Along The Trail 6-19-14

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Editor’s Note: This is a column written by Switzerland County’s David Hewitt. The article centers on all things outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodmanship.

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My first experience in the outdoors was fishing. Like most young kids, those early experiences consisted more of my dad baiting hooks and untangling fishing line or trying to get my rod un-snagged…Needless to say, dad didn’t get to do much fishing on those trips to the local ponds.

But, with a little bit of time, I gradually figured out how to cast, bait my hooks and tie my own line. My two older sisters eventually lost interest in the family fishing trips, wading through waist high weeds, catching night crawlers and smelling like fish, but with each cast, my burn for fishing and the outdoors was stoked and I have my pop to thank for that…

Many summer mornings, I’d be up earlier than most 10 or 11 year olds should be on their break. I’d pace around the living room, looking out the picture window waiting for dad to pull in the driveway after working third shift. Not one to ever turn down overtime, I can’t count the times dad would pull an 8pm-8am shift at the plant. I had his pattern down, 8:35am and he’d be hitting the driveway at any time. Finally, he’s home and I would be about to bust…

Bloodshot eyes from lack of sleep and obviously tired, he’d sit his old, black lunch box, covered in Chiquita banana stickers on the kitchen counter. I’m sure he wanted to do nothing more than get a shower and sleep for the next few hours, but I’d dance around, hounding him to take me fishing…Finally, he’d relent and I knew it was my cue…

He’d back up the Ford and I’d tug and pull on the aluminum runabout’s trailer, dragging the little boat to the car and drop the tongue down on the hitch. While he cleaned up and grabbed a bite to eat, I’d load the boat with our fishing rods, old cork handled fiberglass jobs outfitted with Zebco 33’s. Real working man’s outfits, nothing fancy, but they could do the job on anything from channel cats, to bass to bluegill. Tackle boxes tossed in, an old sherbet container from the deep freeze filled with frozen minnows or shad, a couple of apples and a Pepsi for a snack and we’d be off to the ramp.

He’d drop the boat in the water while I’d stand along side holding the rope, making sure it didn’t drift away. Once in the boat, he’d prime the old two stroke Evinrude and we’d keep our fingers crossed that it would start. “Wrrrrrr…wrrrrr” the motor cranked and in a puff of blue smoke, she fired and we were on the way to our fishing spot. If I was lucky, dad would let me take the wheel. As a kid, the old 35hp motor seemed like it pushed us along at break neck speed, but looking back now, she probably couldn’t reach 25mph on the best of days…

We’d anchor up and let the boat settle in the current depending on what Markland was doing with the dam. Once the boat settled, he’d crack open the ripe container of bait, load the hooks and toss them over. I don’t remember a lot of conversation back then between he and I. We’d both watch our poles, waiting for that tell-tale bounce or to see the slack be pulled from the line.

We’d bob up and down with each passing barge or cabin cruiser as the rollers would nearly swamp our small boat. Dad would occasionally chat with someone on the other end of a CB radio while we’d wind the morning away…Finally, the combination of the morning sun and lack of sleep would put an end to our catfishing. Sometimes we’d catch some, other times we didn’t, but regardless, I’ll always have those memories. Thanks Dad for teaching me to fish. I hope you had a good Father’s Day.

­- David Hewitt