A number of things got me thinking this week. That’s a good thing.
July is sometime a snooze for me, brainwaves-wise. My excuse is that there’s not a great deal going on in my outdoor world this time of year, and if I have a weakness it’s that I have a tendency to think fish and game, fish and game, or game and fish when sometimes I might think of something else. Otherwise, I can’t think of a thing wrong with me.
But it IS the summer travel season, and between a bit of antsiness to get back out there and some envy over a friend’s trip to Greece, I’ve been inspired to examine the possibilities of galloping out of Dodge for a bit of hunting or fishing ASAP. Not that there’s anything wrong with some local dabbling, but I’ve been sticking close to home for the last couple of years and I can feel the wanderlust coming on again.
I had a good marathon run up and down the road in pursuit of this or that for years up until my recent confinement, and I’m starting to feel nostalgic, remembering that no one’s last words ever were “I wish I’d spent more time at work.”
This takes me back to Greece for a moment. First, the only time I was there I looked around and questioned whether anyone in the Cradle of Civilization worked (it didn’t seem so)—This has an undeniable appeal, especially in a setting like the Mediterranean—but on an individual level and given the state of that entire nation’s financial situation, you have to wonder “What does a Grecian urn?” (Blame my friend DP for that one.)
Now THIS reminds me that I must examine my own relationship with the bank. You’ll recall I said I felt I should make a pilgrimage to some hunting or fishing destination “ASAP.” I would have rather said “pronto” in keeping with the galloping-out-of-Dodge thing and my impatient mood, but ASAP will have to do in keeping with my checkbook.
The ships coming in have been smaller and riding higher in the water in recent years, while the cost of being me has been rising like oceans.
Fortunately, as I scan the horizon from the crow’s nest for opportunities, I am happy as a clam (squid?) to land on the less-exotic angling shores, and hunt through the not-too-expensive shrubbery. After all, one of my best fishing trips was had for what was probably then a five-dollar ride on an old passenger train to the secret spot of my camp buddy Jokes O’Mara (real name lost to time).
We sat on the dam and caught bream and rock bass hand-over-fist and laughed our asses off until it was time for his mom to pick us up and put me back on the train, trusty spinning rod and tacklebox in hand. I do not recall hauling a bucket of fish for supper down the rails, but it could have happened.
I continued that tradition of modest but successful trips in the ’rents stationwagon, on Trailways buses (they went back and forth between the small towns; Greyhound was for when you were going to the big city) and on my first puddle-jumper. Not a float plane, mind you, just a 60’s vintage prop plane owned by an airline that deigned to fly into smallish Southern towns which might or might not be on the rise.
I had about a ton of duct tape wrapped around my cardboard rod case, because even at twelve or fourteen I knew about the carefree souls of baggage handlers. I admired their ability to live as if there were no consequences, but I feared for my $15 investment in fiberglass.
When I got out on my own, I discovered that I am a master at packing a huge Delta 88 or old SUV with coolers, cookware and outdoor gear and motoring to a fair sampling of the South’s fin-and-fur destinations. Names like Moomaw and Phelps and Philpott might not carry the same cachet or require the sack of cash as do the famous trout streams of the West or even the Northeast—to say nothing of even more exotic locales—but the time spent there and elsewhere was priceless. After each trip, I’d come back refreshed, but ready to do it all over again. I was never dissatisfied that I wasn’t hunting Africa or fly-fishing Scotland, or even Alaska. It seemed that there were plenty of places for me to explore between here and those spots, and plenty of time.
Now, there remain many places, but there is not so much time. My friend’s trip to Greece reminded me of my mom, and will try to explain why. Along with my dad, she loved to travel, and one summer we all cruised the Med together for ten days or so. That was a long time to be around my mom, especially when confined to one ship of finite size and only able to hop off at a small island here and there every few days. Our relationship would be hard to describe in few words, but it was not chummy, or warm, or jovial. She was a pill, as they used to say.
However, I got off my best practical joke and poke in the ribs at her on that trip, and that type of thing tends to make one feel a little warmer and fuzzier in retrospect than one might ordinarily. In short, when I think of travel, I think of her, and of my dad, and a few other people I’ve met along the way.
One was a friend of hers, a rather wealthy widow who somehow had developed a love of fishing the way her peer group might love dinner parties or a rounds of golf at championship resorts. Though I never witnessed this myself, this woman was known to buttonhole the ship’s captain on every cruise she took (and there were many) and convince him to let her fish from some spot known only to sailors, I suppose, because I could never figure out where she would have done it.
I’m no expert in how cruise ships are put together, admittedly, but the best I can tell, this crusty doyenne must have spent quite a lot of her golden years down there somewhere in steerage, poking a rod out a porthole anytime the ship was at anchor.
The picture of it keeps me going when it comes time for me to remember what’s important.