As a youth growing up north of town, I learned at an early age how much fun fishing was and my mother had a great influence on me in those early years. She was a farm girl at heart, so doing things in the outdoors came naturally to her. She loved to fish and that was where it all started for me. My mother and her sister Ruby along with her cousins would go to Coney Island, which is what they called Bancroft Bay Park in those days. They would swim and fish in that bay. Mom was a lover of the outdoors and that is a trait that she carried with her throughout her life. She also loved gardening and flowers, but given the chance she would definitely prefer fishing.
When my boys were born and we camped we would sometimes take her along and she always welcomed any opportunity to spend time in the boat. We took her up north with us a few times and her last trip was shortly before she passed. The weather wasn’t the best, but she said, “I didn’t come all this way to sit in the cabin,” so out in the boat she went. She caught the biggest walleye of the week. I couldn’t have been happier for her and I could tell that she was really proud of that fish. That made the whole trip a little more special for her and for all of us.
Although my mother got me started in fishing, my Uncle Ben was my fishing idol growing up. He was to me then what Al Linder or Babe Winkelman were to later generations.
He was also a No. 1 prankster, always looking for an opportunity to play a joke on you. There was one that he passed down to me which was the one that he always got me on. We’d start trolling and after a little time had passed, I would be sitting in the boat staring at my line intensely anticipating a bite when he’d turn it just enough so that he could grab my line and give a few solid tugs. I’d just about jump out of the boat setting the hook but there’d be nothing there, of course, then I’d hear him laughing and know I’d been had. I never felt that there was anyone who could out-fish him or make you laugh more than he could.
I still believe that he had to be chuckling to himself every time he picked me up for a fishing trip and my friend “Skippy the killer dog” was in the back seat to keep me company. Now, Skippy was my Aunt Marcie and Uncle Ben’s little black Pomeranian dog that was so unfriendly I doubted that he even liked himself. He would start growling the minute that I got into the backseat with him. If you just moved wrong, he would bare his teeth and snarl at you. This didn’t make me feel very relaxed; especially when we were on a long trip up north.
Yes, even with the Skippy factor, taking a trip up north with my aunt and uncle was always a great time. Ben always made sure I had fun even if I didn’t catch many fish. I can’t really remember not catching fish when I was with him so I guess that’s where I get the idea that fishing should always be fun and that not catching fish shouldn’t change the fact that you are already experiencing the joy of just being there.
Years later, after I had first returned home from the service, I was anxious to live out the dreams that kept me going during those times. I would dream of the day when I would have my own boat and be able to fish almost any lake of my choosing where visions of trophy northern and fat bass jumped in my head. My dreams were never about having a lot of money or a lot of expensive things, but rather of simple things that involved mainly nature and the outdoors.
To me, these simpler things were the freedoms that we were serving our country for. I once told a friend as we stood watch one night that freedom gave me the ability to look at the horizon and if I saw a light in the distance I could just go there and check it out, if for no other reason but to satisfy my own curiosity.
Until next time, take a little time to sit by a lake and enjoy the tranquility of the moment. Or you can just cast a line out and watch your bobber as it bounces ever so gently in the sweet summer breeze.
Please take some time to honor those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms that we enjoy today. Also take a little extra time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and those troops that are serving today.