My youngest daughter, Alaina, came to the farm to visit last weekend. She was between terms in her physical therapy doctoral program at George Washington University in Washington, DC. She wished to reconnect with her old man by going fishing, like we used to do when she was young. I was taken aback and touched when she requested an angling excursion. The memories of wetting lines with Alaina (and Erin) in Black Hills streams and lakes, and the prairie rivers and potholes in South Dakota are powerful indeed.
Since I hadn’t yet gone fishing here in Kansas, I was quite sure that the day would be a bust. I didn’t have time to scope out any likely spots – but a couple of fishing lakes and 110-Mile Creek are all within minutes of the farm. We stopped at the sporting-goods store for some fresh fishing supplies and licenses on the way home from the airport and headed to the local bait shop for some crawlers the next day (after a work clothing photo shoot and mowing the lawn). As luck would have it we ran into a buddy there and he told us to check out a spot on 110-Mile Creek that was just a few minutes from the farm.
We packed the old Binder with supplies and headed down the road. It was warm and relatively wind free – we both felt optimistic. Turning left off the main gravel road, we found ourselves with the truck’s front hubs locked, pushing through a muddy bottomland trail in 4-wheel-drive and low range. I am pleased to report that the 1964 International truck never gave a moment of doubt as it delivered us to the old bridge. I rigged poles and baited hooks just like I did 15 years ago. Alaina dropped her bobber-adorned line into the creek and within short order she had her first Largemouth Bass. I was thrilled, she was thrilled. In a moment of reverie I saw a much younger us sitting on the banks of French Creek or Legion Lake or the 81 Ponds – all in South Dakota. But this time we were catching bass and crappie and bluegill instead of trout, pike and perch.
By the time the night crawlers ran out, Alaina and I were ready to head home. It was the first time I can remember that she didn’t fall asleep on my shoulder on the drive. Of course, since we were only 3 minutes from the farm, there was little chance for that. When we were younger, we fished to stock the freezer. Last weekend, we released every fish we caught. I think we were both a little relieved that we could just visit and make homemade pizza for supper instead of cleaning a mess of pike. We talked about the big bass that got away long after our evening campfire had died to glowing embers. We marveled at how it would have tasted slow roasted over that bed of Osage Orange coals.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper’s Farmer magazines.