|Chapter 1 – The Well Equipped Fisherman
It was early summer 1964. A scant eight months since President Kennedy had been assassinated. An event that shocked a nation already battling fears from all sides, and struggling to heal. Post war prosperity was coming for some, while eluding others. We were a country seeking to find the new normal, not quite knowing what that should look like.
Many still clearly remembered the economic collapse of the Great Depression, two world wars, and the Korean quagmire. News from Viet Nam was growing more alarming each day, and this “Cold War” thing with Russia, atomic bombs, and missiles in Cuba were frightening! Thank God, we had JFK. But now, unbelievably, he was gone, and that old Texas rascal LBJ was in the oval office. What next?
For the most part all of this did not affect Bruce in the least. Bruce was nine years old in a day when grown-ups still thought it was important for kids to be sheltered from such things. Besides, Bruce had things to do. He was being allowed, for the first time ever, to go “up north” to Gramma and Grampa’s lake cabin alone on the bus. He would then stay with them for the WHOLE summer. Mom and Dad and his sisters would come up every other weekend or so for a visit, to “give Gramma a break”.
“The car ride up north sure will be peaceful,” mom said as she ruffled her son’s hair affectionately.
“I don’t know how we will get along,” Dad said with mock gravity.
“We will get along just fine,” declared Bruce’s older sister crossing her arms.
“Yeah,” said his younger sister, “He won’t be able to bug us.”
Then sticking out their tongues they flounced away as only little girls can do.
His baby sister, imprisoned in her playpen said, “gurgle, smurgle, glak,” pulled out her pacifier and fired it in his general direction. It did not go far however; his mother having learned long ago to pin it with ribbon to her bib.
His sisters were right though, it WOULD be more peaceful, more peaceful for HIM. There would be no whining and complaining to mom that, “Bruce is looking at us, now he’s pointing at us, Mom make him stop”. Sheesh a guy can’t look or point or anything in this family. How is a guy supposed to keep himself entertained in a car for four hours? The bus will be better. He was sure of it.
Later that evening, he packed all his summer clothes and one hooded sweatshirt into a small, white, faux-marbled Samsonite suitcase that weighed more than he did. He dug around in his closet and found his Umco 103 fishing tackle box his dad had given him for his birthday. He hauled it down with just enough racket to bring his mother in to ask, “Are you alright?”
“Of course,” Bruce said. “Why?”
“Because,” his mother exclaimed, “it sounded like a herd of buffalo went through here.”
“Nope! Just getting my tackle box, Mom.”
“Good Night Nurse,” she sighed, retreating to her sewing room.
He didn’t know how they knew it, but somehow all his grandparents, aunts, and uncles knew he needed lots of fishing tackle for his tackle box. It was now filled with all kinds of cool stuff: silver spoons, daredevils, rubber frogs, bobbers, leaders, sinkers and all the necessary things for a well-equipped fisherman.
That’s what they all said: “You are now one well-equipped fisherman.”
Bruce agreed. His Uncle Dan, he was the one who had a Honda Dream 305cc motorcycle, gave him the coolest thing of all. Two cellophane packets of REAL bait bugs. They were in some kind of juice or oil and you could hold it right up to your eye and see all the icky parts. Really cool!
Bruce went through his tackle box, examining each item and meticulously putting them into their little slot. Somehow everything had gotten all jumbled up in there when he got it down from his closet. Soon enough it was all organized again. Dad had even allowed him to take along his “Royal Canadian Mounted Police” jack-knife, so long as he kept it in his tackle box and only used it when grandpa was with him.
“All set,” he said aloud and set the tackle box down next to his suitcase.
He went and found his two sisters and challenged them to a game of Mousetrap. They loved to play that game with him because they said: “He couldn’t cheat” which struck him funny because that was exactly why he loved to play it with them. One thing Bruce knew, along with every other nine-year old boy: nobody can cheat like two girls ganging up on one poor guy. He is guaranteed to lose every time.
The girls declined his invitation though, deciding it would be more fun to watch “Gidget” on TV. No matter, it was almost eight o’clock and mom would soon begin the process of getting everyone bathed, jammied, watered, back-scratched, and tucked into bed. Then each one received an allotted 10 minutes “talking turn” alone with mom. The only one who might get to stay up later was the baby. Apparently, she was special.
Later, as he lay in bed waiting for his turn with mom, Bruce dreamed of all the fun and adventures he would have this summer up north in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Fishing with Grampa, exploring the woods, and picking lily pad blooms with Gramma as she rowed around the shallows. Gramma didn’t like to use the motor. She liked to row. Talking softly and teaching him about all sorts of interesting things as they sculled along. Gramma said if you talked loud out on the water people could hear you clear across the lake. Bruce always tried to talk softly when Gramma rowed them in the boat, “so all of creation wouldn’t hear us.” Bruce thought of these and many other things such as frogs, and crayfish, and minnows, and dragonflies, and Grampa’s big ole’ Chesapeake Bay retriever, “Pete”. All these filled his mind. A few moments later mom peeked into his room, finding him sound asleep, she tucked in his blankets, kissed him on the cheek and whispered.
“You may be one well equipped fisherman, but I will miss you this summer.”