Along about 23 or 24, a young man gets to thinking he’s seen and done enough to consider himself a man. He’s had some laughs, traveled outside his hometown, and maybe he’s even visited the Girls! Girls! Girls! attraction at the state fair. Or at least he’s scanned the tabloid covers in the Wal-Mart checkout, which is about the same thing.
When it comes to matters of the heart, finance, and buying a used car, this young man is proud, yet stubborn. He chooses to learn through experience, making the same dunderheaded mistakes common to his father and grandfather before him.
But when it comes to fishing — aha! He seeks information from any and all sources, hoping to stumble across that one crumb of wisdom which instantly increases his water hole prowess. Sadly, this indiscriminate search for fishing knowledge often leads to heartache. He buys tackle wholly unsuited to the task, uses questionable presentation strategies, and owns as many as three boats concurrently.
Dear reader, I have to confess that, once upon a time, I was that young man. It was the mid-’70s. For two years, I and five friends had gone fly-in fishing with Knobby Clark out of Sioux Lookout, Ontario. In my short life, I’d become, in my estimation, a good fisherman — but not a great fisherman. Sure, Doc and the boys had taught me all they knew, which took the better part of an hour, but it just wasn’t enough. I had exhausted all resources available to me, from Virgil Ward on TV to my Aunt Lucy, who can’t tell a fishing pole from a pool cue.
One fateful day, on the greasy cork bulletin board above the worm cooler at Willy’s Bait Shack, there was a flyer advertising a seminar in, of all places, Albert Lea, Minnesota. FISHING SECRETS FOR SALE it read. The best part, it was only 15 bucks a head.
“Whattya think, Doc?” I asked.
“Who’s the headliner?”
“Some guy named Al Lindner,” I said.
“Lindner?” Doc said. “Never heard of him.”
“Lots of people we never heard of are better fishermen than us,” I said. “Why don’t we give it a shot?” So Doc, the policeman, and I made plans to attend.
Doc said, “I’ll drive!”
It should be noted here that Doc’s fledgling dental practice was not yet the cash machine it is today. He had a sad history of owning a mindnumbing string of deathtrap clunkers, and we feared that he might roll up in one of them a week later. As it happened, our fears were eventually justified.
The seminar began at 10. On Saturday morning at dawn I closed my back door expecting to see a choking cloud of oilsmoke, but there was Doc at the helm of a very cherry 1971 Chevy El Camino. Unlike his last nightmare on wheels, this one had actual glass where the windows should be, hard plastic instead of red cellophane for taillight lenses, and the hood covered the entire engine compartment — no baling wire in sight.
“Whose car?” I asked.
“Mine,” Doc said.
I tossed an overnight bag with a change of clothes in the back, and we cruised out to pick up the policeman.
“Whose car?” he asked.
“Mine,” Doc said.
“Are you sure?”
“Hey,” Doc said, a bit perturbed, “can’t a guy once in a while have a nice vehicle to drive?”
The car had a monstrous engine and a stiff, muscle-car suspension. I dialed up some music on the radio, amazed it even worked. We were all smiling. Doc had his elbow out the window, I was at shotgun singing along with the Bee Gees, and the policeman played finger drums on the dash.
Two hours north of Des Moines, doing about 60, we hit the railroad crossing on the outskirts of a small town. When the El Camino chassis finally came down to earth, I looked back and saw dual glasspack mufflers, still connected to the tailpipes, spinning and sparking to a stop in the grader ditch. Doc drove to the shoulder, cut the ignition, and we assessed the damage.
Continued — click on page link below.
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