If Only There Was Somewhere To Hide

In our diverse and crowded world it seems like we are all destined to be separated by geography, culture, gender, economic and educational attainments, and so on.  The list of things that separate us and set us apart is a long one that seems to be growing longer and more rigid day by day.  This would make it seem like reconciling ourselves to living together would be an insurmountable task but I do not believe that to be the case.  As I look at the people around me I see as many things that we share in common as things that we do not.  We all have loves and hurts, we all need to eat, to have shelter, and to have a purpose in life.  And that list could go on for a long time as well.  But lest I begin to get too lofty in all of this let me share with you all one other thing that we all hold in common.  We all, at one time or another, do something embarrassing.

A president will throw up into the lap of a prime minister, a congressman will send sketchy photos to an assumed girlfriend.  A radiologist wiil point to some shadows on a piece of film and ask “And what is this?’, and the harassed technologist will reply “I don’t know doc, you took that picture”.  A young boy will ask a girl to the dance but call her by another girl’s name, and the girl who does get to go to the dance will see that three other girls, including her sworn enemy, are wearing the same dress that she is and look better in it.  This is just the way of the world.  There’s no way to avoid it unless you hole up in a cabin somewhere and avoid all human contact, and that is a pretty high price to pay to avoid a little thing like embarrassment.

I have certainly enjoyed my fair share of embarrassment.  I am by nature extremely outgoing while my major secondary personality trait is that I am shy and easily embarrassed.  That is a poisonous combination.  I have already written about my prodigious three-meter belly flop which was committed while trying to impress a young lady at a swimming pool in my story “Age of Aquarius”.  Then there was the straw that got thrust into my nostril when I went to take a sip while sitting with several friends in a junior high cafeteria, and when I was giving an oral report and my mind went so blank that I could hardly remember my name.  I’ve had others and you, dear reader have had them too.  And most of us can remember The One, the worst embarrassment of all time, unless you are so fortunate that your mind has completely repressed the memory and there is no scar on your psyche to show where that particular land mine blew up.  My mind has not been that lucky.  I still remember my worst time, and now I will share it with the world.

I grew up in San Diego, California, and like many kids in that time I had a paper route.  I hated getting up early in the morning then just as I still do now, so I chose to take a route with the afternoon paper, the Evening Tribune, which I could deliver after returning home from school.  Upon returning to my house I would find one or more bundles of newspapers, depending upon the paper’s size on any given day, which I would begin to fold in half and then secure with rubber bands that I would purchase from the newspaper company.  Porch delivery was the desired model then and broken screens and upended potted plants were things to be discouraged, so we folded the papers as tightly as possible in order to make them as aerodynamically functional as possible.

We would load those papers into a saddlebag-looking canvas contraption that we would then sling over a steel frame attached over the back tire of our heavy-framed bicycles.  The smarter paperboys would affix a basket on the front of the bicycle which would hold a ready supply of papers for delivery, but the basket looked really weenie and so most of us rejected the notion out of hand.  We would instead withdraw a few of the folded papers from our canvas bag and hold them between the left thumb and handlebars so that we could launch individual papers with our right hand.  This is where it got tricky.  On the porch roof or through a screen was just a bad deal.  Into a shrub or a potted plant was only a little less bad.  We were forbidden to ride across our customers’ lawns so we had to launch our papers, at speed and like a Frisbee, from the sidewalk and across the lawn to land neatly with a satisfying ‘plop’ on the mostly concrete porches in the front of the customer’s house.  The surprising thing is how often we were successful at doing this.

One other thing you need to know in order for this tale to make sense is that San Diego in the early and mid 1960’s was a city that lived very much outside.  The weather in that city was nice most of the year and could be quite warm from summer through fall.  There were not a lot of residential air conditioners in those days and people would open up all of their windows and doors to allow any breeze to flow through the house, and in the afternoon and evening they would sit outside on the shady side of the house.  On any given day there was a line of people stretching down the street sitting in the shade of their front porches, running the sprinklers for the kids to play in and chatting with neighbors, or just watching the world go by.  And this sets the table for my moment of ultimate misery.

Thursday was always a day for big, fat papers because of all of its advertising inserts and announcements of weekend sales within the paper itself.  Only Sunday papers were bigger, and they required larger rubber bands to contain them.  I had flattened the papers as well as I could and double banded them in the hope that they would fly with more grace and accuracy than a drunken goose and that the bands would not snap and the paper explode into a million separate pages floating across the customer’s lawn and those of their neighbors.  I stuffed as many folded papers as would fit into the canvas saddlebags and tied it to my bike.  It was now time to deliver my cargo.

I encountered no misadventures that I can recall as I waddled down the sidewalk on my overloaded bike.  The papers were so thick that I could only hold two with my left thumb while I launched the third with my right hand.  This caused me to be looking backwards often as I sought to fish out three more of my paper projectiles without having to stop the bike.  Time is money!  I safely negotiated my first block and the action of the bicycle became smoother as I ejected my load missile by missile towards porches that, on that day, looked to be as big as a basketball court.  The first load got me two blocks north and then three blocks south on the opposite side of the street.  Upon emptying my bags I returned to my house to ram the rest of my papers into the bag and return down the street to where I left off.  One of the rules of the job was that we were not to ride on sidewalks unless we were actively delivering papers, so I was wobbling down the street with my unwieldy load attempting to regain my place where I had run out of papers.

About a half block from where I had left off a downhill grade presented itself.  It was not a steep hill by any means but it did permit the bike to pick up speed, especially under a heavy load, and braking became difficult and something that needed to be planned.  That being the case, I have no idea why I would choose that moment to allow my mind to go somewhere else.  Maybe I was thinking about one more girl that I wouldn’t ask out on a date because I was too shy, or maybe about a big wave that I would catch the next time that I got to the beach, or the sports team that I wanted to try out for – – -, naw, it was probably the girl.  Anyway, my bike was picking up speed and my brain was AWOL when I planted the front tire of that bike into the driver’s side portion of the grill of a 1956 Buick Roadmaster.

In terms of physics, I am going to lose that one every time.  The Buick didn’t budge an inch.  The bike stopped on less than a dime however and my mind came back to Earth as my body sailed over the left front wheel well of that square steel beast.  My body now took its turn of coming back to Earth and I landed with as much grace as I could, which was virtually none, and bumped and rolled a short way down the asphalt surface of Highland Avenue.  I finally came to a stop and popped immediately to my feet.  You never want it to look like it got to you.  Retreating back up the hill I righted my bike and examined the front end to ensure that it was still usable.  Bicycles were built like tanks back then and indeed it was unspoiled and ready to resume duty.  It was only after I had ascertained that the bike was serviceable that it occurred to me that somebody may have seen my humiliating brain cramp.  I turned slowly to my right and looked across the street to where the front porches sat in the shade on that very warm afternoon, and my worst fears were confirmed.

Arrayed across the lawns and front porches of that side of the street were no fewer than eight families; mothers, some fathers, and a host of children.  I stood there silently, blood beginning to drip from multiple road rashes, feeling like a bug stuck to a pin under a scientist’s microscope.  After a moment that actually felt like an eternity one of the older kids, a boy of about 14 or 15, began to slowly clap.  Several others took up that unwanted applause and my mind raced to find a way to get out of this gracefully.  There was of course no way to do that so I opted for Plan B; I propped the bike up against the front of that evil Buick and faced my tormentors.  I delivered the best formal bow that my several years of delivering recitals for my piano teacher had taught me.

The crowd appreciated my recovery and gave me a good natured laugh and a wave that said “It’s all right, we’ve all done something like that or worse.”  A mom called out and asked “are you OK?”  I would have denied a fractured skull.  I replied “Nothing hurt but my dignity.”  I had read a lot of Mark Twain and I thought that he would have said something like that.  Pulling my bicycle upright I mounted it once again and within a moment my bruised, bleeding, mortified self was coasting back down the hill to where I could resume delivering my papers and put this miserable day behind me.

It took me a couple of weeks to recover from the patches of skin that were shredded off by the pavement of that street and fifty years later I can still feel the burn of standing bleeding and stupefied in front of an audience of my neighbors.  At least now I can laugh about it.

A Shaky Ride With Wes

When I was young I was famous for my motion sickness, especially when riding in a car. On our frequent trips east to the mountains, and across those mountains to the desert, my father and his friends would often place bets on how far I would make it before I would be emptying my stomach on the side of the road. I was usually good for about twenty or thirty minutes, but anything beyond that was borrowed time. On rare occasions I would make it all the way to where we were planning to picnic or camp, and in that case everyone who was betting would have to pay me.  I never made much money that way.

Possibly my shining hour came one day when I was six or seven years old.  My mother, her best friend Francis and I were driving in downtown San Diego, looking for a store or something. Mom was lost and driving up one block and then turning left, going another block and turning right, starting, stopping, and then starting again. The effect was predictable.  In this case however Mom’s erratic driving attracted the attention of a policeman who put on the lights and pulled her over. Our car was a four door Studebaker Commander and I had already lowered the window and was gasping for air. As the policeman approached our car the nervousness which his authoritarian presence produced in me plus the impending gastric eruption combined to produce projectile vomiting which painted the front of the police officer’s uniform with the emulsified remnants of my breakfast.

I was almost certain that I would be dragged out of the car and shot on the spot, or at the very least removed from my family and placed in “The Home.” The officer however stopped dead still, looked down at his ruined uniform which was just beginning to stink of bile and Raisin Bran, and proceeded to calmly write my mother a ticket as if nothing had happened.  I can easily guess what the officer did next. My mother, mortified by the event and I believe a little bit miffed by thinking  that she could have avoided the ticket had I not puked all over the policeman, aborted her mission downtown and returned home by the fastest route that she could find. My father, upon learning of this episode, laughed so hard that I think he might have peed his pants.

As impressive as that story is, to me at least, it does not hold a candle to that of my friend Wes. Wes’ stomach had been even more sensitive than my own, and the wrong food or wrong smell or one turn too many in the backseat of a car was certain to produce an unpleasant reaction. In fact, when Wes accompanied us on those trips when I was being timed for my wagered-on eruptions it was frequently Wes who was the trigger; he would pop and then I would soon follow. You would think that, with our history, we would be careful not to tempt fate. Such however was not the case. Being young and being boys we left the act of thinking to those better suited for the task and blundered blissfully through life. This clueless wandering led us one evening to the climax of my story.

Wes and I went to the San Diego County Fair one summer when we were both sixteen. We had grown out of the worst of our delicate stomachs and did not think about them much anymore. My parents dropped us off at the fair a few hours before sundown and after giving us twenty dollars each they instructed us to meet them at the front gate at 10 o’clock when they returned to pick us up. Twenty dollars was a lot of money in 1964 and we set aside half for rides and the other half for fair food.

And did we pound that fair food down!  Hot dogs, french fries, cotton candy and snow cones, and anything else that we could find was joined together in the roiling cauldrons that our stomachs were becoming. All of this was washed down with Coca Colas spiked with the half-pint of Southern Comfort that I had smuggled in with us. We ended up doing more eating than riding because that, and looking at all of the cute young girls and trying to strike up conversations (with very modest success) was far more entertaining. We did indulge in a few rides however, and well into the evening we found ourselves standing at the front of a line and preparing to enter the cage of a Roll-O-Plane.

For those of you not familiar with fair rides fifty years ago, the Roll-O-Plane is very much like a ferris wheel. The difference lies in the fact that the passenger is seated in an oblong steel cage which will spin on it’s axis if you pull forcefully back on a lever that sits conveniently in front of you.  The resulting motion is one of the cage spinning while the larger wheel to which the cage is affixed rotates in its large, lazy circle. If I was writing a recipe for disaster I couldn’t possibly think of a better one than Wes, fair food, Southern Comfort and a Roll-O-Plane. We were strapped into our seats, the cage door was secured, and the great wheel lurched slowly forward by stages as more passengers were strapped into more cages.  Finally the cages were full. The gangly, slightly sketchy – OK, really sketchy – ride operator threw the big wooden lever and the Roll-O-Plane surged into motion and the ride was underway.

As the big steel wheel picked up speed Wes and I pulled back on the lever in front of us. The cage tipped back but stopped when we were a little less than horizontal.  We let go of the lever and the cage swung forward. At it’s furthermost point on the forward swing we jerked back on the lever again and this time we went all the way over. Holding the lever back towards us the cage soon began to spin like a propellor as the great wheel made it’s increasingly rapid rotation.  I was having a ball and didn’t notice that anything was wrong until Wes grabbed my arm.

“Man, I gotta get outta this cage or I’m going to get sick” he said. I was at the point of making a logical argument as to how one cannot simply exit the spinning cage of a Roll-O-Plane when it is in mid-ride but my sage advice was cut of by Wes, who looked forward (thankfully) and cut loose with everything that was in his stomach. Hot dogs, french fries, cotton candy and everything else that we had chucked down the tunnel that evening exploded out of Wes and formed a rooster tail of vomit that sprayed out of the cage and sprinkled onto the crowd below. I was clinging desperately to the wall of the cage, as far from Wes as I could get, unmindful of the possibility that if the door swung open I would fall a good distance down to the asphalt pavement below.

The ride operator, as soon as he discerned the nature of the shower that he was taking, cursed loudly and slammed the big wooden lever back to end the ride. One by one he let riders out of their cages, some of whom were unaware of what had just happened and were annoyed by the shortness of the ride. When he finally got to our cage I flew out of that vomit-sprayed chariot as quickly as I could and stood by to help my ash-white friend gain his feet and move away from the scene of the disaster. The operator said a few choice words to us as we were leaving but we paid him no attention.  We only wanted to get away from the glares of the others who had hung around to see who the perpetrators were.

The crowd quickly swallowed us up and we made a beeline to the restrooms where Wes could clean up. I had somehow escaped that unsavory bath completely. Wes was remarkably free of residual chunks, the majority of which had been slung out over the crowd or was now dripping from the steel cage onto the seat and floor where we so recently sat. By the time Wes exited the bathroom he had regained his composure and, like my father a decade before, we both laughed so hard that we almost cried. I stopped to get one more hot dog as we made our way back to the main gate, content to wait for my parents while seated on some benches there and thoroughly finished with the fair for that year.

Fish Story

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  So goes an old saying the origin of which I haven’t a clue, and I suppose that there may be some truth in it.  I suspect however that the author of that phrase never met a fisherman like me.  Many an accomplished angler has tried to impart to me the ways of the fish and how to coax one onto my hook but the result has, for the most part, been a failure.  Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  Try to teach Glenn Durden how to fish and you’ll be wasting your time and will probably get an ulcer.

I was introduced to fishing when I was a very small child.  My brother, who was four years older than me, had found out before the earliest reaches of my memory that he never wanted to mess with fishing, so I can only remember my father and I going to the lake to catch our dinner.  The lake which I remember best is Lake Henshaw, a reservoir in San Diego County located about 70 miles northeast of the city.  The lake was usually pretty low in those days because the region was in a prolonged dry cycle, but it had everything one would need for a good day of fishing; water, boats and the bait and tackle shack where necessities such as soft drinks, potato chips, candy, beer (for Dad), and a cardboard carton of worms could be bought.  There was no doubt other fishing stuff could be purchased there too but it held little interest for Dad and I.  We were going after catfish, and catfish liked worms.  Little did I know then that catfish would have cheerfully eaten the chips and candy that we bought there and the sandwiches that my mother had packed for us and anything else that was food or in some small way looked like food.  Catfish are the pigs of the aquatic world.

After Dad had purchased our day permits, rented the boat and procured our bait we would choose a rowboat and propel ourselves across the lake in search of a corner where the fish might be biting.  One would think that fish in a lake would as likely be biting in one place as another, but that did not seem to be the case.  Dad would choose a spot where we would throw out our lines and wait for a while, and if nothing happened we would move to another corner of the lake and repeat the process.  Eventually one of us would feel a tug on the line and jerk the line in order to set the hook.  I later learned that this was unnecessary with catfish as they scarfed down any morsel that they came across with no hesitation.  Like I said; catfish are pigs.

The bait that we used were common earthworms.  Not the big bruisers that you can see emerging from the ground after a spring rain in the Northwest where I now live, but their smaller cousins.  They would be packed in some moist substance which was sort of a cross between coffee grounds and sawdust.  We would dig into the carton and find the largest, and then skewer their wriggling bodies on our hooks.  Being young I assumed that it was a normal and natural thing to impale worms on a hook; it was their karma, and I thought the worms knew that and didn’t really mind.  If Dad had any similar feelings he never shared them with me, so I just did what he did.  I have occasionally wondered if someday I will be called to account for my serial murder of those innocent worms, much less the catfish I caught, but that is meat for another story.   It seemed like as I got older my luck left me and I brought home fewer and fewer catfish for Mom to cook.  Catfish are slimy characters, so I think I didn’t really mind too much not catching them, and I eventually moved on to try my luck with other fish.

Bass, Crappie, and even large bluegill are a better order of fish, and I next remember trying my luck in the lakes, ponds and streams of Georgia, where my father grew up and we visited every couple of years.  Georgia was not my cup of tea as it was hot, sticky, had enormous bugs and was populated with adults whom I didn’t really know and kids who viewed me with suspicion as an outsider.  I usually went with my dad to the town swimming pool, read Hardy Boys books or whatever I could find, or sat on the covered front porch trying desperately to find a breeze and counting the seconds until we would leave Georgia and repeat my torture in Kentucky where my mother grew up.

On one particular day I decided to walk a half mile or so to a large pond which I knew to be teeming with nice, fat, catchable fish.  The idea of a dinner of fried bass or crappie, a few dozen bluegill or even a by-now-detested catfish would be an improvement over the unsavory table set by my paternal grandmother, who frankly scared the tar out of me.  Mealtime on these ‘vacations’ was always an ordeal.  On this particular vacation, one of the last as I remember, I heard my father say to my mother “he can eat his grandmother’s cooking or he can starve”.  I felt like a soldier freed from a prisoner of war camp after the armistice was signed; a choice at last which didn’t involve me getting beaten about the head and shoulders!  I clutched my Get Out Of Jail Free card and cheerfully starved.  On the trip back to San Diego, Kentucky being mercifully omitted on this trip, I lay sick and weak in the back seat of our car and heard my dad say “if the kid will starve himself, I can’t win that battle”.  That statement signaled a blessed end to the struggle which Dad and I had fought for many years over what I was and was not willing to eat.  Anyway, I knew that one decent meal was waiting in that pond for me to catch it, so with pole, tackle, and Granddad’s 12 gauge shotgun I strode off across a field and through some woods to get to the pond.

I arrived at the pond and soon found the experience to be pleasant in many ways.  It was early, and so not yet oppressively hot.  I had no relatives or their friends and children around so I could sit quietly on the bank of the pond without having to perform for anybody.  The surface of the pond sported barely a ripple, and the sounds of birds and the soft breeze made me come very close to enjoying myself.  I baited the hook with a fat worm which my grandfather had dug up for me earlier and cast him out towards the snag of an old tree which somehow had found its way into the center of the pond.  I thought that fish must certainly like to hang out near old snags, although I couldn’t possibly tell you why.  I sat down and waited for the fish to jump onto my hook, and when they didn’t oblige I reeled in my line, changed my bait, moved a short way down the edge of the pond and cast again towards the center. I did this a few more times and began to wonder if I would bring home any fish after all to relieve the unpleasant prospect of that night’s dinner.

I don’t know how much time had passed, but eventually I became aware that the sun was rising in the sky and the breeze had vanished.  I was determined to catch my dinner however and reeled in my line one more time.  I was about to try a different bait when a movement in the water attracted my attention.  I looked out toward the center of the pond and saw that it was a snake swimming across the water, out by the old tree snag.  I had very little knowledge of snakes in the Southeastern U.S. but had heard of water moccasins which were poisonous.  I just sat there and watched the snake, being a young boy and naturally interested in such things.  Being a young boy however it was also naturally difficult for me to remain still for very long, and my small movements were enough for me to attract the attention of the snake.

The snake stopped dead in the water and seemed to look right at me.  I froze and waited for him to swim away.  He did not swim away.  After giving me the eye for a minute or two the snake changed course and began to swim towards me.  Being a kinder and gentler West Coast sort of kid I gathered my gear and worked my way through the undergrowth in order to gain the bank on the far side of the pond.  That took a while and the snake waited patiently until I arrived at a clear area from which to recast my line.  I baited my hook and was poised to cast when I saw the snake turn in the water and begin to wriggle across it, once again, directly towards me.  That was enough for me.  Forgetting all ideas of catching my dinner I put down my rod, picked up Granddad’s shotgun, waited until my reptilian pursuer made it abundantly clear that it was me towards whom he was swimming, and then dispatched that snake to whatever eternal reward my slithering friend had to look forward to.

The surface of the pond erupted and the largest intact part of the late water moccasin flew end over end to wrap around one of the branches of the old snag jutting from the water.  The ‘boom’ of the shotgun echoed through the woods and the serenity of the scene which I had previously enjoyed was officially flushed down the toilet.  I was fully aware that any chance that I would catch a fish, slim as it was to begin with, was now near statistical zero.  With the sun beginning to pound down on me in earnest and the remains of the snake dripping from its resting place on the dead branch I reloaded the shotgun, picked up my fishing gear and began a sad march back to Granddad’s farmhouse.  My failure to catch a fish would result in the near certainty of another night of sitting hungry in front of a bowl of some unrecognizable swill that everyone at the table but me would eat, and another night of my stomach growling as I waited for the morning and the corn flakes that would keep me alive for one more day.  I was so pissed off at this prospect that I returned to the pond and put another blast from the 12 gauge into the incomplete carcass of the snake.  It flew off of the snag and landed somewhere; I neither knew nor cared where.  I still don’t.

One of my last efforts to catch a fish occurred when I was a teenager.  I don’t know where my dad was, but it was Mom who accompanied my friend Mike and i to a reservoir closer to San Diego than Lake Henshaw.  My mother never learned how to swim, and since she witnessed the drowning of a neighbor when she was a child she had no great desire to get into more water than a bathtub.  It was therefore quite a sacrifice for her to climb into a tiny rowboat with Mike and I and row from one end of that lake to the other in search of somewhere where the fish were biting.  Mike and I both had tackle boxes like real fishermen and we tried every sort of bait and lure that we owned to try and coax a fish onto our hook.  Real worms and salmon eggs, fake worms and minnows, flies, poppers, and spoons.  Nothing was tempting enough to induce the canny fish who toyed with us for nearly the whole day.

We rowed over to a shady beach and had a late lunch, and then regained our perches in the boat and reluctantly resumed our quest to find one fish stupid enough to allow himself to get caught by either one of us.  That quest took us toward the back of the reservoir where the water became more shallow, with rocks and water grasses and snags sticking up into the air.  I was at this point thoroughly tired of chasing fish who were obviously determined to not get caught.  The sun was quite hot and my skin, which refuses to tan (quite a disadvantage for a kid growing up in Surf City) was beginning to take on an ominous red hue which signaled a very uncomfortable next two or three days.  I was ready to throw in the towel but wanted one more crack at catching a meal.

I rummaged through my tackle box and found shunted off in a corner an old Bomber lure.  This thing was created to look somewhat like a frog.  It would wobble when cast and reeled back in, and it was filled with some phosphorescent substance that would glow in the gloom of the water world.  The top of this lure had been cracked and some of the phosphorescent goo had oozed out and ran down the sides of the lure in streaks.  It had two treble hooks that made me uncomfortable using it, and in general it was a lure that desperately needed to be tossed into the trash.  That made it the perfect lure for this moment.  I carefully plucked the lure out of the bottom of my tackle box and affixed it to the end of my line.  Then, balancing myself in the center of the boat, I cast that piece of trash straight into the center of the rocks, grasses, and snags which adorned the edge of the lake, with little thought of successfully reeling it back to me through that obstacle course.

The result was almost immediate.  The tip of my rod bent down almost to the surface of the water and I only barely retained possession of both the rod and my seat in the boat.  All ideas of ‘setting the hook’ or ‘playing the fish’ went instantly right out the window.  For the first time in more than recent memory I had a fish on the line and, judging by the strength with which it was trying to tear the pole from my hands it was a big one.  Right then and there the conflict became personal; I would not play around.  Come to me or live with a big, ugly Bomber lure stuck in you mouth for the short duration of the rest of your life!

I reeled and reeled, and then reeled some more.  The fish exploded out of the surface of the lake; it was a largemouth bass and easily the biggest fish I had ever caught.  I didn’t miss a beat.  He plopped back into the water and I continued to reel until I could see him swimming side to side and back and forth just to the side of the boat.  Mike reached over the edge of the boat and slipped our net under the fish and hauled his big, beautiful, wriggling and flopping self onto the bottom of the boat.  I was nervous about fiddling with such a large and angry mass of teeth and fins and scales as this was so Mike did the honors and disconnected the fish from the lure and put him on our stringer.

At this point I was fully ready to go home.  Mom had been ready to go home from the moment we pulled into the parking lot.  Mike, however, was a very competitive guy who nearly always could do things better than me in almost every activity.  Mike was also my best friend, so I fished patiently while he chucked lure after lure into rocks and snags and any other forbidding sort of terrain that looked like it could hide a fish.  It was all of no avail however.  Our fishing was done for the day; the fish knew it and I knew it, and after losing a couple of much-more-valuable lures than my old, fractured Bomber, Mike knew it too.  He reeled in his line and we called it a day.

That was the last fish that I ever caught.  I tried several times more; at the ocean, in mountain streams and in the mighty Columbia River.  Nothing.  Not a nibble. It has been years since I last tried, as I live a fairly busy life and have little time for endeavors which I know well in advance will be futile.  I have to admit however that I am still drawn to the lure (if you’ll pardon the pun) of fishing.  Perhaps in a year or two when I retire I will purchase some tackle, a license, and whatever accoutrement are necessary and once again wade into a stream or river and try to bag a trout or steelhead or salmon, partly for the meal that it would afford but mostly just to say that I have finally become smarter than a fish.  My only reservation is the suspicion, based on a lot of past history, that I probably have not.