Tyler Sharp is a writer, photographer and filmmaker based in Austin, TX. He's currently working to preserve the Chisholm Trail and pass Bill HR2849 which would designate the trail as a National Historic Trail. You can learn more about Tyler and the Chisholm Trail Project at www.tylersharp.com
In 1981, my father and his three best friends traveled to the Paradise Valley area of Montana for business. After their work was done, they spent four days fishing in the Yellowstone River, and were hooked, literally, for life. Despite their busy careers, family lives, and commitments, they all managed to come back every year for the last 30.
Growing up, I remember seeing photos of their annual trips, and being told stories of their adventures and mishaps in the Big Sky Country of Montana; the grandeur of the scenery, the pristine conditions, and the occasional wayward wildlife that came too close for comfort. And though I had been fly fishing before, I had never been on THE fishing trip with them.
After so many years, they all decided it was time to pass on the tradition to the next generation, so my brother and I were invited on the trip this time. But our joining the group had more significance than just passing a tradition on; we were to help them do something they had wanted to do for several years, something of emotional and symbolic significance.
Four years ago, their friend, trip leader, and fishing mentor passed away. To honor his memory, they all vowed to never miss a year of the trip, do what they could to keep the tradition alive, and hold the same reverence for the Paradise Valley that he did. They had talked of doing a ceremony of some kind several times, and approached me to help them carry it out.
I had them all select their favorite photographs of him from their previous fishing trips, and think of their favorite stories and memories to share. Over the course of the trip, I had them share these stories on video, and say anything they didn’t get to say before, knowing the end result would be something they could watch, and remember forever. At the end of the trip, I was to have them burn the photographs, and release the ashes in the Yellowstone River, where their friend truly belonged.
It was such an honor to be able to come on this trip, and even more so to help my dad and his friends find a meaningful outlet for the love and respect they had for this man. And though we have all lost someone dear to us, we have not all taken the time to do something like this.
And so the following videos, in three parts, document something that we should all consider doing, whether they’re living or deceased; to honor a friend.