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By Lynda Hollenbeck
When Ed and I married, I had never been fishing. Not once.
That sounds weird to a lot of people, but it never bothered me.
Plainly speaking, I wasn't interested.
My brother-in-law, George, who's obsessed with the sport, would consider this grounds for commitment to a rubber room. But George, the psychologist/author, long ago elevated fishing to a religious experience. He has fished in many other lands, including a recent trip to Argentina, after which I teased him about trying to catch fish that speak with a Spanish accent.
His brother frequently told him that there's no better fishing anywhere than in Arkansas and he could see no sense in his continent-jumping itinerary. Many times I pointed out to Ed that saying you've fished in the Saline River pales somewhat to telling about a deep-sea fishing experience in South America when you're in a bragging contest in Texas (George's home for a number of years).
In any event, I never fished. I could have done it a zillion times if I had desired. I grew up in Eastern Arkansas, in Cotton Plant, close to the Cache River, which had the best catfish around, and there was also Turkey Creek, where many an angler enjoyed the activity.
My Aunt Bessie â€” Auntie to me â€” loved to fish at Turkey Creek. I adored her and loved hearing her share delightfully exaggerated accounts about life â€” hers and everybody else's. She was witty and looked a lot like the little actress who played Miss Emma on the "Andy Griffith Show."
Even the fun of spending time with Auntie wasn't enough to lure me to the fishing hole.
There are several reasons why fishing has no appeal for me. First, you have to do it either sitting on the river bank or in a boat, and neither possibility stirs my soul.
Secondly, whether by bank or boat, at water's edge or in it, the setting draws insects â€” mainly mosquitoes â€” and as a fair-skinned redhead I'm already a magnet for the testy varmints. When they bite me, I don't get the usual little red spots. I get huge, itchy splotches that, if appearance were the only criterion, would make me eligible for residency in a leper colony.
Thirdly, people who really want to catch fish have to be still and quiet or the fish won't bite (so they say), and that certainly doesn't fit in with my lifestyle. Talking in my family is aligned equally with breathing. Rarely did/does anyone stop for long, and I've always been true to my heritage.
Try explaining all of this to someone who's determined to broaden your horizons. Early in the union, I told Ed I didn't think a personal experience in fishing was necessary, but he insisted that I couldn't go through life and never have had the joy of participating in the sport.
I finally gave in. The weather on this particular day wasn't horribly warm, which helped somewhat. But the bugs were true to their calling and I left with a dramatic share of bites.
And I did catch two or three fish â€” AFTER Ed baited my hook. Sorry, but I just couldn't do that to any worm.
I didn't get any great thrill from the experience, but I persevered.
We got home with a respectable number of fish and I started in the process of cleaning them.
No one had warned me that water can revive what appears to be a dead fish. I learned all too quickly that opossums aren't the only critters that can play dead.
Right before my eyes the catfish that I thought were permanently out of the swimming game began wriggling.
"Ed! " I screamed. "These fish are alive!"
The water had refreshed the stunned fish, Ed explained. "It's OK. That happens sometimes."
"And you expect me to COOK and (gasp!) then EAT something that I have come face to face with?!!" I shrieked. "No, thank you!"
My angling career ended at that precise moment.
There's no way I'm ever going to become acquainted with something that is predestined to become my food.
I agonize when I see the pictures of the 4-H kids in the fat calf contest at the county fair. Yes, they know and understand the calf's future at the start of the project. That's one thing. That's a head thing.
That's BEFORE they've cared for and grown to love that little brown-eyed critter that can be as sweet as a puppy. Giving it up for the table has to hurt. That's a heart thing.
Anyway, when I "met" my fish, I was done.
It was over and out, farewell, adios, so long, arrivederci, sayonara.
To capsule how I feel about fishing, I'll share a quote from Harold F. Blaisdell, who said it first in "The Philosophical Fisherman":
"All the romance of ... fishing exists in the mind of the angler and is in no way shared by the fish."
Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.