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lit outdoors

No amount of modification can substitute the man-made piano for the real thing

Thomas McGuane takes a shot at describ­ing what it's like to land a tar­pon:

The clos­est thing to a tar­pon in the mate­r­i­al world is the Stein­way piano. The tar­pon, of course, is a game fish that runs to extreme sizes, while the Stein­way piano is mere­ly an enor­mous musi­cal instru­ment, large­ly wood­en and manip­u­lat­ed by a series of keys. How­ev­er, the tar­pon when hooked and run­ning reminds the angler of a piano slid­ing down a pre­cip­i­tous incline and while jump­ing makes cav­i­ties and explo­sions in the water not unlike a series of pianos falling from a great height. If the read­er, then, can spec­u­late in terms of pianos that herd and pur­sue mul­let and are them­selves shaped like exag­ger­at­ed her­rings, he will be a very long way toward see­ing what kind of thing a tar­pon is. Those who appre­ci­ate nature as we find her may rest in the knowl­edge that no amount of mod­i­fi­ca­tion can sub­sti­tute the man-made piano for the real thing — the tar­pon. Where was I?

I came across this in The Best Amer­i­can Sports Writ­ing of the Cen­tu­ry, an absolute­ly killer col­lec­tion edit­ed by David Hal­ber­stam, but you can check it out in the SI Vault: "The Longest Silence," by Thomas McGuane.