This I Believe

Erika - Rockford, Michigan
Entered on January 21, 2008

“To go fishing is the chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity toward tackle-makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week.” My great uncle, a hardworking second-generation farmer, would have nothing to do with government or politics if it weren’t for the “good for nothing” D.N.R. However, he would agree with this quote by President Herbert Hoover, an excerpt from his book “Fishing for Fun.” Fishing is fun, as a girl I grew up around friends who shared this interest with me. Though, I must further say that the real interest for our summer afternoon fishing outings down to the river were the least bit ever successful and more for the sake of goofing around in the river; the river, I might add, that had a fish population of zero, but was however densely populated with our lost sandals, shorts, and even inflatable tubes gone astray in the heat of the summer days. I now know from trips with my uncle that fishing is not only fun, but a way of life, a mindset, and a competitive sport nonetheless. Fishing is also a struggle between an animal lover’s emotions and a desire to form a bond that I have had to “reel” in slowly.

My Uncle Gordy has lived in the same house he grew up in all his life; he has had the same kitchen, the same carpet, the same bedroom for 61 years. He is not married but, until last year, was not alone in the house, for he took care of my great-grandmother, as well as two indoor cats and multiple litters outdoors. He is a simple, loving man and, without him, my great-grandmother would not have lived to the age of 95 years, as she did. I remember visiting the house, at even a young age, very well; I remember spending time with my grandmother, and I remember her stories, her laugh, and her hands. The earliest memories I have of my uncle are sparse, I can remember his television on in the living room, adjacent to my grandmother’s room, the news always on, his short, but friendly “hi,” and, mostly, I can remember the back of his head. My uncle is shy, quiet man, who, until fishing came along, I thought I’d never know.

I believe each fish I have reeled in on his 18 foot-long fishing boat has made a sacrifice for our friendship; I believe each fish, large or small, has been a gift of memories we share together—pointers he gives on how to snag the next one, laughing as the “big one” gets away, enjoying the water, the sun, and a simple sport that can get pretty competitive to see who catches the most, or the biggest. As I lay each fish to rest in the red-watered cooler, I thank each one for its sacrifice, its gift and the amounting number of memories my uncle and I share that lay flopping in the cooler. I believe in fishing. I believe that though fishing can be gruesome in its acts and sometimes seem slightly cruel, I must remember seeing the first of many prideful moments when I pulled in a “big one” and the smile that spread across my uncle’s face and reflected in the shining water. I will remember being introduced as his niece and fishing buddy to his friends. I believe in fishing for friendships and reeling in a bond that isn’t just a “catch and release.”