Growing Up Leota: Fishing Over 50 Years Ago
We live in a fishing part of the country. I'm not sure it's the fishing part of the country, but certainly a fishing part. It's an important part of the economy and it doesn't matter if you're in South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, wherever, it's an important part of the economy, an important part of what makes this section of the world go 'round.
Walleye, Northern Pike, Perch, Trout, Bass. Whatever it might be, whatever area it might be in, it means a lot. A lot of money, a lot of jobs.
But there's more to fishing than that. A lot more.
It's been over a half-century or so now, 50+ years since we'd pile into that car and head off. I was just a kid, a young 'un. And he was Dad.
Dad loved to fish. In fact, he was the kind of guy (maybe like yours?) that loved to just be outside. Fish, hunt, trap, he did all of that. He's gone now, more than a dozen years now, and was in a Nursing Home for seven years before that. But there was a day. Yes, Good Lord, there most certainly was a day!
There I am in the far corner of my memory, seven, maybe eight years old. That would make my brother eleven or twelve. It's a summer evening, just a slight touch on the cool side with a slight breeze out of the northwest. I can smell alfalfa and just a bit of the lawn freshly mowed, too. It smells like....home.
We'd put three rods and reels in the trunk of that Chevy, the one that had fins on the back and said 'Biscayne' on the side. We'd toss in a slightly rusted old tackle box filled with a treasure trove of hooks, lures, sinkers, bobbers, and maybe a pliers or two. It had rained last night and we'd spent an hour or so out in the Minnesota mud finding nightcrawlers (Don't shine the flashlight right on 'em!). They were safely tucked into the dirt in the coffee can now ready for a road trip to their destiny.
It might be Current Lake, Shetek, or just a dam or pond down the road a piece. Wherever it was, it wouldn't be far. But it would be good. It didn't matter, not really, because we were fishing, my brother and me. We were fishing with Dad.
It was bullheads for the most part. Of course, these days if you say 'Bullheads', people cringe just a bit and put their noses in the air. Bullheads, it turns out, are not the fish of choice for most people. Well, that's fine. Truth be known I suppose there are about a thousand different kinds of fish that are better than bullheads. But that didn't matter, it didn't matter a bit all those decades ago. Bullheads were wonderful then because they were our bullheads.
There wasn't a boat on those trips with my brother and Dad, no depth finders or anything fancy like that. What there was, was a shoreline of sand, rock, and grass and a bobber ridin' the small waves of the small lake. It would dip beneath the water, just a smidge, then pop back up and we'd watch for hours. What else was there? There was a grown man with two snot-nosed kids sitting on the rocks, eyes peeled and hoping...hoping...
...that it would dip down and not come back up! A tug on the fishing line and then reeling one in, sometimes with the help of Dad but most of the time not because we had to learn how to do it ourselves. And if we did it ourselves, well, then it was our fish! With a touch of luck, you'd get that ugly 'ol bullhead onshore flopping...well, flopping like an ugly 'ol bullhead on a shore.
If not, the line would be pulled in, the nightcrawler gone, gone into the belly of some bullhead laughing beneath the water. OK, another fat nightcrawler on a hook, a cast out and let's do it all over again. And again. And again.
If things went pretty well, there's be a five-gallon pail of bullheads to take back home. Cleaned, Mom would fry them up (love that salt!) and supper was made.
But now, with more than a half-century or so of memory poured like syrup on those days, it wasn't about bullheads at all. It wasn't about bobbers and nightcrawlers and rods and reels. It wasn't even about the lake.
It might as well have been tennis or golf, football, or a board game of Monopoly on the kitchen table. It might just as well have been a walk down a dusty gravel road outside a small town in Nowhere, USA.
You see, fishing isn't really about fishing at all. At least not the kind me and my brother and my Dad did. At least not for me. Looking back through the mist of memory, it was about...
Time and memories, bent in such a warm way. I guess that's what I think fishing's all about.