You don’t have to catch fish to have fun

Jul. 20, 2013 @ 05:23 PM

The temperature was just below 70. The banks were lined in lush green vegetation and, in spite of all the recent rain we’ve had, the water in Oak Hollow Lake was remarkably clear. There was a light breeze that rippled the water just enough to discourage me from using a topwater lure but I was determined enough to try one anyway. I love catching a fish on a topwater lure and summer mornings are the best time to catch a bass on one.
The sun was just beginning to hit the water where we were, and as the morning breeze stirred, the feeling took me back to summer morning fishing trips with Daddy when I was still a teenager.
My fishing partner was Joe Clodfelter, a lifelong friend who’s shared many outdoor adventures with me. I also knew Joe’s Dad, Billy Joe Clodfelter, and in the quiet of the morning, we remembered our dads and exchanged stories. The older I get, the easier it is for me to get swept up in nostalgia. I suppose this is why antiques are so popular today. A simple thing like an Orange Crush bottle or seeing an old galvanized picnic cooler can take us back to a simpler time.
There are some who’d say that those times weren’t so great. We didn’t have cell phones. We didn’t have HD TV or cable. Most families only had one car, and almost no one had air conditioning. As I was thinking this, it occurred to me that maybe that’s why there seem to be so many unhappy people today. Every half hour or so, Joe or I would remark what a nice morning it was and how cool the morning was. We began to reminisce about life before air conditioning.
We talked about how we’d manage to sleep without air conditioning. This has been a hot and humid week, but no hotter than it was when I was a boy. I remembered a turquoise colored ten inch window fan that somehow managed to find its way into my room as my fan. My windows were always open those days except when there was a storm and I remember coming into my room after a storm to find the bed wet from rain blowing in through the window. If you’re old enough to have lived without air conditioning, do you remember that?
That fan, set in the open window was such a luxury. I can still hear the quiet whirr of the blades cutting through the summer night air and pushing the cooler evening air into my stuffy sleeping quarters. It’s hard to believe just how much I appreciated that fan. Of course, at the time, I didn’t notice that the whirring of that fan drowned out the night sounds of crickets and the other insects that provided an evening symphony that put me to sleep every night. I sure do appreciate them now.
In those days, the glorious summer mornings were refreshing and cool. They gave a boy a reason to wake up and get outside. Sure, the grass was always wet with dew and the humidity was still there, but the coolness, it felt so good. Of course, the lack of air conditioning made the woods behind the house a more attractive place, too. Sure, there were spider webs and there wasn’t much breeze, but the woods were cooler than the house or the yard in the middle of the day and there were great adventures to be had.
It occurs to me that maybe air conditioning has made the kids of today not appreciate the woods like my generation revered them. Today, we’re overwhelmed with slogans about saving trees, but I think my generation might have been the last one that truly appreciated the woods.
Thinking about this, it’s easy to see why the younger generation doesn’t appreciate a cool summer morning as much. I suspect few farmers would ever truly appreciate rain until they suffered a drought. It’s the heat that makes you appreciate the cool, the drought gives value to the rain, and summer is made sweeter by a cold, harsh winter.
It’s true that life is easier today. We have cell phones and HD cable TV. Most of us have multiple vehicles, and we often eat food that someone else cooked. We travel in comfort to exotic locations for vacation, and we sleep on clean sheets stretched over soft beds in air conditioned comfort. If we wonder about the weather, we can pull up an app on our smart phones that shows it’s raining in Mocksville and headed this way. The problem is that all those things don’t even come close to providing the joy that a cool morning gave after a week of hot nights without air conditioning. Driving a luxurious car is no match for a day of summer rain on a dry and withering garden.
During that summer morning last week, Joe and I didn’t catch many fish. I caught a small hybrid and Joe caught an 11- inch largemouth. We had a good natured argument about who’s fish was the largest, but otherwise it was a happy and contented trip. The cool morning and thinking of the blessings in our lives did more for our sprits than a few nice fish ever could have. In fact, not catching any fish this trip might make the next one when we catch fish a little sweeter.

Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He’s a member of the board of directors of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. He writes about hunting, fishing, dogs, and shooting for several NC newspapers as well as national magazines and websites.  If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at offtheporch52@yahoo.com or offtheporchmedia.com