There are many events that mark one’s passage from childhood to adulthood. African tribes, deep in the heart of uncharted regions of the Congo, send their young men into the wilderness. Jewish males have Bar-Mitzvahs and their community recognizes them as adults, fully able to read aloud from the sacred text. Native Americans have their vision quests, and Arabs memorize parts of the Koran. Young women in American high schools have their cotillions, invites, and coming out parties in which they’re presented to a society of potential suitors. For those of us who didn’t run with the Country-Club crowd, our rite of passage is often reduced to a list of firsts: first haircut, first day at school, first date, first kiss, first cigarette, first beer, first hangover, first girlfriend, first “time,” and first major break up.
Life is never the same after.
In the Midwest, perhaps one of the lesser known rites of passage is “baiting one’s own hook” while fishing. Like fending off the evil spirits in the dark depths of the Congo, this can be a horrifying experience. More than one child has turned tail, shrieked violently, and run at the lowly sight of a night crawler slithering around in a coffee can. Here is where one’s true manhood is defined; it is not born with us. On the contrary, it is earned, conquered by undergoing an experience so horrifying that it defies words. Some have described the experience as causing them to imagine that their bodies were overtaken by these slimy little creatures. For some, the very sight of the Styrofoam cup, filled with black top soil, has caused panic, hyperventilation, heart-pounding distress, cold sweats, bouts of nausea and the urge to cry out as they feel buried alive in a pit of slithering quicksand.
The week we stayed with my grandparents my brother and I looked forward to the big day when Grandpa and his fishing buddy, Clarence, would take us to Lake Odessa, over in Muscatine, Iowa. Each night we dreamed of effortlessly landing the big ones: bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass, catfish and bullhead. We waited in anticipation. Grandpa also outfitted us with two of his old rod and reels, a couple of zebcos that he kept in the trunk of his car, and fixed two new sinkers into the lines. My brother and I had always fished with bobbers, which made it easy for us. All we had to do was wait for the bobber to go underwater and then reel in the fish. This time was different. Grandpa told us we couldn´t use bobbers. He saw them as training wheels and real fisherman didn´t need them. This was going to be big for my brother and me. We had never fished without bobbers before: we were moving up in the world of fishing. The day before the fishing trip, Grandpa took us up to the baseball diamond at Schadt Park and taught us how to cast our lines.
To be continued…
Cross-posted at B2L2: http://jimmygabacho.com/?p=809