Sky Fisherman by Craig Leslie conveys a story about a boy named Culver whose life is greatly affected by his major role models. He finds guidance in three characters, his mother Flora, his uncle Jake and his step-father Riley. Each one of them has a different affect of Culver’s life and though conflicting at times, each one becomes a big part of his life as they help him through everything from work to learning more about the death of his father. When Culver and his mother leave Riley, his step-father, disasters seem to start piling on. On top of never having a stable home, Culver has to live with a constant fear of Riley “visiting” them, burning their home to ashes. As Culver puts more time into working with his uncle Jake at his store he begins to mature into a new, more mature young man and he begins to understand more about his life, taking on new challenges and having greater adventures.
The only person that Culver has an opportunity to have lived with all of his life is his mother, Flora. Regardless, they act as though they are strangers to each other. For the most part Flora is clam and reserved, ever trying to be a support for her son, but lacking the control essential to her families well being. At one point in the book, after many transfers of Riley’s job from one city to the next Culver described her, “My mother would have to do without the comforts of a nearby town. ‘I’ll catch up on my reading,’ she said when she realized the situation.” Flora always tries to have a spirit of optimism, even if something is making her very upset.” Despite her constant strive for optimism Culver could see right through it, thus leaving him unenthused about the move. This resulted in his feeling of lack of control. He was used to others with “more seniority” taking care of his every action and he didn’t assume control of his own life. He was shocked when his mother proposed to live near uncle Jake, not only because he was unsure of who was going to be the responsible person in the family, but also because Flora was not, in the least, fond of Jake. Her action showed a large amount of love for Culver on her part. Even though she didn’t like Jake she still exercised what she thought was best for her son, in getting a male role model.
Jake, Culver’s carefree uncle, was the only witness of his father’s death. Flora blames him for irresponsibly causing her husbands death. On the river he once mentioned that “Your mother [Flora] does, though, even if she stays quiet…I lived, so I get the blame. That’s how she is.” He later goes on to discuss how terrible he feels about his brothers death, even though he himself knows that it isn’t his fault. Jake is the only one who feels comfortable talking to Culver about his father’s death on the river and this gives him great comfort. Culver and Jake, drawn together by many of these instances on the river they evolve to become more like a father and son instead of uncle and nephew. Before even moving to Gateway Flora calls Culver on the phone to tell him that he has been offered a job at his uncle’s store. He takes the job, unknowing of the many adventures that lie ahead of him. Not only did he learn how to progressively run a store on his own, teaching him a valuable lesson in self control, but he learned to associate with people, and mainly adults. He learned through the stories of the men who sat in the back room of the shop talking about everything from coffee to business, was exposed to real life fears and terrors as he an Jake searched for Kalim’s body on the river, and learned what he needed to know about being an adult in a small town. More importantly, though, he learns about what it means to “love what you do”. When talking to his uncle once, Jake replied, “It hurt me most we never found him. When I do find them, like Kalim here, it eases the hurt just a bit.” He showed Culver what it was to have feeling in what you did for a living teaching him values he was not soon to forget.
Riley was Culver’s third, main influence, notwithstanding the fact that he was not a very good one. He played a very major role in Culver’s life giving him male leadership for several years. Though he showed Culver devotion to his family and work he did little else to improve his well being. Constantly being bumped from house to house gave Culver an unsteady foundation to build his life on, as well as showed him that even though you may be an adult, you won’t be in control. When Flora left him he committed a larger felony, this time against society as well Culver, he set fire to the city of Griggs. When Culver heard the news he “feared that Riley had blown off his head…but that wasn’t the story. He had burned Griggs to the ground,” this granted Culver a certain amount of uncertainty for the man who was once a large part of his life. This changed the way he looked at everyday things, such as wild fires, or hobos on a train. Riley impacted his life greatly, though not for the better.
All of these people, whether good or bad, had a shaping influence on Culver. Through their comments, actions and cares he became the young man the way he did and it is these same influences that silently sculpt our lives in the real world as we grow older, and learn.