I was 11 yrs old and living on an Air Force base in Montgomery, Alabama. The golf courses there had many ponds stocked with bass and perch along with snapping turtles. To get to the ponds you had to first get through the red ant hills. It was usually a painful experience resulting in bites all up and down our legs that stung, followed by excessive itching, and even lasting 'till school the next day. So those adventures with my neighborhood friends were short lived. We knew better... we learned the hard way.
So one of us came up with another bright idea that was a little less costly and more action packed. It was after we had worn out our lawns playing endless epic games of football and we were black balled from our lawns by parental law. The new game was Squirrel. Easy enough to grasp, all of us could easily excel and be pro at.
The setting; usually on early Sunday mornings with a collection of us that could get out early and who weren’t tied to church. Our neighborhood had open connecting yards, miles and miles of grass and plenty verity of trees and shrubs.
The game; to spot and chase squirrels, that simple.
The tools; wiffle ball bats, some dads tennis racket, brooms, sticks and I had my fishing hand net. We also learned to use our bikes.
We could patrol areas efficiently and we could all keep up. This was a Motley Crue with a mix of ages and backgrounds but on the hunt we were Ferrell and hunted in a pack.
Our neighborhood was loaded with squirrel and it seemed during the week we’d do recon on hot spots while going to and fro school. Come Saturday we’d give intel and make plans for the next morning. It was on.
After we rallied we set out. It must have been a sight to this mob of boys all under 13 patrolling the yards. The ride was silent as we all had the thousand yard stare and all it took is one of us to yell SQUIRREL and the mob descended on the site. Bikes flying everywhere and it’s as if all we did is jump off in motion and hit the grass running towards our object. Brooms, bats, rackets, sticks, bodies and fishing nets were poised for the chance to connect with the innocent and unsuspecting squirrel. The action was fast and adrenaline flowed. The team work seemed precise but we always missed the target. Wether we were scolded by the treed squirrel or the home owners, we never got our goal. Some epic moments were had and most memorable moments were boasted about for weeks like when a squirrel ran up someone’s leg and the victim got whacked by someone else’s plastic bat, but never did we catch a squirrel. Thank the lord. Thank the lord because what would we have done if we had actually caught one? All of us didn’t think that one through in its entirety .... of course not.
The squirrel pack went on for what seemed months but in reality maybe a few weeks before boys starting dropping out. Less and less showed up Sunday and homeowners got wise to us. My neighbor friend had his bike locked up by his father on the weekends but he could ride to school with me during the week, smart dad.
As the grass filled in on our yards, football came back. This time the parents told us to rotate to different spots and we abided. Two hand touch with a 5 Mississippi count, we let the squirrel pack fade. I’m sure being a military base and people knowing peoples rank and their kids, word got out before we got into real trouble. We did go back to the ponds and got into the bass along with the fire ants.
Fishing has always been there... I grew up with it. It was distant at times but I was also. It is something that puts me into the present and only in reflection do I realize it’s lineage. My father, my grandfather and my uncle were all mentors to me. My father doesn’t fish anymore but enjoys my pictures and adventures along with his golfing buddies, who alway threatened to show up on my doorstep and be guided into my favorite spots from northern New Mexico to Colorado. My grandfather passed away in the early 2000’s and his creel sits on my window ledge with one of his many rods hanging from a wall in the house. My uncle has been touched by chrome. He’s an avid steelheader and we share pictures once in a while.
The intensity of pursuit, whether it's yard football, squirrel, fishing and or what ever else, runs deep in me and I can attribute it to my upbringing. I’m am grateful for and to them.