There is an old Babylonian saying that, translated into the here and now, goes like this: “The gods do not deduct from man’s allotted span the hours spent in fishing.”
Meaning, of course, those old Babylonian gods are fans of the art, and as such might’ve been smiling on those behind the Exchange Club of Richmond Hill’s annual Kids Fishing Derby at the Fish Hatchery.
And though the clientele is somewhat different, the same ancient gods no doubt tally up the years much the same and to our benefit when it comes to the Bryan County Senior Senior Fishing Day up at the Floyds pondhouse just outside Pembroke.
Granted, going fishing probably isn’t much fun for the fish involved, or live bait either, but there’s something about wetting a hook that makes the world lighten up a bit for the rest of us.
You smile more and fret less. You certainly fret less.
I think that’s because nobody’s trying to sell you anything, least of all those good people who for more than three decades have put on the event up at the Floyds pond house, or the Exchange Club folks who, in partnership with the DNR and a handful of local businesses, have been putting on this particular public service for kids as a way to give back to their community.
It’s been a success by every measuring stick that matters.
What’s more, judging from the smiles on the faces of the grownups I saw out there at the Derby on Saturday, it’s not just us kids who benefit from a morning (or afternoon or evening) spent with a fishing pole nearby.
You adults can use more time spent fishing, too.
Granted, I am a fan of the pastime - can remember as a boy up in South Carolina putting the bluegills I’d catch into my pockets so I wouldn’t lose them (no stringers for me, then), and my mother finding them in my pockets later.
I have since wet hooks in waters salt and fresh and muddy and clear, and in places as far away as Alaska and Germany and as near as the Ogeechee or St. Ossabaw Sound. I’ve bait cast and bottom fished, drug spinner baits and dangled worms with bobbers. I’ve caught salmon and stingrays, bass and carp and catfish and some things I couldn’t tell you what they were.
Sadly, I rarely get to go much anymore.
There never seems to be time, for starters, what with all there is that demands doing. That’s my fault, probably. It is what it is.
It’s why I am an admirer of the people who put on fishing events such as the two I mentioned here. They give back, you see.
Still, I bet they’d tell you they get as much out of it as the seniors feted up in Pembroke or the kids who showed up at the Fish Hatchery on Saturday to catch fish or learn how to shoot a bow and arrow.
But life moves on. I couldn’t stay as long as I wanted Saturday. So, after I got some photos (and a hot dog and Coke Zero thanks Janet Thayer!), and talked to the great Bonnie Proctor and the gentlemanly Chris Harper, a fisheries biologist and gentleman who seems to have overcome his Clemson education quite well, I got in my Ford and pulled back out toward the traffic on Highway 144.
The road, as usual, was thick with people in a hurry to be somewhere, and then probably somewhere else. We don’t do much sitting still these days.
The contrast was a little jarring.
There I was, maybe 300 yards from the ponds and the laid back scene at the back of the fish hatchery.
A pickup sped past, outrunning everybody somewhere. A Richmond Hill Police Department car headed east lit up and the officer made a u-turn, then caught up with the pickup at the Kroger fuel pumps.
Good, I said. People need to slow down.
Fishing can help with that, if we let it.
Fishing is a way of making life unwind.
It’s a way of being alone when you want or with people who matter when it matters.
I think it makes us live longer, in the best way possible. It’s not that the minutes will seem like hours, but rather the hours will seem like minutes - and we all know in life you get more minutes than hours.
Or maybe that makes no sense at all, but I hope it does.
Especially since I don’t know whether these sorts of fishing derbies will be around a decade or so into the future, as people get so busy making a living and worrying about No. 1 there’s no time to put on fishing derbies.
I hope that doesn’t happen.
You grownups need kids fishing derbies more than we kids.