As I remember, dad seemed very earnest in his insistence that his sons learn how to fish. But it really was a devious plot to make us spade the garden in the spring.
As I look back on it, I can see my dad’s desire to get us interested in fishing as just another part of a devious plot to make us spade the garden in the spring.
Certainly, we didn’t fish for the food the way the Iroquois Indians would have when they inhabited the land around the lake where I grew up in western New York. The Iroquois caught for a campfire. We were strictly catch and release.
“Bluegills aren’t big enough,” my dad might say. “Toss it back, pickerel aren’t in season,” he’d advise on another occasion. Catfish “have too many little bones,” he sometimes argued, although he called them “Suckers” when we hooked one. Carp? “Nobody eats them,” he’d claim.
I’m not sure what size and species of fish we were going for, but I never caught one.
But I caught worms. I captured earthworms, the slimy kind that wriggle in your fingers. And that’s where the plot thickens.
As I remember, Dad seemed very earnest in his insistence that his sons learn how to fish. I just figured that he’d spent so many years on a farm with a pond that he was trying to share his wondrous fishing experience with young boys who lived within walking distance of a lake.
He also was eager in his offer to show us how to bait a hook, which is one of the more difficult steps a child takes in the journey toward adulthood. It’s a quick step though. One day you’re timidly holding a squirming worm in the palm of your hand, listening to a father tell you, “Go ahead, grab it with your fingers, it’s not going to hurt you.” And the next thing you know you’re gripping the slimy thing firmly, wrapping it around and pushing the hook through it, completely buying into your dad’s claim, “Don’t worry, it doesn’t feel a thing.”
It’s a short step from that achievement to bending over random dirt, looking for more bait.
“I’ll bet if you took a spade up to the garden and dug like you’ve seen me do, you’d find a lot of worms,” I can hear my dad say, early in May. And I can see my mom flashing him a dirty look. “Here, I’ll go out and get you started,” Dad said hurriedly. I reckon later they had words.
Now I believe it all was part of my father’s master gardening plan.
Weeding. That was a tougher sell. But I can see now that it was part of the plot.
It would be the dead of summer. Hot. Very much not weeding weather. And then it would rain. Nothing like a summer shower to bring the worms out, my dad would note, almost in passing.
“I’ll bet if you went out to the garden and the flower beds and yanked out the weeds that they use for cover, you’d be able to spot them wiggling along on the ground.”
My mom smiled about that one. By that time, apparently, the plot was a conspiracy.
Contact Gary Brown at email@example.com.