After an evening of interesting hill hugging lightning to the west of Glacial Lakes State Park, and a downpour that broke while in the depths of sleep, we were packing out a day earlier than we expected. More rain was forecast, and all of our gear was soaked after leaving open the largest “window” of the tent for some cross ventilation. So, yes, we can sleep through a storm in the grand outdoors.
Across the site Wes Konzin talked in a low murmur to his grandkids as another downpour drenched the campsite, meaning our breakfast would wait a little longer. It was my turn to cook breakfast, a treat of thick pepper bacon from Pastures of Plenty and a dozen eggs from our Listening Stones Farm that I would break into the peppery bacon grease.
Once breakfast was served and the soaked gear packed, stepson Martin and I left for home. As we weaved our way through the curvy road of the state park, he looked up and smiled. “I had fun, but I think when I look back on it I’ll have had more fun than I actually had.”
Martin is an indoorsy boy, so our camping out was definitely outside of his comfort zone. His “zone” would be challenged again a few days later when another river rat, Willie Rosin, boated us upriver from Waterman’s on a catfishing outing. What’s a boy to do when he has a stepfather river rat who viewed being indoors at Martin’s ripe young age of 11 as comparable to being stranded in a prison cell? I disliked inside as much as Martin does the outdoors.
To his credit, Martin is adjusting — although he was rather quick and vocal when asked if he would like to join me on another fishing trip this past weekend. Martin reminds me of a cousin on my father’s side back when I was growing up who preferred reading to anything outside … until the day he somehow discovered fly fishing. Joe’s mother, perhaps my mother’s best friend, knew of how I had become completely immersed in the sport at about Martin’s age, and asked if I would help him get started. By then I was of driving age, so heading to farm ponds all around the area with my cousin was welcomed.
Since I was self-taught through the pages of Outdoor Life, Field & Stream, Sports Afield along with the iconic Herter’s, Inc., catalogs, Joe didn’t exactly have legendary fly caster Joan Wulff as his tutor. Those lessons went fine until an errant, wind influenced fly, snagged my poor cousin in the ear. Fortunately that didn’t deter his passion, for as an adult he became a hydrologic engineer with the Corps of Engineers when he wasn’t casting the long rod.
Fly fishing has a way of attracting the intelligent kids like the Joe’s and Martin’s of the world for it’s cerebral nature. Interestingly, people will ask about “fly fishing lessons” with an eye toward the casting rather than the line control and various retrieves necessary for successful fishing. This isn’t unlike learning the mechanical features of a camera and thinking this alone will make you a good photographer. Both the casting and the mechanical camera lessons are essential for reaching positive end results, though neither will be mistaken for the art of either.
Martin’s few weeks with us have been an adventure. He has really tried, and for that he deserves credit. He was mystified when his mother eagerly agreed to come on a one hour, one way jaunt to a swampy woodland savanna to see white prairie lady slippers. “All this way just for wild flowers?” He had balked, though gave in, to going on a few earlier trips to the nearby Clinton Prairie as I took pictures of prairie smoke.
Yet, when I’m looking at my results at my computer after an outing Martin will often look over my shoulder to offer comments and compliments on the images. Yes, he had a good time on our camping trip and willingly took his seat along with Wes’ grandkids on their story telling stump. On one of our photography forays he asked if he could use my camera to make a picture. And, after the trip with Willie, Martin asked for a fillet knife to help clean the catfish we had caught. I hesitate to mention how proud he was for catching more fish than his stepfather.
His becoming a passionate outdoorsman may be way too much to expect, although we have taken a few baby steps into that odd universe we call a “comfort zone.” Like Kermit the Frog said, “It isn’t easy being green.” Martin was also right in his comment: “I had fun, but I think when I look back on it I’ll have had more fun than I actually had.”
What outdoorsman hasn’t said that at least a dozen times? Yes, the journey has begun.