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Ah, to be young again. I was sitting in my truck down by the boat ramp yesterday taking a break, when a kid ran up to my window. “Mister, can I use your phone?” he said excitedly. “It’s important,” he added. “Sure, kid,” I said. I punched in the number for him while he waited impatiently. I handed him the phone as it started to ring. “C’mon.. C’mon…” he mumbled to himself as my curiosity piqued. I could hear a voice on the other end saying hello. “Mom, can you bring me some worms?” he asked quickly. “But the fish are really biting, and I need more worms!” He continued. “Please?” he begged. “Thank you, mom!” The kid hung up and handed the phone back to me. “Thanks man,” he said as he ran back to his fishing poles. At that moment I was living vicariously through him. I wanted to go get my poles and follow him to the water.
I was very fortunate to have a dad that loved to fish. He took me everywhere in his attempt to find the perfect fishing hole. Some of the most memorable experiences were our trips to Canada. Dad was a pilot, and he owned a share in a small airplane kept at the Clinton, Iowa, Municipal Airport. There was never enough room for our gear, what with boat motors, gas tanks, camping equipment, food, and clothing for the cool weather. Dad would pack everything in and take a test run, taking off, then landing again right away, adjusting our gear, taking a few unnecessary things out, and taking off again until his airplane was balanced for the long trip into Canada. The problem wasn’t taking off, it was landing on the little grass airstrip at the lake that he was concerned about. You see, the strip had trees at one end, and a lake at the other end, and there wasn’t much room for error.
When we got to the lake, a guy in a pick up truck showed up and took us to his resort. There was a bait shop, country store, a little bar and grill, and some cabins along the water. Not for us, though. We already had our provisions for the week, and all we needed was a boat. We put our boat motor on, filled the boat full of tents and coolers and duffle bags, and off we went.
We always camped on the same little island, affectionately called “Mosquito Point.” We would fish for walleye in the morning and northern pike in the afternoon. After each outing, I would clean fish on a big old rock down by the water as the sea gulls hovered over me, waiting for their supper. Those birds would swoop down as I threw scraps in the air, and they would pick those scraps out of the air before they hit the water.
I remember waking up to noises one morning, dad unzipping the tent door, then zipping it back up with a nervous look on his face. There was a brown bear rummaging through our camp, crushing tomato cans like they were nothing, sucking the juice out and tossing the cans aside with his huge paws. Eventually, the bear got bored and left us to clean up. The wildlife was everywhere up in Canada. We drove the boat along side an 1,100-pound bull moose as he swam along. It was like we were the only humans in a world of animals. We were their guests.
Those memories are still fresh in my mind, like it was yesterday, and as I attempt to raise a twelve year old boy, I have come to realize how important those memories are for me, and how much I can influence my son’s images of his own past, more than the things I have bought him, more than the books he reads. He needs those memories just as I do now. These memories shaped my life. How important is that?