“I found my mettle by putting a squirming worm on my own hook.”
“Living in the mid-west of the USA leaves you half-way between Disneyland and Disneyworld. While many kids were enjoying the Tea Cup ride or playing in the Magic Kingdom I was doing what most of my Illinois friends were doing on summer vacation: fishing. Fishing is really much more than just a ‘summer vacation;’ it is a spiritual way of life and a family tradition.
“My mother, father, sister and brother; along with my Aunt and Uncle and multiple cousins would check into a remote lodge and begin a week of serious fishing. The excitement was palpable. Not necessarily because of the fishing. But because we would get to navigate canoes through mysteriously bending rivers and lakes, and participate in evening celebratory bon fires. I roasted marshmallows on the stripped raw end of long sticks and devoured sticky, mouth-watering, gooey chocolaty smores while listening to exciting, if not exaggerated, tales of the “big fish” that got away.
“Don’t pull,” is the one of most memorable phrases my Uncle ever uttered (actually screamed) at me. I cast my rod and somehow snagged his neck with my barbed fishing hook. He deftly set down his reel and struggled to pull the embedded hook from his punctured neck – the slimy worm twisting and turning between his nervous fingers. “Cast that way” he ordered pointing his finger in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, that was the direction I had originally been aiming.
“I found my mettle by putting a squirming worm on my own hook. If my male cousin counter-part could manage this feat then so could I. The two of us fished side-by-side watching our red and white bobbers float precariously on the top of the mysterious water. Waiting in unbearable anticipation over who would get the next fish, and of course, which of us would have the biggest fish.
“My father was a taxidermist so there was always an unwritten understanding that a real trophy fish would be immortalized on a plaque with our name engraved on a brass plate. The mount would serve as a testament to our fishing prowess – a fishing kid’s version of the “Best of Show Ribbon” – a passport to year-long bragging rights and beyond.
“Thirty-five years later and I still have my trophy fish hanging on my wall. No, it’s not the most amazing fish you’ll ever see. The fins are cracked from moving many times, and it seems to get smaller with age (unlike its owner). But it is my heritage, my childhood, and reminiscent of more fun and excitement than you’ll ever find at a contrived modern-day amusement park. Fishing is authentic as family. It’s not a make-believe theme park; it’s real-life families attracted to the love each other and a wonderful sport.”