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Fishing for Memories

04/21/2014 @ 1:49pm

To say that farmers are busy at this time of year would be like stating that it tends to get dark after the sun sets.

The aroma of warming dirt is espresso to a farmer; his pulse races, he becomes wild-eyed, and his hair stands on end. This is why farmers wear seed corn caps.

When I was a young farmer, I was as hardheaded as a woodpecker. The mere thought of an untilled field basking in the springtime sunshine made me antsy, which drove my wife crazy. “You’re driving me crazy!” she would say. “Go outside and do something!”  

So I would go to the shop and putter with my perpetual motion machine. As they say, art often imitates life.

Dad and I farmed some land next to a highway. Sunny spring days would find us frantically rushing to get our crops planted on time. Off in the distance, I would see campers and boats gliding by on the highway and wondered how those folks could do that.

How could they be so sanguine on such a splendid day? What was wrong with them? Hadn’t they ever heard the expression “Make hay while the sun shines and early to bed early to rise and Rome wasn’t built in a day and if you chop your own wood it warms you twice and idle hands are the devil’s workshop?” And what, exactly, did “sanguine” mean?

And there on the far headland sat Dad’s tractor. He had stopped work and was yakking with the neighbor! We had stuff to do!

So I drove to the headland to see what was so important that Dad and the neighbor had to discuss it for half an hour. Just local gossip!

I later mentioned this to Dad and he said, “You should rest the horses at the end of the field.” I replied that his “horse” was made of steel and didn’t need any rest.

“I wasn’t talking about the tractor,” he said.

He had a point. A person shouldn’t be so consumed by making a living that he doesn’t have time to live. All work and no play sounds suspiciously similar to a chain gang.

When I was a kid, Dad would make time to take us kids on short vacations that consisted of fishing expeditions to a local lake. We had to be back home in time for evening milking, which means we originated the daycation.  

The morning of the fishing trip would find us scurrying like ants in a stirred-up anthill. There were preparations to make, the main one being casting practice.

Our family owned exactly one fishing rod. It was equipped with an open reel, the kind that would snarl into a humungous knot on almost every cast. It took a while for each of us get just one practice cast.

We believed that the largest fish lived in the deepest water, which meant that casting farther equaled bigger fish. This is why we used a large square nut, which weighed half a pound, as a sinker.  

Shortly before we left for the lake, a couple of us kids dug for worms. As we dropped the slimy, slithery, subterranean invertebrates into a coffee can, I wondered about the wisdom of eating something that would eat such a thing.

We piled into our 1959 Ford station wagon, drove to the lake, selected a likely spot on the shoreline, and commenced fishing operations. The ickiest part – baiting a razor hook the size of a crowbar – came first. None of the worms seemed pleased that they had been chosen to play a central role in our excellent adventure.

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