Barry Flory fishing

Barry Flory finds peace fishing the Conestoga River for catfish.

Just one more time. One last time. But not yet.

Dressed in a long-sleeved white dress shirt and black sweatpants, Barry L. Flory removes his oxygen mask and plops down on the well-worn top of a picnic table overlooking the Conestoga River near Lancaster city’s Conestoga Pines Park.

He sets about baiting his not-fancy rod and reel with a golf ball-sized doughball made up of a family recipe of stinky ingredients not to be revealed in print. He casts into the river, lets the weighted catfish bait sink to the bottom and sits back down, perfectly content for a long wait.

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Barry Flory rigs his fishing line before casting into the Conestoga River.

Faith and grit bring him to this spot several times a week. It’s not easy. He has kidney and bladder cancer, one kidney is gone and collapsed lungs require him to be sucking oxygen with anything other than minimal effort. All this at age 66.

He lost his second wife, Diana, three years ago to a series of heart attacks and strokes. Flory was there for her every day during the slow slide. When he was diagnosed with cancer during the care, he ignored it to be with his wife. Didn’t have time.

When Diana died, he gave in to the pesky doctors and let them have at his body. He never had time to grieve for his beloved, whom he missed like life itself.

He admits that he was depressed when he underwent the first surgery. “I was totally at peace and prepared to not wake up. But I did, so I said, ‘Here we go.’ ”

The Reformed Mennonite Church member from East Lampeter Township continues, “I will take whatever the Lord gives me. He has me here for a reason. What else you got? Bring it! I don’t see any other way for me to attack the world.”

Growing up while helping to run a family produce operation near Ronks, he and his brother, Rick, spent most of their spare time trying to catch or hunt every game critter in Pennsylvania. It was a time when you didn’t need a calendar to tell you when to do things. They went by the seasons. If their work was done and they felt like fishing for migrating shad at the Conowingo Dam, they just did it.

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Barry Flory fishes the Conestoga River with his stepdaughter Becky Hart, and grandson, Brantley Gunt.

Flory hunted the heyday of pheasants in Pennsylvania and has taken his share of deer. “I’ve been blessed with much success over the years,” he says. “Every time I shot a deer, I thanked it. It was God’s gift to me.”

Now he has the peaceful vigils along the Conestoga, patiently waiting for his line to signal a strike, to think back on those times afield and the memories of his wife.

Just one more time. One last time. But not yet.

The outdoors and wonders of nature have made all the difference in his life and he desperately wants future generations to be exposed to that. But he’s worried that preoccupation with cellphones and video games will get in the way.

“I want them to experience a little bit of God’s natural world and what I did and what I appreciate. If we lose the appreciation of the natural creation, then we’ve lost life itself. If they don’t learn to appreciate nature they will lose in more ways than they can understand.”

A former Scout leader, he does his part, taking grandchildren and neighbor kids fishing.

And he’d like to catch a 10-pound catfish. So he’ll go to the river as long as he is able, aware that each time may be his last, as his mantra suggests, but thankful when every morning brings a new day.

Just one more time. One last time. But not yet.

Ad Crable is an LNP outdoors writer. Email him at acrable@lnpnews.com.