Fishing and the one that got away

Grandma Kitty pulled her shiny case knife from the pocket of her blue apron. She reached down far to the bottom of the cane pole and cut it.
“This will make a good one,” she said, as she handed it to a three-year-old me. Then she cut one for herself.
As we walked to her favorite spot along Frogleg Creek, I could not help but take a peak within the small metal pail she had given me to carry. I knew it would have something good for us to eat, like some chocolate pie or a piece of coconut cake.
I almost fell down when as I looked beneath the lid, only to have my hopes dashed by a bucket of dirt filled with red wigglers.
“Granny, what are we going to have to eat,” I said. “I thought this was our food.”
“It is food, but it is for the fishes,” she said.
“You will have to wait till we find some berries or maybe a plum tree,” she said.
“What are we going to do with these poles?” I said.
“I am going to tie some string on them and you and I are going to spend the morning fishing,” she said.
As we walked along the trail, I noticed a stick lying across the trail. I rushed ahead to pick it up.
“Hold your horses, boy,” she said, as she took her cane pole and popped on the back of what I thought was a stick. The stick slithered away like a bolt of lightening.
“That’s your first rule of being in the mountains, son — be careful where you put your hands,” she said. “We share this space with all kinds of critters. Some don’t care much for sharing.”
As we reached the spot along the banks of the creek, she said. “This is it.”
Conveniently, a huge oak log had fallen there. Upon it we sat.
“All you need to do is put one of the wigglers on the safety pin and drop your line in the water like this,” she said.
She handed me the pole. Then she fixed the other one, carefully attaching the string, safety pin and adding the worm.
As we sat there side by side with our poles in the water, I know I probably asked her a million questions about the leaves, the trees and the little green frog which hopped on my shoe.
She patiently answered every one. We sat there for what seemed like hours enjoying the mountain breeze which flowed over the Gravelly Spur and along the Frogleg Creek.
“Well, we better be getting back,” she said as she pulled her line out of the water.
Just as her pin touched the top of the cold waters, the biggest fish I ever saw jumped by her line.
“Granny, did you see that?” I said. “We can’t leave, we have not got that fish yet.”
“Yes, we did,” she said.
Close your eyes, “Can you see it?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Then you will carry that fish with you everywhere you go,” she said.
“So we did catch a fish,” I said. “Today, we caught the biggest fish of all.”
“We caught something much better,” she said. “We caught each other.”
From Randall Franks’s book “A Mountain  Pearl.”

 Take down the fishin’ pole

Ripples float endlessly across the lake as a large frog croaks in the distance.
The line running from the end of my pole drifts slightly with the light current pulling away to my left as the red and white float moves with the ripples.
I had spent much of my time working thus far in my first fishing adventure to bring the hook with the worm slid upon it into the drink.
My childhood adventures of fishing with my dad, especially early in the learning process reflected the scenarios of the episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” where “Howard Sprague” went fishing with Andy and the rest of the guys only to spend more time with his hook in a tree or his own pants than in the water.
In retrospect, my dad’s patience as he taught me the process and answered the questions the younger version of myself asked was amazing. Why do fish eat worms? Why do we have to put the hook through the worms, can’t we just throw them out and let the fish eat them? Why do we have a float on the line?
Why do I do better throwing the line behind me rather than in front of me?
These are just a few that I recollect in the process.
My father was someone much like myself – outdoor sports were not really his thing – but he felt it was important that I learned them, that we shared the experiences that he had shared with his father and uncles. There are lessons that are shared in the midst of the teaching that settle deeper beyond the immediate task at hand.
The bonds created between a father and son through positive joint experiences; respect for the world around us and the other people and creatures who share it with us; and an understanding about what is expected of you when you are a man.
I am so glad that he did take this time with me, oftentimes, it seemed strategically placed around tough points in my life when I needed the input, the lesson, the hope, the insights that he wanted to share.
Establishing the groundwork at a younger age, when the years passed allowed us a smoother path.
When as an older teen, I wished to push the bounds of our relationship by asserting my own authority on my life, we were able to work through those tense moments when I was spreading my wings, and make them teachable moments in the life experience. They added to our relationship rather than pushing us farther from each other.
Perhaps my father’s early passing set my prospective of our relationship forever in the nostalgia of my youth. We never really got to the good stuff of the best friend relationship that should have happened as time went on because he was still having to spend time being my dad. Not that such a role would have ever ended, but as I was able to take on more of the responsibilities for my life after college, I would have hoped that the lessons could have taken on a different form.
It is in this time of the year, that my father’s memory seems closest to me, because we shared so much in the summer months. I am thankful that God sent me to be in family where I had two parents who were present and participating. So many youths do not, and as the news of the world seeps into my life, I can’t help but wonder if a few more participating, present mothers and fathers would have prevented many of the headlines which plaque our country.
Are you present in your children’s lives? Are you teaching them the lessons needed? Do they respect other people, creatures, and cultures? If they don’t, may I suggest a fishing trip. There is something iconic and idyllic about those opening TV shots of Andy and Opie Taylor walking with fishing poles in hand along a country road. Funny how so many long for the simplicity portrayed. We may never have it, but it never hurts to take the walk.
“So, take down your fishin’ pole.”