Friday, December 05, 2008


"The pleasantist' thing in Angling is to see the fish on Golden Oar shoot through the silver stream and greedily devour the treacherous bait"

"Out of the blue and into the black..."
Neil Young

Dad absolutely loved to fish.
My first memory that I can put a date to was after my sister Lisa was born; I would have been two and a half years old or so. Mom had been home from the hospital for a week or two and was laying in bed nursing Lisa. Dad had asked if she were OK and if he and I could go out to Grapevine Lake for the afternoon.
I assume permission had been granted as he and I walked out the garage Door.
I remember asking very soberly if "Mother" was going to be okay with us gone.
We climbed into a big ol' Oldsmobile, a 1958 punked out with Jet Fighter Wings and a motherlode of Chrome, and within 10 minutes we were hopelessly stuck in a muddy field. It was a short cut Dad had been using to get onto the Blacktop from the house.

To think that moments before I had been concerned about "Mothers" welfare.
"Ahab, beware of Ahab."
This is my first memory.

We spent the whole afternoon trying to get unstuck. We did not make it to the lake that day.
I think it explains a lot about why Mom was always a little concerned for us, outside of just being a Mom. I'm sure that she was relieved that day, with us close by in the field.

One evening in Detroit, Dad shakes me out from in front of the TV.
"Come along here boy, I need some help."
He is grinnin' like a Butchers dog, has an empty Coffee can, and also his Headlight-Flashlight on. Its the business end of a flashlight attached to a headband that you wear on your head, a separate battery pack that clipped to the hip; it was manufactured in the 1940's and would be worth a lot of money now.
No, probably it wouldn't be worth much to anyone but me.
Dad kept it with all his Camping and Fishing gear in his Sea Chest.

Down the street we go in the dark, Dad looking like some kind of spelunker that has lost his cave. I have no idea what this one is about, but Dad always had some kind of project/adventure going. We get to Mr. Bowles house. Dads illuminating gaze is directed down, down into Mr. Bowles flower bed and laying on top of the ground are the Biggest worms that I have ever seen.
They are almost a foot long, as big around as a pencil, and you can see the big blue vein though the Opaque reddish and tan wormskin.
There must be hundreds of em'!
"Wow, thats cool Dad... what are they?"
"Night Crawlers"
"Night Crawlers?"
"Yes, and we are going to use them to fish with"
'Now that one there, where the light is shining, get him."

I take a step towards the bed and drop to my knees. As soon as I hit the ground, all the Night Crawlers, quick as lightning, zip into their holes. I had no idea that a worm could move that fast.
"Out of the Blue..."
"You have to creep up on em' nice and easy" Dad explained. "They feel the vibratiions."
"...and into the Black"

We move down the bed to where there are more laying undisturbed. Stealthily, I go to my knees and crawl up to where I can reach one.
"You're going to have be fast..."
"Yeah, Dad I get it!" and I try to grab the first one.
Not only do you have to be fast, you have to choose the right end of the worm to grab; you have to grab the end that goes back into the hole. Otherwise, all you get is mud. The worm is no dummy, and never comes all the way out of the hole, and stands ready to go below to safety.
You have to be smarter than the worm.

I got pretty good at it. The Coffee can would be full of worms. A fishing trip would follow the next day, and what fish we caught with our worms!!! We did not sit on a dock, catching Dad rigged the live worms to where we could troll them from the boat, and we caught Walleye, Pike and I even took a 4 foot Musky one day!
But the time spent simply gathering bait, being outwitted and outrun by a worm that was faster and smarter than us... I would laugh, and Dad would chuckle... and... during the 4 tears we spent there...Mr Bowles never seemed to miss his worms!

I didn't know then that one day I would be in charge of gathering the bait, planning the trip, packing the tackle and gear and even setting up and baiting Dads rod on what would be his last Fishing trip.

"Theres more to the picture
Than meets the eye
Hey hey, my my"


Minx said...

Could you explain 'spelunker'?

cornbread hell said...

great story. well told. poignant. thanks, man.

(psst, minx...cave explorer.)

leslie said...

"...Dad looking like some kind of spelunker that has lost his cave."
My favorite line.

"...being outwitted and outrun by a worm..."
My next favorite line.

petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

A beautiful story! A great tribute to your dad, and to your relationship!

MikeTheWaiterDotCom said...

this is some really poignant stuff... heavy duty, universal philosophical stuff... closer to tears,

Rick O'Shay said...

I have always wanted a relationship with my dad like that. My dad was alwas too busy with every one elses problems to spend time with me. He was pastor of a church and every on else came firs. You had a good dad. You are truly blessed

GEWELS said...

Great story Steve. And what an awesome memory you have.

Anonymous said...

Moving story and beautifully written. Inspirational one too. My dad is alive and sort of well, but he's getting more and more imobile with a nasty and painful reumatism. I spend a lot of time with him, but still... it makes you realise how special is is. Not that he ever liked fishing. In fact, he never went with us again after the time me and my brother janked the hooks through their guts to get them out (how little did we know). No, fishing wasn't our thing: we are the museum type. I tried to fish on my own later but I'm utterly hopeless at it.


sexy said...