon, me, Ronnie Coleman.

Ronald Coleman?!

Ronald Coleman? I love Ronald Coleman.

You know, people have told me I look like Ronald Coleman.

Yeah. I can't picture him riding on waves.

Some Kodak, huh?

Well, Ma...

...it's been a long trip.

Maybe you could go fishing with Norman sometime?

Hm? Yeah, that's a good idea.


Wonderful. Wouldn't it be?


Well, you do fish?

Course he does! He has a pole and everything.

Oh, yes, everybody does.

You betcha!

When's a good time for you, Norman? Oh, uh, Friday?

Friday's good.

Friday's good. What time?



Oh, yes. He'll be there. Won't you, honey?

Thank you, Norman, that's very kind of you.

Oh, my pleasure.

And... and maybe Paul could come, too?

Oh, that would be nice.

I'm sure Paul would love to go fishing with us.

Can I come? Oh, no, not this time, honey.

Let's get these things outside.

Why don't you go with Neal, Norman?

So you can make your plans.

Oh... yeah.

The only plan Neal had in mind was a trip to Black Jack's Bar...

...which was simply an old freight car set in the woods...

...where any honest policeman would be unlikely to find it.

So, it was this otter and her pups.

Now, I had a hell of a time tracking 'em, because they turn white in the winter.

After a few shots of the especially vile whisky brewed by Black Jack himself...

...Neal began to hold forth.

He'd chosen Montana subjects to spin his lies about shooting, hiking, trapping...

...probably, I figure, to impress the only other client at the bar...

...a ploy that was beginning to pay off.

Anyhoo, 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 had ridden bareback standing up through the 100 inhabitants, mostly male.

Her skirts flew high, and she won the contest.

I couldn't feel my hands! I'm thinking about my dog, Sport, that's with me.

I'm thinking "If it gets any colder...

...I just may have to slit him open and stick my hands in to keep 'em from freezing. "

It would have been a tough thing to do.

But I... Well, I did it before, up 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.

And there, on a branch...

...waiting to jump on the first deer...

...is the goddamn otter!

Hey, buster...

...what's an otter doing on the top of Rogers Pass?

I thought they swam down in the cricks.

Jack, why don't you bring this lady a whisky?

Well, I gotta shove off.

Don't forget, old boy. Friday, fishing.


What say?

They said I'd find you at your other office.

Yeah. Deadline. I can't work there.

You come for a drink?

Um... a favour.

Go fishing with me?


Well, that's marvy, because Jessie's got a brother in from California, and, um...

I'm not gonna lie to you: 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'd lay a bet on it.

I promised Jessie.

Are you getting serious?


You son of a bitch, you're getting serious. You and Jessie. Huh?

Well? I don't know.

Then I guess we ought to do it.

Whoa! Whoa!


As I live and breathe.

Buster here wants to fish.

You're late, Neal.

Yeah, I, uh, didn't get in till late.

Well, I didn't get in at all, but I was here.

Neal, Paul. Paul, Neal.

Neal, in Montana there are three things we're never late for:

...church, work, and fishing.


Anyhoo, this is...

We've met.

Don't go away.

Watch the first step - it's a lulu.

So... You ready to... Neal?

Neal! What?


Buster wants to fish.

Oh, Neal? What about the bait?

Dumb Dora!

We're not gonna catch anything, anyway. It's too damn hot.

May he get three doses of clap.

Sure glad I didn't go home and get some sleep!

Where is he?


We'll catch up.


I know, you've got twenty.

Couldn't you find him?

To hell with him. I 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.

He doesn't like Montana, and he sure as hell doesn't like me!

Well, maybe what he likes is somebody trying to help him.

You... You sank the beer, yeah?

You bet your life.


OK, let's go!

Oh, jeez! I can taste it!

Shall we kill him?

Damn it!

Holy Christ!

This is not good.

Well, she's got a tattoo.


Initials? No.


I can get in myself.

Hey, you got anything to drink, buster?

Uh, Buster's the one with the red ass.

I'm in deep trouble.

Yeah. You want me to come over and protect you?

I'm sure Mrs Burns would love to meet the girlfriend.

I ain't burned!

The sun don't bother me!


What do you think about me spending the night with you and the folks?

We'll come back here tomorrow, wipe this day off the books.

It's a deal.

Come on, buster! I'm as dry as dirt.

Hark, fair Juliet speaks.

Good luck!


Ow! Aagh!

Sweet Jesus!

What have you done to my boy?

Don't... Aagh!

What...? He fell asleep in the sun.

Oh, my Lord in heaven! It's all right.

It's all right, we'll fix it.

We'll fix it.

You left him alone, Norman?

He was... He brought someone...

...and, uh...

I think you better go home.

I need a ride home.

You better hang on!

What are you do...?

I don't think you, uh...

They send trains down here all the time, you know, without a schedule.

You're not, uh...

I don't think they can see us in here.

Well, thanks for the flight.

You know, you're funny.

Oh? How am I funny?

You, uh... You don't like my brother, do you?

No, I do not like your brother.

Look, I don't know any card tricks, Jess...

...but I like you.

And I wanna see you again.


Hello, Jess. Hey, Paul.

How's your brother? You, uh... You both left him alone.

Well, I'm sorry about that. That was my fault.

Well, you're not forgiven.

Was Norman forgiven?

Norman's not funny.


And I hung fresh towels on the washstand for you.

Won't you remember to powder my toothbrush, Mother?


Now let Paul tell his latest story.

Oh, yes, which one? The murder, the wreck or the fire?

I think they should put you on church beat.

I agree, I agree.

Quote: "The Reverend Maclean had quite 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 funny.

Uh, well, there are more important accomplishments, Norman.

Mm-hm. It's all right if you're dull, Norman.


We're very proud of you.

Well, I do have one story.

No murder, no mayhem.

I 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.

So I asked him. I went right up to him.

I said "Excuse me, sir, can you tell me what they're biting on?"

He turns around, looks at me, and says "The end of my line. "

What? The end of my line.

Then a bunch of the locals came running over...

...tied on some new-fangled fly the size of a chicken.

Old Cal, he heaves it out there.

Figured if he can't catch a trout, by God, he's gonna scare one to death.

Did you get a picture?

Oh, yeah. It'll be in the Sunday paper.

"Closed Mouth Cal Communes With The Croppies. "


Mother, that was amazing.

Yeah, he usually only eats what he can hit on the road.

That was funny.

You know, I do worry about you, Paul. I think I'm gonna run over and...

What? What?

Oh, I was just gonna say...

...I thought I'd go out and meet some of the old pals, being in town and all.

Don't you wait up. I'm planning on eating the rest of this when nobody's looking.

I 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 the car. The car won't go.

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

"Hath elsewhere it's setting, and cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home. "

Nothing can bring back the hour of splendour 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 fears.

To me, the meanest flower that blows Can give thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

Good luck, Son. We'll be rooting for you.

There's sandwiches in here for you.

It was one week ex actly before I spoke to Jessie again.

She called to tell me that Neal was going back to California...

...and that he would appreciate me seeing him off.

We love you, we love you. Good luck.

Though I was surprised by the invitation, I asked only one question of Jessie.

Did she want me to come? And she answered yes.

I love you. Don't forget to write!

If he came back next summer, would you try and help him?

If he wanted me to, I would try.

Well, he's not coming back. At least he's got friends out there.

Who, Ronald Coleman?

Why is it the people who need the most help...

...won't take it?

I don't know, Jess.


I don't...

I don't cry, Norman.

Can I show you something?

Only if it's something good.


So, what do you think? What do I think? I think it's the berries!

You do? Yeah. To get away... Chicago...

God, it's heaven!

Have you ever been? No, not anywhere.


God, congratulations, Norman!

The truth is, I'm not sure I wanna leave.

Montana, why? It'll always be here.

Not Montana. Then what?


I'm not sure I wanna leave you.

What do they know? I've just come from there. I'm having my liquid lunch.

Watch it, Fred. I'm telling you, they're after you.

You're all right if you're out of work.

Well, now.

Give us a couple of boilermakers, friend.

Two up.


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.

Well, not like her.

Oh, right.

Not like her.


I'm real happy for ya.

Well, goddamn it, let's get the hell out of here and celebrate.


#... Bananas today

# We've got home-grown potatoes

# And vine-ripened tomatoes... #

It's a stinker. What?

It stinks.

What do you mean? This is gonna be... It's a classic.

Oh, really?

# Yes, we have no bananas

# We have no bananas today#

Where are we? Where are we going?

Lolo. Yep.

I figured you felt lucky tonight. I 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. Bourbon.

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. Aw, come on, you know I'm good for it.

What do you want? What?

Cards? What?

Beat it.

What do you want?


A buck. I know Paul says he's paying, but...



No, no... Just... games.

Only games.

Let's go. Now.

Come on, we're getting outta here.


Bye-bye, sonny.

I'm not leaving. What?

These hands are hot, Norm. I can feel it.

What are you talking about? You can't go back in there!

Norm, it's fine. I'll be fine.

But they won't even let you play! Oh, yes, they will.

With what? You're in debt up to your goddamn neck!

Norm, it's my debt.

OK? It's my debt.

Jesus Christ!





I was thinking. We never got to go fishing again.

Maybe we can go tomorrow. We could get Dad to come along.


You ask him.



Boy, something smells good out there! Morning, everybody. Morning!

Want some muffins? Perfect.

I'm so glad you could make it, with work and everything.

I wouldn't miss it.

What are you working on? Do you have any new stories to tell us?

A story? Hm... All righty.

Oh, jeez.

I have one.


I've been offered a job at the University of Chicago.


Teaching literature.


Starting fall term.

I'm gonna take it.


I am pleased.

Yes, I am pleased.


A professor?

A real professor.


I'm proud of you.

Now, you be sure to take pictures.

We're gonna get some big fish. Yes, we are! Let's go!

Remember those rocks we used to go to?

Those were mean rocks. Yeah, nearly a billion years old.

Half a billion.

Come on!


...I, uh, 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!

I said...

Bunyan Bugs!

Want me to bring you one?

No! I'll come and get it.

Bunyan Bug stonefly 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 2,000 miles away. They got more than a dozen papers there.

You'd be right in the middle of things.

What do you say?

Come with us.

Oh, 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... You are a fine fisherman.

Only need three more years before I can think like a fish.

You're already thinking like a dead stonefly. Picture.

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.

And so when the police sergeant awakened me one morning...

...just 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 on to...

...asking me again and again, had I told him everything?

And 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. "

And that was the last time we ever spoke of my brother's death.

Indirectly, though, Paul was always present in my father's thoughts.

I remember the last sermon I 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 in need and ask the same question.

"We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed?"

For 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.

Eventually, 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.

And 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.