Monday, June 18, 2012

A flip of a fin. A life changes direction.

When I was growing up the highlight of my summers were trips to Northern Minnesota.  Sometimes it would be the whole family, sometimes just myself going up to stay with my grand parents.  There was a fair amount of just idle hanging around I suppose, but there was also some serious fishing.

My grand father loved to fish and passed that down to me.  My dad, well, he being a family doctor and all did not take much time off.  Or relax much when he did.

Fast forward a generation and it is myself in the role of dad and family physician, now with young children of my own.

It was a long drive from where we lived in Wisconsin, but for years we went back to the same area of Minnesota that I fished as a young man.  Our family still had a very modest cabin up there.  It is where my eldest son took his first step.  And a few weeks before kindergarten it was where he caught his first fish.

There was a ramshackle boat house on the property.  It was a real eyesore, the kind of structure you absolutely can't build anymore but it could continue to exist until it tumbled down.  On arrival after a long drive-punctuated by parental snapping at back seat misbehaviour-I went down to the boat house.

And I saw a nice sized sunfish in shallow water under one of the floor boards of the structure.  It did not seem bothered by my intrusion, it just sat there fanning its fins, almost daring any intruders to come along.

In retrospect I suppose it might have been protecting a nest, or maybe it just an ornery bit of bad tempered fish.

I made my son put on a life jacket, put a worm on the hook of some ridiculous kiddie fishing pole, and sent him down to see if anything was biting.

In very short order indeed he ran back up the hill, ecstatic, having caught a fish without any help at all!
I wonder sometimes at the extent to which little things direct our futures.  Had he slipped and fallen into the lake, or managed to hook himself in the ear, his life would have taken a different turn.  But that is not what happened.

No, he kept on fishing.  He loved to fish and got better and better at it.  He certainly surpassed my skills rather early on.  Every day in weather temperate or gloomy you would see him hop on his bike and pedal off to the local creek, a modern day Norman Rockwell lad.

He started to keep journals, detailing what he caught and when, analyzing trends.  Eventually he became a truly formidable fisherman, able to catch some kind of aquatic critter in anything from a six inch deep rivulet on up to the Gulf of Alaska.
Same grin.  Much uglier fish.

And so it goes.  A talented and socially adept young man, I suspect he could have gone into any number of fields and met success.  But he went to undergraduate and then to grad school in Fisheries Management.  This was at the time a field where jobs were almost non existent.

But there is always room for the best, and this spring he was hired on as a Fisheries Biologist, the youngest one currently working in our state.

It is something to ponder, isn't it.  A bobber goes down, a five year old happens to notice, and a career is launched.


Honeybee said...

Wonderful tribute to both of you!

Borepatch said...

Nice Father's Day memory, right there.

Joanna K. Dane said...

Great photos, great story.

Fishy Max said...

Thanks Dad! Happy father's day!

Fishy Max said...

Thanks Dad! Happy Fatehr's Day!

Tacitus2 said...

Well, the real father's day post will be next week. Interesting times with son no.3...


Harry said...

Great news, and congratulations! The topic of fisheries is becoming ever bigger... More mouths to feed, more pressures, more need to know what's out there, what's healthy, what needs a break. (A bigger & bigger discussion here in the Gulf of Maine.) A great time for a new mind to enter the fray!