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
After three days of wonderful fishing, humbling scenery, and the best kind of fellowship this world has to offer, it was time for my father and his friends to formally do what they had set out to do; honor their friend. They had all promised each other at Zimmys’ funeral that they would do something symbolic; something that honored his spirit, and his profound love for the Paradise Valley. It was to be a way for them to say goodbye, and in their own way, lay part of him to rest in the place that he loved most.
So after sifting through the thirty or so years’ worth of photos from their trips, they all selected their favorite. Each photo had a different story, and meant something unique to each of them, but all shared the same love and respect for this friend, father, and fishing mentor. I had been making casual suggestions over the course of the 3 days, coaching them on what to think about in case they were nervous or camera shy, but they all knew exactly what they wanted to say. They had been thinking about it for years now, and this was a meaningful chance to say another farewell.
On the last night of our trip, after a few drams of whiskey for courage, the 4 of us waded out into the Yellowstone. The sun was setting in the mountains around us, and the water was brisk in the dusk. I let the camera roll, and told them to take their time, and say what they meant to say. And as I listened to them speak of their fond memories with Zimmy, and of how much they missed him, I was no longer just observing this memorial, I was tangibly experiencing it.
They took turns burning the photos, and placed the flaming remains into the old cowboy hat that had made the trip for several decades. And with a plunge of the hat underwater, and a few words of farewell, the ashes were taken with the current of the Yellowstone River, bearing Zimmys’ spirit onward. Whether you’re a spiritual person or not, you could feel his presence there, kept alive and present by the love and respect of his three best friends.
It is my honor that these words, and these videos now represent a memorial for my father and his friends that will last forever, and remind them of their friend. Now Zimmy is back where he belongs, in the timeless beauty of the Paradise Valley, where he will be honored and remembered every time we go back, for the next thirty years.