Early Years home

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The Early Years


   It seems like my family did a lot of fishing. Mainly, we'd fish for black or striped bass, catfish, crappie and perch. Most of the time, we fished from the bank, but occasionally did some boat fishing. We'd dig our own worms, put 'em in a coffee can full of dirt and put the line in the water. More often than not, my Dad would drive us East of Modesto to the LaGrange, CA area. We'd jump a fence ... and fish in "pot holes" of an abandoned mine dredging area. Once, my dad caught a crawdad and he teased me as he chased me up the bank with it in his hand.

   I remember the first black bass I ever caught, using a plug called a "jitterbug." The darn bass hit it just about 3 feet from the bank just as I was about to pull the line out of the water. I panicked! Didn't know what to do so, I turned around, pole still in hand, and dragged that poor fish up the bank. He got off the hook and I went crazy trying to get "Bubber" or Dad over there to keep that fish from flopping back down the hill and into the water. They were on the other side of the pond and I had to act and act quickly. The question was how do I do this without having to put my hands on that fish and getting "finned" by him. This was a time of decision, a male crossroad, for sure. That poor fish started flopping its way back towards the water, as I gingerly tried to kick him back up the hill. In a fit of genius, I managed to get a foot on him. Have you ever seen a fish out of water with dirt all over him and a small kid standing on him, looking like a gladiator waiting for the thumbs down from Caesar? Not a pretty site. Not like you see them on tv, being put back in the water from an expensive bass boat, all nice, and clean and wet. This was war, man against beast. I had to be a man and overcome this challenge to my pride in front of my dad. Slipping down my sweaty young nose were my pair of eye glasses. They looked like the bottom of  2 nickel bottles of Coke (please tell me you remember those Cokes). Then there would be the task of cleaning the fish. To this very day, it's a gory thing. Yechh! I had the signs, early on, of being an animal lover activist, but this was a different time and one was not to wimp in the face of a little blood shed in "war times."

   Below is a picture of me and my kitty named "Beese" (go figure) who was faster than the flashbulb/camera shutter. The flash went off and so did the cat. Remember those old flash cameras? You'd have to eject the blue dot bulbs from the holder. I've always had a tabby cat with me during most periods of my life. This picture would be about 1951 or '52, which would make me 4 or 5 years old. I had just gotten back from fishing in Rio Vista, CA. That's in the Sacramento River delta area, by my Aunt Vera's ranch (our version of Louisiana).


Below is me in camp at Tioga Pass, CA. Fishing pole in hand: Glasses sliding down the nose. Add a squint, a few freckles, and you have it. Opie and Andy had nothing on me.


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