Thursday, January 16, 2014

"Fish long and brag"

Small, seemingly inane comments can make an impact.

As an assignment from my 8th grade English teacher, I created a booklet about my fishing experiences (including catching a 27-inch, 8.2-pound pregnant walleye on Sloppy Joe's Bar of Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota, on Father's Day weekend 1993), called Lake Mille Lacs Days. Also included was a goofy anecdote to my dad about the first "big" fish I caught - a 3.25-pound northern pike on Lake Sakatah (the bullhead capitol of the world).

The assigning educator was an interim teacher - not even an English teacher, rather a long-term unspecialized substitute. Her simple, lukewarm praise propelled me to decide I'd like to be a fishing writer. Her feedback was something like, "That was different..." or "You have a unique writing style..." Mild as it was, it stuck with me.

The main story of the booklet:
I remember one day, a few back, at Kamp Dels. It was a dreary, drizzly Sunday morning (approximately 11:00). I was down on the dock fishing for anything that would bite when I felt a pretty good tug. By the time I reeled it in to the dock, I realized this wasn't no bullhead! [It was a northern pike.] There was a nice old fellow sitting next to me and I asked if he could hold it for me while I went to get you, mom and Ryan. When I got to Ryan, he said that you and mom went for a walk so I told Nancy and she told me to tell Gary while she went to see it (Gary was in the bathroom). I walked into the bathroom and saw that there was a guy in there, on the can. Being unsure of who it was, I waited, as did he, to build up enough courage to see if it was Gary. After about 10 minutes, I asked and it was Gary. I told him the scenario and he said he would be down in a second. By the time I got back down to the dock, I had to push my way back to the nice old fella' who was graciously holding my catch. Anyone who questioned my shoving was politely told, 'It's my fish!' and they got out of my way faster than a walleye chasing down a minnow. Then the nice old guy gave my fish back and I thanked him for his time and apologized for all the cuts on his hands. As I walked up to the barn to get it weighed, I ran into you and mom at the bottom of the hill and you guys walked with me to the barn. I remember one guy stopped his van next to us and told his son, 'Now that's a real fish!' Then we got up to the barn and we weighed it and it weighed 3 1/4 lbs. It was [also] a cloudy dreary day when I caught my walleye. The moral of the story is: fish on cloudy, drizzling, dreary Sunday mornings; it's when the big ones bite.*

*Smart kid, that Sunday thing is true.

It's my fish!
 My mother sent me the booklet after she found it clearing closets recently - I had no idea it still existed. If some memories are Bergan folklore, she discovered a runestone as far as I'm concerned.

Page 1:
My gift of writing is for you:
   May you fish long and brag.   
   Love, Joshua   

Although he wouldn't be able too see that well-wish through, his progeny has, for him. A fishy legacy.

Additional excerpts:
I used to     be afraid of leetches [sic] because I thought they'd suck me to death.  
But now     I know that you can pull them off fairly easily if they decide to suck.     

Who am I?
     I am your son, hopefully someday an avid walleye fisherman with a lakeside cabin on lake Mille Lacs.    

I haven't grown up to be John Gierach or even Al Linder, nor do I own that lakeside cabin, but I am elated to occupy my tiny nook in the collective fishing-writing catalog, and thrilled to have this piece of personal memorabilia.

So take a kid fishing, and encourage that kid.

Look at the size of that belly! The fish, jerk.

No comments: