This is the autopsy of Trout Fishing in America as if Trout

Fishing in America had been Lord Byron and had died in

Missolonghi, Greece, and afterward never saw the shores

of Idaho again, never saw Carrie Creek, Worsewick Hot

Springs, Paradise Creek, Salt Creek and Duck Lake again.

The Autopsy of Trout Fishing in America:

“The body was in excellent state and appeared as one that

had died suddenly of asphyxiation. The bony cranial vault

was opened and the bones of the cranium were found very

hard without any traces of the sutures like the bones of a

person 80 years, so much so that one would have said that

the cranium was formed by one solitary bone. . . . The

meninges were attached to the internal walls of the cranium

so firmly that while sawing the bone around the interior to

detach the bone from the dura the strength of two robust men

was not sufficient. . . . The cerebrum with cerebellum

weighed about six medical pounds. The kidneys were very

large but healthy and the urinary bladder was relatively

small. ”

On May 2, 1824, the body of Trout Fishing in America

left Missolonghi by ship destined to arrive in England on the

evening of June 29, 1824.

Trout Fishing in America’s body was preserved in a cask

holding one hundred-eighty gallons of spirits: 0, a long way

from Idaho, a long way from Stanley Basin, Little Redfish

Lake, the Big Lost River and from Lake Josephus and the

Big Wood River.


Last night a blue thing, the smoke itself, from our campfire

drifted down the valley, entering into the sound of the bell-

mare until the blue thing and the bell could not be separated,

no matter how hard you tried. There was no crowbar big

enough to do the job.

Yesterday afternoon we drove down the road from Wells

Summit, then we ran into the sheep. They also were being

moved on the road.

A shepherd walked in front of the car, a leafy branch in

his hand, sweeping the sheep aside. He looked like a young,

Skinny Adolf Hitler, but friendly.

I guess there were a thousand sheep on the road. It was

hot and dusty and noisy and took what seemed like a long

time .

At the end of the sheep was a covered wagon being pulled

by two horses. There was a third horse, the bellmare, tied

on the back of the wagon. The white canvas rippled in the

wind and the wagon had no driver. The seat was empty.

Finally the Adolf Hitler, but friendly, shepherd got the

last of them out of the way. He smiled and we waved and said

thank you.

We were looking for a good place to camp. We drove down

the road, following the Little Smoky about five miles and

didn’t see a place that we liked, so we decided to turn around

and go back to a place we had seen just a ways up Carrie Creek.

“I hope those God-damn Sheep aren’t on the road, ” I said.

We drove back to where we had seen them on the road

and, of course they were gone, but as we drove on up the

road, we just kept fellowing sheep shit. It was ahead of us

for the next mile.

I kept looking down on the meadow by the Little Smokey,

hoping to see the sheep down there, but there wasn’t a sheep

in sight. only the shit in front of us on the road.

As if it were a game invented by the spincter muscle, we

knew what the score was. shaking our heads side to side,


Then we went around a bend and the sheep burst like a

roman candle all over the road and again a thousand sheep

and the shepherd in front of us, wondering what the fuck. The

same thing was in our minds.

There was some beer in the back seat. It wasn’t exactly

cold, but it wasn’t warm either. I tell you I was really embarrassed.

I took a bottle of beer and got out of the car.

I walked up to the shepherd who looked like Adolf Hitler,

but friendly.

“I’m sorry, ” I said.

“It’s the sheep, ” he said. (0 sweet and distant blossoms

of Munich and Berlin!) “Sometimes they are a trouble but it

all works out.”

“Would you like a bottle of beer?” I said. “I’m sorry to

put you through this again. ”

“Thank you, ” he said, shrugging his shoulders. He took

the beer over and put it on the empty seat of the wagon.

That’s how it looked. After a long time, we were free of the

sheep. They were like a net dragged finally away from the


We drove up to the place on Carrie Creek and pitched the tent and took our goods out of the car and piled them in the tent.

Then we drove up the creek a ways, above the place where

there were beaver darns and the trout stared back at us like

fallen leaves.

We filled the back of the car with wood for the fire and I

caught a mess of those leaves for dinner. They were small

and dark and cold. The autumn was good to us.

When we got back to our camp, I saw the shepherd’s wagon

down the road a ways and on the meadow I heard the bellmare

and the very distant sound of the sheep.

It was the final circle with the Adolf Hitler, but friendly,

shepherd as the diameter. He was camping down there for

the night. So in the dusk, the blue smoke from our campfire

went down and got in there with the bellmare.

The sheep lulled themselves into senseless sleep, one following

another like the banners of a lost army. I have here a very

important message that just arrived a few moments ago.

It says “Stalingrad. ”



Long live our friend the revolver !

Long live our friend the machine-gun!

–Israeli terrorist chant

One April morning in the sixth grade, we became, first by

accident and then by premeditation, trout fishing in America


It came about this way: we were a strange bunch of kids.

We were always being called in before the principal for

daring and mischievous deeds. The principal was a young

man and a genius in the way he handled us.

One April morning we were standing around in the play

yard, acting as if it were a huge open-air poolhall with the

first-graders coming and going like poolballs. We were all

bored with the prospect of another day’s school, studying


One of us had a piece of white chalk and as a first-grader

went walking by, the one of us absentmindedly wrote “Trout

fishing in America” on the back of the first-grader.

The first-grader strained around, trying to read what was

written on his back, but he couldn’t see what it was, so he

shrugged his shoulders and went off to play on the swings.

We watched the first-grader walk away with “Trout fishing

in America” written on his back. It looked good and

seemed quite natural and pleasing to the eye that a first-

grader should have “Trout fishing in America” written in

chalk on his back.

The next time I saw a first-grader, I borrowed my friend’s

piece of chalk and said, “First-grader, you’re wanted over


The first-grader came over to me and I said, “Turn


The first-grader turned around and I wrote “Trout fishing

in America” on his back. It looked even better on the second

first-grader. We couldn’t help but admire it. “Trout fishing

in America.” It certianly did add something to the first-

graders. It compleated them and gave them a kind of class

“It reallt looks good, doesn’t it?”


“There are a lot more first-graders over there by the monkey-


“Yeah. ”

“Lets get some more chalk.”


We all got hold of chalk and later in the day, by the end of

lunch period, almost all of the first-graders had “Trout fishing

in America” written on their backs, girls included.

Complaints began arriving at the principal’s office from

the first-grade teachers. One of the complaints was in the

form of a little girl.

“Miss Robins sent me, ” she said to the principal. “She

told me to have you look at this.”

“Look at what?” the principal said, staring at the empty


“At my back, ” she said.

The little girl turned around and the principal read aloud,

“Trout fishing in America.”

“Who did this?” the principal said.

That gang of sixth-graders,” she said. “The bad ones.

They’ve done it to all us first-graders. We all look like this.

“Trout fishing in America.’ What does it mean? I just got

this sweater new from my grandma. ”

“Huh.’Trout fishing in America, ” the principal said.”Tell

Miss Robins I’11 be down to see her in a little while,” and

excused the girl and a short time later we terrorists were

summoned up from the lower world.

We reluctantly stamped into the principal’s office, fidgeting

and pawing our feet and looking out the windows and yawning

and one of us suddenly got an insane blink going and putting

our hands into our pockets and looking away and then back

again and looking up at the light fixture on the ceiling, how

much it looked like a boiled potato, and down again and at the

picture of the principal’s mother on the wall. She had been a

star in the silent pictures and was tied to a railroad track.

“Does ‘Trout fishing in America’ seem at all familiar to

you boys?” the principal said. “I wonder if perhaps you’ve

seen it written down anywhere today in your travels? ‘Trout

fishing in America.’ Think hard about it for a minute.”

We all thought hard about it.

There was a silence in the room, a silence that we all

knew intimately, having been at the principal’s office quite a

few times in the past.

“Let me see if I can help you,” the principal said. “Perhaps

you saw ‘Trout fishing in America’ written in chalk on

the backs of the first-graders. I wonder how it got there.”

We couldn’t help but smile nervously.

“I just came back from Miss Robin’s first-grade class,”

the principal said. “I asked all those who had ‘Trout fishing

in America’ written on their backs to hold up their hands,and

all the children in the class held up their hands, except one

and he had spent his whole lunch period hiding in the lavatory.

What do you boys make of it . . . ? This ‘Trout fishing in

America’ business?”

We didn’t say anything.

The one of us still had his mad blink going. I am certain

that it was his guilty blink that always gave us away. We

should have gotten rid of him at the beginning of the sixth


“You’re all guilty, aren’t you?” he said. “Is there one of

you who isn’t guilty? If there is, speak up. Now. ”

We were all silent except for blink, blink, blink, blink, blink.

Suddenly I could hear his God-damn eye blinking. It was very much

like the sound of an insect laying the 1, 000, 000th egg of our


“The whole bunch of you did it. Why? . . . Why ‘Trout

fishing in America’ on the backs of the first-graders?”

And then the principal went into his famous E=MC2 sixth-

grade gimmick, the thing he always used in dealing with us.

“Now wouldn’t it look funny, ” he said. “If I asked all your

teachers to come in here, and then I told the teachers all to

turn around, and then I took a piece of chalk and wrote ‘Trout

fishing in America’ on their backs?”

We all giggled nervously and blushed faintly.

“Would you like to see your teachers walking around all

day with ‘Trout fishing in America’ written on their backs,

trying to teach you about Cuba? That would look silly, wouldn’t

it? You wouldn’t like to see that would you? That wouldn’t do

at all, would it?”

“No,” we said like a Greek chorus some of us saying it

with our voices and some of us by nodding our heads, and

then there was the blink, blink, blink.

“That’s what I thought, ” he said. “The first-graders look

up to you and admire you like the teachers look up to me and

admire me, It just won’t do to write ‘Trout fishing in America’

on their backs. Are we agreed, gentlemen?”

We were agreed.

I tell you it worked every God-damn time.

Of course it had to work.

“All right, ” he said. “I’ll consider trout fishing in Ameri-

ca to have come to an end. Agreed?”

“Agreed. ”

“Agreed ?”

“Agreed. ”

“Blink, blink. ”

But it wasn’t completely over, for it took a while to get

trout fishing in America off the clothes of the first-graders.

A fair percentage of trout fishing in America was gone the

next day. The mothers did this by simply putting clean

clothes on their children, but there were a lot of kids whose

mothers just tried to wipe it off and then sent them back to

school the next day with the same clothes on, but you could

still see “Trout fishing in America” faintly outlined on their

backs. But after a few more days trout fishing in America

disappeared altogether as it was destined to from its very

beginning, and a kind of autumn fell over the first grade.



Dear Trout Fishing in America,

last week walking along lower market on the way to work

saw the pictures of the FBI’s TEN MOST WANTED MEN in

the window of a store. the dodger under one of the pictures

was folded under at both sides and you couldn’t read all of it.

the picture showed a nice, clean-cut-looking guy with freckles

and curly (red?) hair



Aliases: Richard Lawrence Marquette, Richard

Lourence Marquette


26, born Dec. 12, 1934, Portland, Oregon

170 to 180 pounds


light brown, cut short


Complexion: ruddy Race:

white Nationality: American


auto body w

recapper, s

survey rod

arks: 6″ hernia scar; tattoo “Mom” in wreath on

ight forearm

ull upper denture, may also have lower denture.

Reportedly frequents

s, and is an avid trout fisherman.

(this is how the dodger looked cut off on both sides and you

couldn’t make out any more, even what he was wanted for.)

Your old buddy, Pard

Dear Pard,

Your letter explains why I saw two FBI agents watching a

trout stream last week. They watched a path that came down

through the trees and then circled a large black stump and

led to a deep pool. Trout were rising in the pool. The FBI

agents watched the path, the trees, the black stump, the pool

and the trout as if they were all holes punched in a card that

had just come out of a computer. The afternoon sun kept

changing everything as it moved across the sky, and the FBI

agents kept changing with the sun. It appears to be part of

their training.

Your friend,

Trout Fishing in America

Analysis, meaning and summary of Richard Brautigan's poem Part 4 of Trout Fishing in America

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Richard Brautigan better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.