The Reliable Rods

March 21, 2011
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Every time I walk in to my grandfather’s barn, I see those trustworthy fishing poles that once taught me a valuable lesson. They sit there, perched in the corner of the barn gathering dust. The black paint on them is chipping away, and the shaft looks as if rats and mice have nibbled at the edges, unable to break through its graphite power. At the time, I was frustrated and annoyed, but in the long run I see the impact those poles made on the person that I am today.

When I was nine years old, my family and grandparents went to a cabin in Mammoth. This annual visit was a tradition for us when I was younger. For some reason, the tradition died when I was 12. The old wooden cabin had no electricity, no running water, no anything let alone a few beat up mattresses and decrepit furniture.1 The place reeked of expired animals and pungent urine. On the other hand, behind the cabin, a gorgeous little river drifted lazily up the high desert into nowhere. The cabin and the backyard were complete opposites, but they meshed together so beautifully in perfect harmony that it only seemed right. In our one week visit, we would do things like rock climb, sight see, and swim in the lakes, but every year no matter how much I didn’t want to, we would go fishing. Fishing to me was one of the worst things in the world. It was like watching grass grow in my backyard.2 Those idiotic fish always seemed to mimic me down in the comfort of the water. Also, what’s the point? Throwing string into water and trying to get a fish which will probably end up going back in the water was not my definition of “fun.” Every year I would drag my feet and complain but as much as I whined, we always went back for more.

Arriving at the serene stream, we would unload, find a safe place away from everyone else, and begin the wait. Only moments in, the mosquitoes would begin feasting on exposed flesh. After about 20 minutes of pure agony, my patience would crumble into tiny, microscopic pieces, being unable to be found. Getting stubborn, I would start to say things like, “Can we go?” and “I’m bored, when will we leave?” Then, my wise grandfather would come over to my fishing spot and give me a few pointers. Of course, the pointers helped and a few small fish made a brief appearance in the murky water. This would boost my patience for about 30 more minutes. After that, the frustration would come back and my patience would fly clear over the mountains with the peaks lightly covered in a graceful white blanket of snow.

As hours began to pass with no fish yet to be caught by anybody, my patience was literally broken and gone forever. However, I was wrong. While I sat on the ground in a hopeless mess, my grandma came up to me and said a few enlightening words that would stick with me forever. “Never give up,” she said. After a few moments of calming down, a delicate fish nibbled on my line, and I forced all of my power upon the pole until finally, the fish flew out of the water and onto the ground. The fish flailed and flailed until it abruptly stopped. Its blue and gray scales shined under the sunlight as the little fish tried to find some source of water. My hook went right through its slender cheek and on the dirt a pool of blood was forming around it. As proud as could be, I gave everyone a joyful hug and tossed the fish in the cooler to be eaten later that night. What a delicious fish it was.
As I sit in the old barn, I try to recapture every moment of that trip. All of these wonderful memories make me want to go back there and have one more crack with those reliable poles before the dust and forgetfulness send them into another dimension. Still gazing at the fishing poles, I see the true meaning of them. Now I realize it wasn’t luck that caught my fish, but patience. It wasn’t the greatest fish that ever was, but that didn’t matter. It was my effort and perseverance that made that fish so special to me. Looking back, those idiotic fish ended up teaching me a valuable lesson that was not appreciated until a few years later. Although I cannot remember every detail of that fishing trip, the memory of those fishing poles will always have a special place in my heart.

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