Today is Father’s Day – the second Father’s Day without my Dad. My Dad never wanted gifts for Father’s Day, or Birthday’s or Christmas but we bought him gifts anyway. It just seemed that was what we were supposed to do on these special days. He didn’t want or need “stuff” but he always accepted these gifts graciously but never failing to say, “You shouldn’t spend your money on me – I don’t need anything.” While he didn’t need anything, he did want something – he wanted to celebrate these special days simply spending time together as a family. His favorite way to do this was to take a picnic lunch and go to the river, the Clinch, to fish.
My Dad, born in 1939, grew up on the Clinch River. In this post-depression, World War II era, the river was not for just for recreation – it was a source of food. Dad told us of the river feeding his family – they ate everything they caught – from catfish to turtles, nothing was wasted. They gigged frogs and set trotlines, dug “nightcrawlers,” caught crawdads or seined for minnows. Chicken livers and dough balls were also popular bait – artificial bait was out of the question. When you were fishing to put food on the table, you couldn’t afford to buy bait. Even years later, when he could easily afford the best lures, he steadfastly refused to consider artificial bait. He still seined minnows and dug worms – and threw a fit when we paid for either.
My Dad taught me to fish on the Clinch River – first with a “jerk pole” made of river bank bamboo, a line hook, sinker and worm to catch “sun grannies.” Later he taught me to cast with a rod and reel, to make a fishing pole holder with a forked branch, and to be patient. Patience being the most difficult lesson of all. We fished in the day time, the evening and at night. Night time meant a fire on the river bank and Coleman lanterns that cast just enough light to see the tip of your pole to watch for a bite.
My Dad taught both my daughters to fish as well and in the last few years that he was with us, he fished with them as often as their busy schedules would allow. Their continuing love of fishing and of the river is a tribute to him and I know he would consider this to be his best Father’s Day present of all.