Tuesday, October 9, 2012


When the trout stocking truck arrives, Henry grabs a bucket and the man with the net fills up his pail.   Henry scoots down to the stream and tosses them in.  He gets pats on the back and smiles for helping out.

An old fisherman and his wife camped here in June.   They fished and clammed for years in Alaska.  “The limit was 500 clams!   But if we went to the other side of the peninsula, they didn’t care how many you shoveled up.”   Henry got to know them, Bill and Irene, pretty well.  Bill showed Henry how to pull lures out of the streams and lakes, and fishing for lures soon outnumbered caught fish.   Bill gave him a telescopic, magnetic wand.    When the wand broke, Henry stuck a stick into the end.  When that didn’t reach, he  waded chest deep in the cold river and snagged the glittering metal.  How many days did he return to camp soaked and smiling about a cache of lures, impervious to the evening, mountain air.

One morning, Bill and Eileen pulled up in their camper and Henry jumped in with his pole and box of lures.  They headed off to a river by South Lake where Bill and Irene have fished for 20 years, and we figured he’d be back in two hours.  Around lunch I headed off and found them parked along a stream, heating hotdogs and eating raw, jarred clams.  Five fish were on a stringer.  Bill was talking about Halibut and how the babies swim like fish ordinarily do, but when they get older they get lazy and lie on the bottom and that is when the one eyeball shifts over to the same side as the other eyeball on the side of the fish that lies up.  Bill said that the females go through this transition first because they are lazier than the males.  Henry spoke right up and said, “Oh, so I guess they are different than you and Eileen.”   Eileen put the fork down she was stirring the dogs with; her head rocked back.  Bill eyed Henry slyly and moved the jar of clams and cocktail sauce from him.   Henry giggled, “What?  Everyone knows Eileen is the worker and you are the lazy one.  You even said so.”
“I did catch 3 of the 5 fish today,” piped in Eileen.   Bill just shook his head, and slid the jar back towards Henry.  I wrapped my hotdog in a bun and squeezed in a “Thank you, see you back at camp” and exited out the screen door.  Bill was coaxing Eileen to tell about the moose that almost trampled her.   The conversation was in gear for a long haul.

The picture of that crammed table with jars of clams, strewn forks, sauce and a pile of crumpled napkins traveled back to camp with me:  Henry pinching a slab of clam, listening for holes in Bill’s stories;  the steam rolling from the hotdog pot in front of Eileen; and Bill reclining in their 30 year old refurbished camper, eyes wrinkled, and the most enjoyable catch of his day throwing jabs and soaking up his tales.

Eileen, Henry and Bill - fishing buddies
Our cowboy's catch of the day

Next day, Chandler was helping me swap out old fire pits for, bigger, double-racked, glossy-black, new ones.  It took a hacksaw, a hammer and elbow grease and about 20 minutes each.  A camper strolled by, “Where is that boy that is selling lures?”  We pointed towards the RV and continued yanking out a pit for a campers – husband and wife– the husband was the grounds keeper at Cal Poly SLO.  He painted the lines and mascot chalk art on the football field.  She had raised a daughter who went to Italy her senior year in high school and was now in some remote island in the Caribbean where they speak Italian.   At 12, a neighbor during a dinner talked about living overseas as an exchange student.  Her mother watched her 12 year old daughter’s eyes grow wide.  For the next four year’s their house was decorated with taped-up Italian vocabulary words.  The dinner menu even took a turn Italian.  By her junior year, she had taken all her pre-required college credits so that she could go to Italy.   By now, Chandler had raked the campground and I’d hacked through two of the iron legs, and Chandler was hammering the left over pegs down flat into the pit.

“Changed her life” said the wife.  “And I see the same in you young lady.”  Chandler said “thank you” and that she’d like to go to France and had checked out a few CD’s in French from the library.

“I can see you can work” she added.   “Not a lot of young kids know how to work.  This is good experience for you.”   “Yes,” said her husband.  “All the time, I get workers at the campus who don’t know where to start or what to do when we have a task to dig into.  You’ve got to tell them every move.”  We thanked them and exchanged emails.  They took our blog address, and we shuttled over to the restrooms in the golf cart.  I ducked in to spray the toilet seats and heard Chandler sweeping and two fishermen stroll by who said, “Are you the lure-kid’s sister?  Well, this buddy of mine can talk a streak thicker than a greased turkey at Thanksgiving, but your brother’s sales presentation  makes him sound like mashed potatoes.”   They had bought several lures, and it was two or three camp sites later that we heard another camper tell us how “that little fellow could hold his ground.”
At dinner, Chandler and I were tuckered out, but Henry sat there with a big grin and told how he’d sold $17.00 in lures, was going to sell over $60.00 this week, and I think he repeated it 3 or 4 times.  


Chandler, Doug, and Henry cleaning a camp site

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