From the pond
Took the kids fishing today with my friend, a part-time stay-at-home dad and his four boys. The deal: I'd keep his 18-month old out of trouble and he'd hook the worms for the rest of the kids. I think I got the better deal. Worm-handling's never been a strong suit of mine.
We arrived at his house after lunch to do the worm-digging in the compost pile, part of the "whole fishing experience," so said my friend. The kids loved it. "Oh, there's a big one!" And they'd grab its slimy body up and into the plastic chinese soup container filled with dirt. I picked raspberries nearby and tried to look excited when they'd flash their bucket of worms in my face. It took about half an hour to gather enough bait, and turn over the compost "while we were there anyway." Between shovelfuls, I tried to recall whether I'd been asked to go fishing or gardening. On the way to the driveway (almost there!), we took a detour into the "apple grove" where my friend proudly showcased his seven golden apples (from three sapling trees). From there, he pointed out the chicken coop, future home to the soon-to-be-chickens warming in his basement. I was informed by the four-year-old that only one had hatched and the rest were "still cooking."
The loading of seven children into two cars, avec snacks, (mostly) matching shoes, snacks, sunscreen, fishing gear, diapers and various "I have to take this toy with me" outbursts took longer than the backyard farm tour. The three miles to the pond seemed like thirty. Car doors slammed, seat belts buckled, tortuous kiddie music blaring, siblings fighting, check. Finally, finally off to the pond.
I do so like the idea of fishing. The disconnect from technology. I like the patience you need to tie the line and sinkers and hooks and also untangle the same when seven kids (dad included) get their lines crossed. I like the rowing the boat and the gentle rocking and the sound of water slap, slap, slapping against the thin metal frame. I love the casting, the sitting, the waiting, the quiet, the trickery, the excitement and anticipation when you reel in! All that is good. The unhooking, the wriggling, dying fish, the gutting thing, I could do without, but I'd do it if I had to. Happily, the dad did it and we threw all of them back anyway, so the death issue was moot. Or, at least, we weren't witness to it.
I also brought my neighbor's 11-year old daughter, a fine fisherman (fisherkid?) who was taught by her father. An independent only child, she got tired of waiting behind six other kids for her worms to be hooked by the dad, so she took matters into her own hands, literally. She even got my kids to hook their own worms. "Cut this worm in half for me, Mom, it's too long!" Um, I think not. I tried reasoning, "Look, it's the poor fish's last meal. Couldn't you spare the whole worm?" Apparently bait is scarce round these here parts. Call me a wimp, but at least I'm a resourceful one. I found a nice sharp rock for them to use caveman-style. They managed with their primitive rock knife and their worms portions and at the end of the day, caught nine fish altogether. The biggest one had by my daughter while I was entertaining the youngest, thirstiest of the four boys at the car. Didn't get a shot of it, but I heard it was "this big!!"