Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fishing With Grandpaw

When we were young, my brothers and I would spend weekends with our grandparents. It was always a special event. They would take us out to dinner, or to a movie. Sometimes we would even go shopping for new clothes.But nothing even came close to the excitement of getting to go night fishing with Grandpaw (His spelling).  He would announce the trip by leaving that old plywood box on the kitchen table. Weathered and beaten from several decades of heavy use, it was expertly designed, and carefully crafted to keep that old Coleman lantern safe from harm. It had special cut outs inside that fit the base and lid perfectly and kept them fro moving around and braking the glass. Like Grandpaw, that old lantern had always been there and Grandpaw made sure it went with us on every fishing excursion that was expected to last into the night.

We always arrived at the little neighborhood lake a bit before it got dark to find that perfect spot, set up the chairs and bait the poles. Then, just as twilight transitioned into darkness and the stars started winking at us, Grandpaw would unpack the lantern and set it up. Then he would turn to one of us and say "Help me pump this up!" We would race to be the one to "help" Grandpaw use that little plunger to put some pressure in the fuel tank. When he lit the match, and put it in the lantern the flame would dance around the globe for a second and then it would catch and become a warm glow. With the lantern on the ground behind us, we all settled into our chairs hoping for a catfish to take our bait and let the idle chit chat of youth direct Grandpaw to one of the many stories of his younger years.

When we sparked that memory, Grandpaw's eyes would twinkle and he would smile like only could, then he would start talking. The fishing poles were quickly forgotten as the ambiance created by that old lantern created the perfect backdrop. His voice was low and hypnotic, almost quiet, in it's booming bass tones.  His face became dynamic and expressive punctuating every aspect of the story with emotion and humor. With mention of picnics, we went to Cameron, Arizona (where he grew up) searching for a tree to have a picnic under. It turns out trees are as scarce as unicorns in Cameron. With the mention of a canyon or a donkey, we would go rafting down the Grand Canyon with mules and dynamite to put in a service trail from the bottom to the top for the Arizona Highway Department. You wouldn't believe how they got a fish dinner down there! It just took a word or a thought and we were off  on many, many other exciting and exotic adventures. They were always close enough to be familiar, but far enough away to be in another world entirely. We loved hearing those old stories about the trouble he would get into when he was young, or of the adventures he had building roads for the Arizona highway department, but mostly we loved going fishing with Grandpaw, and we were never so close with him as we were on those little night trips.

Grandpaw At The Lake
We still love to go fishing with Grandpaw and hear his stories, but he doesn't move around as well as he used too. That leaves us limited to the daytime hours, still, I miss those nights and the way that old lantern would play with the shadows and make all of those stories come alive. That old plywood box still protects that old Coleman lantern, but it hasn't been lit in years, and is stowed safely away in my brothers house. Someday, maybe, I hope to dust it off and take it to the lake, so I can tell my grandchildren stories of my life's adventures by the soft yellow glow of a family heirloom. I may even throw in a few stories about how their Great Great Grandpaw lived and worked way back in the olden days.

“Sponsored by Coleman and hosted by the Outdoor Blogger Network, this is my submission for the Coleman Camping Heritage Essay Contest.”


  1. Ricky
    What a great story!! You are lucky to have those memories, I don't remember either of my Grandpa's---I was 3 and 4 when they passed away. I hope I am still around to teach my Grandson how to fly fish. He just turned 3 last week and into everything. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks Bill. I was blessed to be able to know both grandparents from both sides of my family. Why wait for later to teach your grandson? Is there a way to rig up a shorter fly rod and set him lose with a hookless fly to learn how to handle it? I bet he would love to go to a lake or stream and swing around a fly rod with Grandpa. When you hook a fish you could let him help you land it. I bet he would be just as addicted to it as you in no time flat.