Family Stuff

My grand daughter is into making Emoji pillows, and this week she presented me with a design I asked for.

Photo on 7-14-15 at 12.00 PM

This afternoon I had the pleasure of celebrating my daughter’s thirty-third radiation treatment. She is shown here with my emoji pillow-making grand daughter and a small slice of chocolate mouse.

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Not to be outdone my grandson from Michigan sent me a picture of his prize winning fish. He won the smallest fish category in the Heddon Lure Fishing Derby.

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A week earlier, Ben sent me this photo of a fish he caught while at Scout camp

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Ben is a catch and release fisherman. He lives for the joy of catching one, it doesn’t matter what size it is. Actually, it takes skill to catch the teensy-weeny thing he got credit for.

On July 3, their day off from work, my step grand daughter Shannon, and her husband Kevin helped me paint a room at the house I’ve been working on.

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On July 4, at a family cookout, my grand son Joe showed me the Willy Warmer he received as a gag gift from a friend.

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He asked me if I wanted it, I told him it was too small.

She Puts Me To Shame

When I was a kid, I lived to fish. I write about my fishing experiences extensively in my book Jun-e-or, Reflections of Life in the nineteen Forties and Fifties (click the link on the right). I will only say those experiences soured me on the sport.

I have seven grandchildren and three step-grandchildren whom I love equally. They range in age from 6 to 33. Of the ten, guess who the best fisherman are? Yep, the youngest ones. For some reason unknown to  me they love the sport. The secret is their parents encourage them. My Dad tolerated my interest at best, my Mom loved to cook and eat them. My Grandfather fostered my interest in fishing the most. It doesn’t matter, I don’t fish anymore.

Yesterday, my grand-daughter Jenna Rose called to tell me a fish story. Yes, at age eight, she is becoming a catch and release fisher. My two grandsons in Michigan ages six and eight are also big time sports fishers.

My heart jumps with joy when they send me photos like the one below to show me their prizes.

Largemouth Bass Taken 4 July 2012 in a C&R pond in New Lenox, IL.

Can you believe that? This little girl loves catching the really big ones. I can’t get over it.

“You Look Green. . .”

My Cousin Sharon trades e-stuff with me on a daily basis. Today, she sent an invitation to go fishing on a special excursion. The description of the trip, and the photos attached, evoked memories of a time when I went deep-sea fishing on the Gulf of Mexico.

First, I will share the invitation; then I will post my response, then the photos.

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The Invitation

A friend of mine is planning a fishing excursion to Stewart Island (New Zealand) next week.

This is not a normal fishing boat jaunt.  This is 5-star stuff. All gear, food, booze, supplied.  The works!

Relax in the spa pool and watch the sun set over Mount Anglem. Then, gather around the piano and the well-stocked bar for an evening of romantic something.

Expressions of interest are invited for this ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience.

Publicity photographs attached.

Let me know if you want to go.

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My Response

Sharon:

Back in the 1980’s, I was on a fishing junket like the one shown in these photos. I was a guest of Monsanto. They invited me to visit their technical center in Pensacola, Florida in March for a seminar on nylon plastic. What the heck, it was near the end of a long hard Chicago winter, and we needed some sun and fun. Barb was with me. When school was out, the boyz went deep-sea fishing on a forty-foot charter boat in the Gulf of Mexico. My colleague’s wives’ took Barb sailing on Pensacola Bay.

The coolers were stocked with every food and drink imaginable, what a great day it promised to be. We motored out of port on the flat water of Pensacola Bay. I dove into the goodies and had a breakfast of cold greasy sausage on a croissant chased by a beer. The Captain kept his speed down as we motored the bay.  We passed the breakwater into the Gulf when he kicked it into high-speed.

Instantly, I learned the meaning of seasickness. The boat was ours for the day, but in my mind all I kept saying was turn back, turn back, take me fishing in the bay.

Catching a fish was a challenge. I rotated between hanging on for dear life, and running to the head, all the while holding on to a pole. It was eight hours that seemed like eight days. The boat rocked, rolled, swayed, bobbed, and dipped; all at the same time. We dipped, and a wall of water surrounded the boat. Oh my God! We are going down. We bobbed, and all we saw was sky. I never wanted my life to end as much as I did that day.

It finally did end, and we reentered Pensacola Bay. The water was instantly flat; the seasickness disappeared as quickly as it came.  Life was good again.

Barb met me at the dock all bubbly to tell me about her great day of sailing on the bay. She took one look at me, and said, “You look green, are you okay?”

Thanks for sharing the invitation; it brought back memories of the “good old days.”

Not.

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The Photos

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Rockin’ the Boat

Grampa Jim was a loving and kind man who did anything he could for us.  He was slim and short, only five foot two inches tall.  His hair was grey and thin.  He sported a neatly trimmed mustache.  On the left side of his face, right in front of his ear, he had a lump nearly the size of a golf ball.   He never worried about the lump even though he looked funny with it.  It never hurt him or bothered him in any way.

My wish to go fishing got through to him, and he agreed to take me to Little Paw-Paw Lake to fish from a boat.  Dad dropped us off.  Grampa never owned a car nor did he know how to drive, but he always got to where he wanted to go by walking, and asking for rides.

The lake comes up to the front door of the house next to the road. The owner rented row boats.  Little Paw-Paw is unique in that power boats are forbidden. The result is that there are no water skiers or speed boats tearing up the lake.   The lake is small, serene, and quiet.  There are houses on the lake, but much of the shoreline is still wild and undeveloped.  Gramps and I rented a boat, and I rowed out into the lake with my gear and a can full of worms.  The water was smooth as glass. Only the wake of our boat and paddles disturbed it.  Occasionally, a fish jumped nearby with a huge splash; making my adrenalin flow.

A third of the way across the lake we stopped and set the anchor.  I baited my hooks and swung out the bobber.  I used the bamboo pole that Grampa Jim bought for me. I waited patiently for the bobber to dip.  Here I was, fishing in the middle of the lake, in deep water.  Oh how I had dreamed of this moment.  I envisioned pulling in lots of fish when out in the deep waters.  With all the fish jumping around us, I thought we’d see non-stop action; nothing happened.  After awhile, I pulled up anchor and rowed to the lily pads near the shore.  I read that fish lurked in lily pads.  This time, we anchored about 30 feet from shore at the edge of the lily pads.  We’re going to fill the boat with fish at this spot, I thought.  Again, there were no bites; not a single one.  Gramps started to get antsy.  I was not a swimmer, so sitting in a boat was exciting enough for me.  The least little bobble of the boat terrified me.

Gramps couldn’t take it any longer, his bladder was aching.  Suddenly the boat began rocking and rolling as Grampa Jim stood up.  I hung on for dear life with visions of drowning.  I hollered at him to sit down, but nature called him.  He stood up straight, turned away from me, and took a whiz.  I sat there holding on for dear life. He rocked the boat again when he sat down. I was frozen with terror.

It turned out that Grampa Jim’s whiz was the most excitement I had that day.  I didn’t get a single bite during four hours of fishing. Dad came to pick us up, and asked how we did.

“There are no fish in this lake,” I responded. Grampa Jim didn’t say a word.

Fish Story

Grampa Jim finally relented and agreed to take sis and me fishing.  He bought each of us a bamboo pole with heavy green line, hooks, and a bobber.  I filled a tin can with loose soil and dug worms from the ditch. We were set.

The day finally arrived to go fishing. Dad dropped us off  at the boat launch on Paw-Paw Lake.  The DNR had carved a channel from the lake to a point near the road where they created a sand-ramp and parking lot.  The channel formed an island, and the water circulated from the lake back into the lake.

We set up on the bank to catch our supper.  The big adventure soon became a big bore.  We caught a few small blue gills and kept them on a stringer.  By late afternoon Gramps must have gotten more bored than we were and he went tramping off into the bush.  He came back a little while later with a long stick that he cut from a willow bush.  He made a pole so he could show us how to fish. Instead of sliding a worm on his hook, he cut up a bluegill.  He said, “ if you want to catch a big fish, you have to use some real bait.”  I did the same with my pole and Sis’ too.

We were tired of holding the poles by hand, and Gramps showed us how to prop them on a rock so we could sit by the pole and watch the bobber. Just then, Dad came to pick us up.

We were telling him all about the day when my bobber went under, and the line started moving.  I grabbed the pole just as the line went tight, and the pole bent over.  Whatever was on the end was huge.  Dad got so excited that he ran up behind me, and put his arms around me to help.  He was afraid that the “fish” would pull me in.  I was pulling on the pole with all my might.  The pole was bent 180º and the fish was pulling hard to get off.  Then, in a flash, there was a huge splash. The line snapped and sent me and dad over backwards.  We didn’t even hit the ground when the second pole went down with the bobber out of sight.  Dad ran over to help Sis.  This time there was no splash.  Dad just reached around Sis and pulled hard on the pole; the line snapped. They fell over backwards.  In the meantime, Grampa Jim watched the whole thing. He told us that the splash was a huge fish jumping to shake the hook.  Instead he broke the line.  None of us saw what hit the second pole.

Needless to say, the boredom turned into an adrenalin rush.  I think dad and gramps were more excited than Sis or I.   My excitement turned into anger for letting the fish of my life get away.  Grampa told the story many times over, and each time the fish got bigger, and bigger, and bigger.

Ice Tubes

       A strange and wonderfully magical phenomenon occurs in my pond during the winter. Ice tubes appear from the surface of the frozen water. When I stopped to analyze how these things form, it is not so strange.  In order to keep the fish healthy, I run an aquarium pump into the water below the ice. The pump feeds the air through a plastic tube into an air stone on the bottom of the pond.  The stone breaks the air into billions of tiny bubbles. The net result is the water becomes frothy with air, and the fish have oxygen for survival.

Winter 2009 Ice-Tube on Frozen Pond

     When the temperature goes  below freezing, the bubbles keep an area of the surface open.  As the temperature drops further, nature continues to freeze the surface even against the force of the bubbles. Eventually, the hole in the ice is the size of a quarter. The  tiny bubbles become big bubbles. The hole resembles a kid blowing bubbles through his lips with spit. The difference is that the pond can make bubbles faster than any kid. The bubbles burst in the frigid air and the resulting micro fine spray of water freezes in mid air. At first the bubble  freezes into a  dome with a tiny escape hole. The cycle continues until a cylinder of  frozen water begins to form. The bubble bursting and freezing continues for hours and the cyclinder grows like a stalagmite. The difference is that the ice tube is hollow and continues to let air escape from under the ice.

Ice-Tube-Up Close, approx 8 inches tall

     There have been times when my pond had as many as six of these ice tubes protruding from the ice. All, at least six inches tall, and twisted into various shapes. The wind blowing across the ice will push the bursting bubble mist into different directions before it freezes. The results are amazing. This year, the pond never had more than one ice tube at a time. With spring around the corner, I don’t expect to see too many more of these delightful structures this year.

Fish “Fry”

The pond in June 2008

The pond in June 2008

One of the goals for the garden is to create a pond that is totally natural. An eco-system that is completely self supporting. Well this morning I had another “Fuzzy Moment.”  I was planting some new water lillies that I got from my friend Kay. To plant them, I first placed a piece of root stock into a perforated pot in soil, then I covered the soil with stones.  I layed an extension ladder on the ground across the pond, and layed a board over the rungs. With this set up I could walk across the pond over the ladder. Instead, I chose to lay on the board and lower the new water plants to the bottom. This was the first time I lay over the top of this pond. As I peered into the water, hundreds of very tiny transparent fish swam beneath me. Wow! I have babies. The eco-system is working.

Peg has noticed that the larger fish are very hungry lately. They are becoming less shy, and will break water to grab a food pellet when she tosses them in. Most likely it is because they are now in competition with the babies for the larva that  had satisfied them before.

The simplest things in life amuse, and bring me joy. The sight of baby fish was exciting, and brought me a great feeling of satisfaction. Nature is at its best. Things are working.

The next milestone will be the arrival of the frogs.

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