Wednesday, February 22, 2017


I had a dream, once, of a stream I knew only by name.

Photo by Matt Reilly
    Given the statistic in hours I spend regularly pouring over, scrutinizing every faint, squiggly blue line of even hopeful consequence, this is not an uncommon occurrence. Its very form—its tributaries and bends—gave way to brown trout of beastly proportions, chasing streamers meant for the likes of them. The best part was…no one else knew about it.

    In my waking hours I put more logic to the illusion. The flow in question is a tributary to a wild trout stream heavily fished in Virginia. It’s long and runs a hollow elevated more than a half-mile above sea level. It’s stocked in a short, half-mile portion, and I had reason to believe that the water downstream, leading all the way to its mouth, remains cold year-round. All of these elements are indicators of a potentially great wild trout stream.

    So I put boots on the ground. I spent a rainy fall afternoon plying its dark corners with a meaty fly. One with enough seduction and substance to persuade the kind of fish I was after, the kind of fish I had dreamed about.

    As such fishing is, the action was slow, until, about halfway through the morning, I saw a dark, trailing figure explode on my fly as I was pulling it from the water to make another cast. There was no good hookset. No real contact. And so the fish was lost to the raindrop-stippled depths and the wondering, hopeful realm of my mind that manifests itself physically, actually, sparingly.

    But I wasn’t fuming. I didn’t smack the water in disgust. As any fisherman knows, a brush with a beast is encouraging, bordering on infectious. What was an ambitious hope was realized as a more-than-possible reality.

    But was it the only fish? Were there more shouldered wild trout cruising the creek of my personal discovery? Was it a fluke? A river has many faces. A single trip is not sufficient in defining a river. So, what, in fact, had I found?

    I’ve known and had tremendous success on other rivers like this. Rivers few others fish, but hold many fish, trophy fish, regardless.

    One such water I fished for the first time at an average streamflow, on a bluebird day in early October. Local lore fills the runs and bottomless pools with trophy brown trout—the largest brown trout, it’s sometimes said, in the state of Tennessee. I never believed it, not based on my own experiences angling it, which could be counted on a single hand. But the rumors persist, and flames don’t burn in the absence of fuel.

    Four months after my orientation on said river, a window of opportunity arose. A thick layer of snow fell in early February and covered the valley irrigated by the river. Runoff brought the river’s flow up several feet. A few days after it began to recede, I had a free afternoon.

    Figuring high, falling water would be the time for any monster brown trout in the river to show their faces, I packed my biggest stick and fly box and headed for the stretch of river I knew best. I had never caught more than a handful of average-sized fish there, but the roiling current gave me hope.

    The second cast of the afternoon roused anger in a foot-long brown, which hammered a brown Woolly Bugger swung against a hemlock-lined bank.

    In the next pool, I met the rumors. She was holding perfectly in dead-still water, affected by a limestone protrusion several feet from the near bank, nose pointed into a ripping run. When I set the hook, not much moved for several seconds. Then she surged upstream, and then down, creating long, deep pulses in my fly rod. I couldn’t chase her downstream, and when she was finally tired, I lost her to the ripping current and a hole worn in her mouth by the hook.

    The next day I returned looking for the rumor I had lost. She was nowhere to be found, but, from a deep pool, I managed to pull a half dozen wild browns over 12 inches, along with several smaller ones.

    The following day, I caught, and saw, nothing.

    On this cold, windy February afternoon, there’s little to think about but the fish I haven’t caught, and the rivers I haven’t known.  I spend hours studying my maps, guessing at the potentials of various rivers and streams. I think about the places I have fished, once, maybe twice, and what they have to offer that I haven’t seen. I think about those secrets out there, waiting to be discovered, and the ones I may never get to. And when night comes, my eyes don’t close.

    I am haunted by waters.

*Originally published in The Rural Virginian

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


The weather is highly variable in southwestern Virginia, but a few things are for certain. If it’s gonna’ get cold and spit, pour, or dump snow it’s gonna’ be in February, and I’ll be holed up, sleeping late in my on-campus apartment with no school or possibility of fishing to busy me. And even after the weather has departed for the end of the month, or some surprise visit in March, and left a legacy of ice, my two-wheel-drive won’t be making it to the river, and the brown trout will be having a jolly old time in the runoff in the mountains without me. It’s a peculiar and uniquely frustrating situation to live through—like a bad trip, if you’ve got the right fascination.

Photo by Matt Reilly
    Annually, upon this occasion, I find myself waking in a gray morning without intention. A sense of urgency reaches me through the gloomy face of winter. Water levels are up, dirty, and like the dingy chaos of a river coursing with runoff, there is a haze in the air that obscures reality, clouds the known. Finned legends emerge from enigma.

    There is a spring creek that rises just off the college’s property that is of little consequence and hop-across proportions until it feeds the pond in front of the cafeteria. I walk past it several times per day, and rarely notice the water in it. But when snow or rain hit hard, the water comes up, brown and frothy, and it catches my unyielding fancy. Only in the direst of circumstances does it become a destination.

    I abandon my living quarters without breakfast or any gear, but for a fly rod and a streamer of black and purple—something that can be seen in brown water—and head for the creek.

    The raging current has worn away the banks a few feet, greatly increasing its size and creating an almost unending succession of undercut banks, accentuated by the roots of trees on the lawn, now exposed. I’ve forgotten how rocky the bed is, but the roiling current, full of soft, almost still, pockets of water, reminds me.

    There is no one in sight, but why would there be? It’s early morning and there are no classes, no cafeteria hours, no reason to leave bed. No reason but a spring creek and a burning, bordering on desperate, need to tangle with the unknown.

    My first cast is directly upstream, to the near bank. The fluorescent fly lands in a slow pillow of water, inches from the dirt. A hard jerk-strip, and the fly jack-knives headfirst under the bank, below a tangle of roots. A second brings the fly back into view, and I watch it suspend there among the turmoil.

    Excited by the performance of my fly in the water and the ease with which it’s imparted action, I send a similar second cast to the opposite bank, upstream. For a second, it sits motionless in a micro-eddy, shielded from the ripping current, but a subtle twitch brings it closer to being swept away.

    Just as the current begins to grab the fly, a wake and surge of energy grabs the fly and straightens my fly line. A paddle tail erupts recklessly from the rolling current, as the fish points its nose down into the creekbed and struggles for leverage to get upstream.

    When it achieves the perfect balance and finds water to surround its tail, the fish blazes a trail upstream, slicing through the flooded river like a bird through air, taking to the air several times, and coming down into the narrow channel perfectly every time.

    As I chase the fish upstream, my line goes limp. Like it changed its mind, the fish reverses course and begins charging downstream. This time with twice the speed. I reel like mad to maintain tension on the fish, but as it approaches my position on the bank, I can sense the leader heading for the surface.

    In a moment of supernatural confusion and instinct, I pull my net from its holster fastened to my back. The fish takes off mere feet from me, and comes crashing down into the rubber basket of my net. I drop to my knees to submerge the fish in the net, and behold its majestic novelty—a brown trout of 22 inches, or 24, or 26.

    Pleased but still frustrated, I push away covers and lumber into the kitchen. Snowed in. A late breakfast is a good breakfast, I figure, and crack some eggs in a frying pan—the kitchen a refuge from the frozen windows and tile floor. I’ll spend the day tying streamers to target browns when I can finally get on the water. Something black, with some purple for contrast, maybe. Or perhaps something bright, to catch their interest.

*Originally published in The Rural Virginian

Thursday, January 12, 2017


It’s remarkable to me that the society that I’m familiar with has gone and made just about every holiday about getting things, and stolen the attention away from their real meanings and the personal relationships that make these times special. Maybe it’s just my individual perspective, but it seems a bit backwards.

Photo by Matt Reilly.

    Even our most family-oriented (might I say, wholesome?) holiday, Thanksgiving, which is confounded by no Easter baskets or Christmas gifts, and which is intended as a day of thanks for the bounty of life, is immediately followed by perhaps the greediest day of the year, Black Friday. The premise of Black Friday is not necessarily greedy. In fact, it’s the opposite—to provide shoppers good deals on items they wish to give as gifts for Christmas, a religious holiday hijacked by marketing and turned into an occasion of exceptional decadence.

     The cultural standard of Christmas presents as materialistic is, in my experience, so strong that even the idea of gifting “quality time” is seen as “cheap” or a cop-out by many, though too many of us don’t spend enough of it with the people who count. After all, to those ni your life you can be either a do-er or a be-er. You can do things—buy presents, support financially. Or you can be things—a cherished fishing buddy, friendly company in the deer woods. If you can guess anything from the tone of this article so far, you might guess I prefer the latter.

     Nevertheless, I made a Christmas list this year. Some of the things I got. Some I didn’t. But, on the eve of another college semester, as I write this, the ones I got are more than enough.

     On the top of my list was a musky—that long, mean, toothed fish of my most recent dreams that I have yet to lay a hand on. And that musky was to be, by its very elusiveness, a team effort, put in the boat by one of a handful of fishing friends with which I have the pleasure of floating with just a handful of times in a year. After all, musky fishing is mostly hanging out with friends in a boat freezing your butt off and smiling and talking about the good times. It’s admittedly a miserable time, at times, but a mighty fine retreat any day.

    I’m not a duck hunter, at least not by upbringing. I’ve been meaning to get my feet wet in the sport of waterfowling, though, and that inaugural trip was second on my Christmas list. A long-time school friend of mine and I have long been wanting to hunt together over winter break. He’s a neighbor, and yet it never seems to work out. There’s a river—a small one—not far from our homes that is floatable by canoe and that flows through public land. A jump-shoot of sorts was the medium for the meetup, and the ducks the added bonus. The cherry on top.

     I am an upland bird hunter by upbringing, though you wouldn’t guess it. The poor situation of upland species in Virginia is partially to blame, but I’ve been known to saunter through a few riverbottoms following a beloved setter on occasion with an eye for woodcock. I’d heard of a local resident population of the birds, not subject to the seasonal migrations of the “mainstream” population, and resolved to take my dad, a woodcock enthusiast who’s not fired a shotgun at one in some time, and our Irish setter, Maggie, out one day in search. That was wish number three.

    Friend, magazine editor, and fishing guide, Chris McCotter, the man who gave me my first ever magazine assignment, and a character I haven’t spent time with in several years, reconnected shortly before the holiday season, and made plans to fish Lake Anna, where he operates a guide service, over my winter break. It was, of course, tentative, as all outdoor plans are, and so I hoped Christmas would bring me that chance to rekindle a friendship and see a part of the state I’ve been missing.

    Truth be told, a few of these Christmas wishes weren’t granted, but they are still valuable to me. In this hour of my life, when free time is relatively abundant (some may say) but seasonally available, I’ve come to cherish moments with those I see rarely, and the novel outings that I know I’ll remember for a long time. Those gifts, in my mind, are what the “holiday season” is all about.

*Originally published in The Rural Virginian

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


The air was cold as we stood by the put-in on the upper James River at sunrise, rafts unloaded and tied off. Ten-weight fly rods rigged with sinking lines; leaders of 80-pound fluorocarbon; and foot-long, triple-articulated bucktail flies were strung and loaded, along with fly boxes, dry bags, and a net as wide as the boat. Smiles and adrenaline-induced trembles were all around.

Photo by Matt Reilly

    We hadn’t seen a fish in a full day of fishing, but there was another new day ahead of us. Maybe we would see a fish. Maybe we’d have one show interest in one of our flies. Maybe we’d catch one. Maybe we wouldn’t. That’s musky fishing.

    What’s not to love about a fish with the potential to reach lengths of over 50 inches; that sports a shovel maw of razor sharp teeth; and that chases down and eats full-grown sunfish, chubs, and suckers, best imitated by massive streamers?

    Perhaps their sheer elusiveness, their fickle stomachs, and their habit of following flies to the boat without eating. For Ben Rogers, in the raft with friend and Albemarle Angler guide, Spotswood Payne, it’s been five full days of hard fishing since he’s seen a musky. Not caught but seen. Almost 50 hours of casting heavy gear in cold, winter weather without seeing anything more than empty river. But that’s musky fishing, and that’s what makes the sport so infuriatingly addicting.

    “The fish of 10,000 casts,” they call the mighty musky, and though it’s maybe a slight exaggeration, the sentiment is effective. As I row downriver through the thawing December morning, both rower and fisherman in each raft is devoted to the bank and to his fly, to teasing mystery from the darkest, deepest corners of the river, in hopes that it shows itself as a fish. Every cast, every pass on a piece of structure, every day spent on the water is another attempt at striking the low odds.

    We dropped into a long flat of slow, deep water around 10 AM. My fly struck bottom and lodged on a rock. As we rowed closer to retrieve it, the long, wavering form of a musky backed off from the rock where the fly was stuck, back into the abyss. We were on the board. To get a follow—to have a fish take interest in your fly—that’s success in the game of musky fishing.

    In the tail of the same flat, Spotswood had a follow on his fly—had the fish to the boat, but not hooked. So we backed off and rowed back upstream, and hit the same bank with both boats in succession. It’s perceived that musky sometimes need a wakeup call. The second boat in the string, more often than not, gets the fish to eat. So second passes are necessary over fish that have been seen, though nothing came of that one. Two more sightings came in the tail, as we prepared to shoot the rapids to the next hole.

    After noon, we dropped into yet another flat, this one deeper, darker, and more promising, as the streamflow on the James is less-than-ideal. Low and exceptionally clear doesn’t leave much room for mystery and sulking musky.

    David Gregory, who rode in the bow of my 14-foot raft, had hooked a 46-inch musky on his first float on that very same flat. It’s been 12 trips for him, and one year, since that fish, and he hasn’t boated another. But that’s musky fishing.

    We worked both banks through the flat diligently, twice. David yelled “musky!” as I was figure-eighting, pointing to a fish from the rower’s seat that was deep beneath my fly. Because musky are ambush predators, they can often be triggered to strike by a side-profile of prey, which they can t-bone with their shovel mouths. For this reason, we strip our flies to a few feet from the rod tip, stick it several feet under the water, and stir the river in a figure-eight pattern after every retrieve. Evidently a fish gave my fly a look as I was doing this, but I didn’t see it in time to react, and the fish moved on. A chance missed. That’s musky fishing.

    We neared the takeout as the sun was retreating and the chill of winter night was reborn. I had another musky come out from underneath the boat and take a look at my fly, but moved on without consequence.

    Eight hours of fishing with six fish sighted and four follows was counted as a success, though no fish were boated. As we rowed the final stretch to the takeout in the dim evening, there was joking and light spirits, and plans of sticking it to the fish tomorrow, hopeful that then cast number 10,000 would come. That’s musky fishing.

*Originally published in The Rural Virginian

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


I don’t like killing things.

Photo by Matt Reilly
    That may come as an unexpected confession from one who loves the sport of hunting, and has a somewhat precipitous body count in the area of squirrels and deer. I’ve got a lot of blood on my hands—not in the least figuratively. No more, though, than any regular consumer of meat. I don’t like killing things, but I don’t think twice about it.

    Every year, there’s a first blood. The hunting seasons take a siesta for the summer, and I join them, wet-wading the creeks and farm ponds of Central Virginia, casting flies and spinners for the usual warmwater varieties. The return of autumn and crisp days brings the annual opening days, and the ensuing fight between life and death that rages in the woods between man and beast, in the dying embers of hardwood trees. Some years it’s a squirrel. Some a bird flushed from cover. Some, a deer that gives its life and welcomes me back.

    This year, it was a deer. A six-point buck, built like a race horse. I took its life in the young of a harsh October morning. Squirrels danced haphazardly in the limber crowns of sweet gums, and resident geese onk-or-ed on high, on their way to splash-down in the nearby pond. He was relaxed, munching on clover in the gray shadow of a pine thicket, as the sky illuminated a bluebird sky, before beams of sunlight could get a direct shot at the ground. He was preparing for the day with a trip to the clover patch.

    My shot was good. He rolled over in his tracks, before the foul effect of adrenalin could marinate his muscles with the taste of death. I have no precise body count, but the cosmic tally he marked was one of several. My nerves are considerably calmer prior to the shot now than they were years ago with my first. I don’t like killing, but I understand it, and I embrace it. And I’ve learned to do it with dignified purpose.

    A sliver of guilt flashed through my mind as I approached the buck and took a knee. Of course, his spirit had long since departed, but it’s a motion I require of myself, to pay respects to the dearly departed.

    Dearly? Perhaps if I enjoyed the act of killing, I would not be so attached to the animal, so profoundly touched by its passing. But Dearly? The offensive voices of a defensive, out-of-touch society scream at me: What reasons have you for killing this creature? Is your life worth more than its?

    It is not. I know that there is no hierarchy in the value of lives. There is only predator and prey. In that moment of sustenance acquisition, I thought of the coyotes and the rabbits that probably jumped at the echo of my rifle shot through the pine thicket. One’s existence is dictated by the other in a series of checks—the coyotes’ by the health of the rabbit population; the rabbits’ by the vitality of the coyote population. I thought of the rearing of a pup coyote, and the rite of passage that was its first kill—the rite of passage that was my first kill—and the realization that in order for one to live, another must die.

    This realization I revisit annually, in some holy October arena lit by the dim light of a waning or waxing day. And though I do not enjoy killing, I have come to cherish the emotional consequences. To take a life and stare into the inanimate eyes of a fellow being is to declare one’s own mortality, to claim a culturally forgotten equivalence within the ecosystem, a clear position within the food web.

    These consequences I hold as advantages over the faction of humanity far-removed from the drama of nature—to experience in their rawest form remorse for loss of a life, respect for a departed champion of their environment, integrity as a steward of the Earth, thankfulness for a bounty endowed unto me, human for my inclusion in all of it. And I promise my continued participation to the animal and to the Earth in repayment for the perspective.

*Originally published in The Rural Virginian

Friday, December 16, 2016


I caught a beaver once. Rather, I almost did.

Photo by Matt Reilly

    One summer evening I was bass fishing a small farm pond when I eyed hopefully a beaver hut in a few feet of water. I delivered a plastic worm to the doorstep, let it sink, and gave it a small lift off the lake bottom with my rod tip. Animated resistance brushed the hook and jumped through the line into my hand, and I set the hook with gusto. The hook didn’t drive home, but an ovular, chocolate mat of hair breached at the end of my line and slammed the door with its paddle tail—communicating its lack of enthusiasm for my housewarming gift and sending water a story into the air.

    A similar thing occurred another summer while dry fly fishing a promising run on the Moosehead Region’s Roach River. My gaze hadn’t yet found the hut on the far bank when a coffee-colored submarine (that would have quadrupled the state’s brook trout record) rose out of the center of the run towards my stimulator as I stood by dumfounded and struggling to react. It of course bypassed my fly and headed for cover, but not before I had time to reflect upon its bizarre choice of behavior. Had I been nymphing, I surely would have had him.

    Both occurrences are memorable and, I often think, might have been more so had I succeeded in placing a hook in beaver flesh. But I’ve seen—and heard at midnight in a swamp—what kind of power those oversized rodents can command with their tail, in a pinch—not to mention their infamous caramel incisors—and I count my lucky stars it didn’t end up that way.

    Surf casters know a kindred issue, especially if they’re doing it right. Birds and predator fish both chase bait, rolling in a dizzying tornado of adrenaline that the surf caster is charged with threading a weighted object dressed with treble hooks through from a distance. Thus the star-crossed gull occasionally finds itself smacked into a downward spiral by the spoon-shaped hand of God and subsequently skittered over the surface and sharks onto the beach to be toyed with by a herd of bumbling humans.

    I’ve known a handful of individuals to have completed the feat and released the seagull to return to its position as bowling pin of the surf—an honorable accomplishment given the general temperament of a hooked gull. And though it’s a conversation starter in some briny circles, it’s hardly a pleasant undertaking in the moment.

    Likewise, loons patrolling the more heavily fished brook trout ponds of Maine have decided their role in catch and release. As accomplished swimmers, they’ll dive from a safe spectator’s distance to nab the struggling brook trout produced by a canoe and a fisherman’s bent rod.

    This understandably incites some frenzy in the fisherman, and though I’ve never personally been faced with the task of removing a fly from the gullet of a loon, I can’t imagine them to be ideal canoe company.

    The snapping turtle would argue its superior displeasantry. It’s my theory that the Old Man was in the beginning stages of snapping turtle sculpting when serpentina opened its beak with an aggressive hiss and was flipped down into the farm ponds of the world pissed off.

    I have a grandfather who caught one measuring over two feet long with rod and reel, once, from a john boat on the lake in Tidewater Virginia where he built his home. It was “landed,” so to speak, and the shell promptly spray painted orange so as to be seen from a distance, and avoided at all costs.

    I remember it vividly, as I do the evening I spent casting dry flies to rising rainbows and browns on a very low Pine Creek in north-central Pennsylvania. The sun was dropping below the horizon and I was praying for a trout to have a moment of poor judgement. As I reached out further, to another rising fish, my backcast tipped a shoot of broomsedge on the bank behind me. Only when I turned to take stock of the situation, the perked ear of a black bear was frighteningly close to that waving grass shoot.

    I counted my lucky stars as the bear cursed my foul casting ability, and pondered the consequences of landing a #14 brown caddis a job as an earring. Today I tell that story with pride, though it could have ended in tragedy. And I go on my normal way, casting to trout and smallmouth, avoiding the oddities at all costs.

*Originally published in the Rural Virginian

Thursday, December 15, 2016


It's been a while since I put fly in water. A while by my standards.

    The southwestern corner of Virginia has been experiencing a drought that's run on since early September. And once the smallmouth fishing slowed in October and trout fishing would have theoretically taken over, streamflows bottomed out. So, for lack of ideal opportunity, I yielded to my duties to academics, to my freshmen residents, and to writing, disheartened by the environmental condition, and chivalrous towards the fish in their stressed state.

    Dare I say, it's been the better part of a month since I've strung up my four weight and felt the chill of mountain water and the slime of a wild trout on my hands. A sharp contrast to my summer's industry, fishing darn near every day, pausing to hear what carries me in the mountains, and fulfilling passion as often. Despite the weight of final exams mashing pedal to metal and the oncoming roller coaster of the holiday season, time has slowed to a crawl, like the flat, meandering trudge of the South Fork of the Holston creeping through defoliating hollows. I’ve grown less tolerant of daily disturbances. Life, through my eyes, is less rich without the regular return to nature.

    It's been nearly a month and in that time there have been several deadlines. Several deadlines that were not met clacking excitedly away at the computer, eyes still sparkling, translating the majesty of brook trout and a mountain stream explored over the weekend, or the sense of accomplishment at duping a sex-crazed brown from the South Fork into tearing into a streamer before class. In these periods of real-time inspirational drought, I dive into reflection, focus on a memorable or defining moment, and celebrate it. For what means bounty without shortage?

    It's been...24 days since I last set foot in my home water, but today I'm breaking the streak. Such a hiatus constitutes an emergency, and I have to tend to it, regardless of reward. I've long been proud of my ability to adjust to different angling situations, and have regarded time on the water as a powerful exercise in realignment and realized identity. After all, what means a singing stream without the whisper of drought?

    The water is cold, despite its level, as I slosh my way upstream through the familiar vein that slices through thousands of acres of national forest land. The sun pulls the barren forms of hardwoods over its face. My mind expands into the hills and then sounds inward like the rapidly branching plot of a soul-striking novel. I am home again.

    The usual riffles and runs are choked, empty and exposed, but the deeper holes retain promise. A small black stonefly nymph dropped quietly at the head of a large aqueous bowl rouses the spirit of a wild rainbow typical of this stream.

    Mine is roused, too. It's been a while.

    In that time, we, the American people, elected a new head of state. There were struggles before him—against the movement for federal land transfer, for action on climate change, for a healthy transition to a more sustainable future—but they were catalyzed by a statesman who believed in such things. The newly elected has made clear his intentions of slamming shut that policy window, with interest in coal and oil over the health of the Earth, favoring impolitic lust for capital over survival. Progress is always hard. Sometimes it’s harder. But what is a movement without opposition? Passion without test?

    It is admittedly difficult to maintain hope in light of these events, standing in the stagnant nature of autumn-thus-far in the Southeast. In a puddle of a river once coursing. In 70 degrees in November. In a drought egged on by the hottest summer on record. Watching the fall brown trout season evaporate, and the story potential of my favorite season squandered. Such stressors even the river can’t save me from, and so my stimulus-starved mind rages, hungry for action. I could give up. But I can’t.

    It’ll be a while—that much I’m sure of. Winter, probably, before the return of seasonal rainfall, and the restoration of a healthy fishing pattern and flow of stories to write. Four years, at least, before the majority of representative government stands faithfully on the side of the Earth and the rivers and streams that support the sporting lifestyle we live.

    The water will rise, once again, and the fishing, the writing, the fighting will be easier. But integrity keeps on when the going gets tough. So in the meantime, I’ll be at the river, persisting, waiting. For what means victory without struggle? 

*Originally published in the Rural Virginian