Andy Rieger mug

Andy Rieger

Mailman Preston Tolson likely tired of the two scruffy youngsters waiting for his daily deliveries in June 1967. Our country home was near the end of his route. On hot days, we put a jelly jar full of ice water on the porch for him just to help his disposition.

As May turned into June and school let out, Mom cut box tops from Ralston cereal packages and ordered two cork-handle fishing poles with open-faced spinning reels. They finally arrived in two large boxes. Casting plugs let us practice in the front yard without hooking each other.

After a few afternoons of pretend fishing, we dug up some worms on the side of the house and headed to the state hospital lake across the fence line. Along the way, we’d bag a few grasshoppers in case the worms weren’t on the diet of the sunfish and bluegill that filled the small lake. If those didn’t work, we’d ask the patients who were there fishing for a spare minnow or two. Many a summer morning was spent at that lake or up the hill at Rucker’s Pond on 12th Avenue NE.

• • •

Fast forward nearly 55 years as I patiently waited for the delivery of two collapsible fishing rods and reels to be delivered by a driver in a large, brown truck. It was ordered with a few clicks online, rather than clipping cereal boxtops.

Those poles were opened and assembled with our grandsons, who learned to cast on a lake in Tennessee last weekend. Their patience was remarkable as they watched me thread the lengthy night crawlers onto the small hooks that came with the rods and reels.

“Doesn’t that hurt the worm?” the younger one said as the worm tried to wriggle free.

“No, he wants to help us catch a fish,” the older one replied with complete confidence that comes with being 7.

For the record, those worms didn’t help us. Neither did the raw bacon, the plastic worm or the top-water lures we tried. After three days of fishing off and on, with only a couple of bites, we gave up and packed up the gear and headed home.

• • •

Fishing transcends generations. What we learn from our parents is easily passed to our children and, now, our grandchildren. My friend, Sherrill Howery, a good geologist but a better fisherman, wrote a book about the science of fishing a few years back.

His motivation was partly to encourage parents to spend more time with their children and teach them to fish.

Howery coached hundreds of area children on local sports teams. What he really wanted was to encourage parents to spend more time with their children when they are young. It’s easy to say no to a child. Saying yes takes effort.

• • •

Some 30 years ago, my father and brother joined my son and I for a trout fishing trip to Gaston’s resort on the White River in northwest Arkansas. A family member had bought us a gift certificate at the lodge. We trolled the river in flat-bottom boats dragging chains to slow us down.

The trout were plentiful, and we caught our limit each day that we were there. We kept them alive throughout the day, and my son named them all. When it came time to clean and cook them, we couldn’t do it and released them back into the White River.

It would be one of my last trips with my father and one my son and I remember well. What memories we made, and they had nothing to do with fishing.

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