I have to admit I am not a big fan of the common blackbird, but I do have a different feeling when it comes to the red winged blackbird. As a kid I can recall the first true sign of spring in my little world was when you first heard the call of the red winged emulating from the nearby slough. I can remember the excitement of trying to spot as many different birds as possible in the slough and once in a while there would even be a rare sighting of a yellow winged blackbird. We would try to spot their nests in the bull rushes of the slough and watch patiently for the little ones to appear. Even to this day the sound of a red winged blackbird still makes me pause and take notice.
Picture this: you are on a summer’s eve drive on a country road with the windows down feeling the coolness of the evening as you pass by an area of slough grass when you hear the sounds of red winged blackbirds busily chatting away. To me nature has a calming effect, and if you pause and take in the beauty of the moment, it can be a great stress reliever.
Looking back again I can recall the times when I would go to Beaver Lake for some crappie fishing. When I was a young kid my mom and dad, along with their friends Elmer and Mary, would take me to Beaver Lake fishing. Now, my dad was never a fisherman but he would be what he would have referred to as “a good egg,” meaning that he went along to make everyone else happy. Elmer had an old green 5 hp Johnson Sea Horse outboard motor and we would rent two boats from the boathouse at Beaver. They would tie the anchor rope from our boat to Elmer’s and he would tow us to the “hot spot” where the crappies were sure to be waiting.
My mother loved to fish and she is the main reason that I have always had a love for the sport. We would sit in that spot waiting for the crappies until the sun started to set and, sure enough, just as the cool of the evening started to put a light fog on the lily pads, the crappies would start biting. The action would be fast and furious for about half an hour or so and the fish would bite so fast that you couldn’t get them off the hook and into the basket fast enough because you didn’t want to waste that small window of opportunity. To a kid who had always lived for that moment, it just couldn’t get any better.
When I came home on leave in the summer of ’66 my mom and dad along with my sister Judy and I drove to Beaver Lake for a picnic and some shore fishing. We had burgers and hot dogs on a little portable grill along with my mother’s famous potato salad and of course it wouldn’t be a picnic without Van Camp’s beans. That June day was cool, windy and sprinkled with showers and although all we caught were a few bullheads, it was a day I remember fondly.
My mother was always giving me fishing tips she had picked up from different folks who knew fishing. One of her favorite crappie techniques was to use a nylon leader that had a small hook, a couple of beads and a small spinner blade. I believe Eagle Claw first put out that particular crappie lure. Mom said the trick was to hook the minnow through the dorsal fin to keep it fresh and add a bobber and after you cast it out you should leave it sit for a moment, then reel it in slowly giving it an occasional twitch. She said if your bobber starts to go under, you should never rear back and set the hook because crappies have soft mouths, so lift the rod tip up gently and reel in a slow but steady fashion until you feel the fish on the other end. This is a technique that I still practice today but for some reason I no longer use the bobber-spinner method and have instead opted for a jig and plastic. Although the rig may be different, the technique still serves me well. I have to wonder when it was that someone put out the memo that stated fish were no longer interested in the old spinner and bobber method. I do believe I am going to give the old method a try once again because I really don’t believe the fish have evolved to genius status yet.
I have many fond memories of those trips to Beaver Lake, and if I close my eyes I can still hear the sounds of nature as evening sets in, and I can almost feel the cool of the dew as it settles in for the night.
Until next time; enjoy the great outdoors and take some time to introduce a kid to fishing. We could all take a little time out of our busy lives to step back and take in some of the wonders of nature that surround us.
Please take a little time to remember those who served and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.