We'd spent a few days enjoying the scenery around the Shang-bah Monastery, hangin' with the monks when we started to get a feeling they were trying to tell us something. Our guide had left us for a few days to visit some relatives in Poo-Tahn (apparently there was some sort of oyster-fest going on there) and none of us could speak Chinese so, we were doing a lot of head-scratching and trying to figure out what the hell was so important. It obviously had to do with the catfish and the guys kept drawing a yin-yang symbol in the sand along with two fish. Then, they'd draw a line between the two fish and their eyes would get big and they'd jabber on about something very excitedly. I was wishing the guide would get back so we could figure out what was up and talk about it over a drink (I'd told him to grab some beer when he was back in town).
Well, finally he shows up, looking a little worse for the wear and smelling of some rather strange perfume. I quickly retrieved the beer from him and slammed a couple. I didn't care how warm they were, all this monk-jabbering was getting on my nerves! We got the guy unpacked and settled in and told him to have a listen to the yin-yang story. This is where things got interesting: Legend says (according to the monks) that things have been haywire in the world since the companion catfish to this one at the monastery had croaked....and that they'd been searching the hills of China for years, looking for another Red Whiskered Ridgeback to "Marry" this one here. If they did that all would be well in the world, peace would reign, guns would be tossed away, yadda-yadda. Well, they figured that I might just be the guy who knew of another such fish and... you know what? They were right. These monks don't monkey around. So, I grabbed our map and found Xishuangbanna, the place where my grandfather passed away into the great adventure in the sky and the home of the only (until now) known Red Whiskered Ridgeback. It was a hike for sure but not impossible, so we grabbed our gear and headed out. The head-monk and his successor plus a couple others accompanied us and carried the Holy Golden Bucket to transport the fish back home.
The jungles were mostly bamboo and the hills were steep but the old guy led the way like he was walking to the corner for a pack of smokes. Our guide would respectfully "suggest" a right or left turn now and then because the old guy was using "The Force" or something to guide him and his bearings were a little skewed. The country was gorgeous, vistas opened up now and then, raging rivers ran below deep cliffs and placid waterfalls fed glistening lakes. The monks stopped at one very holy waterfall (the name escapes me... Moo-Shoo?) and I couldn't help myself. In went my line! I was using a Hedrick's Hellza-Popper and you can't go wrong with that. If anything so much as drifts past that lure, it's curtains for him. Those hooks are inescapable and before I knew it, I'd snagged a Salmo Trutta: an Asian variety of the Brown Trout. One of the younger monks was very interested in my gear and I showed him a trick or two.
After three days, the terrain began to change dramatically. It looked almost as if the place had been landscaped, it was gorgeous..magical. Eventually we heard the sound of a waterfall and things started looking eerily familiar. Yes, this was the place where I'd said goodbye to the Old Man. This was the mystical home of Kyong Foi, the Red-Whiskered Ridgeback Catfish. We searched the small pond, the monks chanting prayers and clanging tiny cymbals. The head-monk and his successor prayed into the Holy Golden Bucket by the side of the pond and, as tears fell from the old man's eyes into the bucket, there in the pond next to them appeared Kyong Foi, as if to say "Take me. I'm ready to go."
The fish glowed brightly as the old monk slipped his hand into the water and gently cradled the thing. The younger monk slipped the Holy Golden Bucket into the pond and the fish glided in, simple as that.
All was to be well in the world. I laid some flowers at the spot where the Mighty Gill McFinn left this world, said a few words to the man who changed my life forever and we slipped back into the forest, heading home.