I remember a time when life was simple, when paying the mortgage was my parents concern, not mine. . . when all I had to do was get my chores done and I was free to go fishing with the other kids. . . but this isn’t about my childhood, this is about my memories along the Kankakee.
The first memory I recall is when my dad spent the afternoon packing the car with all his gear for another one of his fishing excursions, and I sat on the porch and watched longingly, wondering when he would finally ask me along. All night long I dreamed of what it would be like to go on a trip fishing with my dad and my uncle – the two of them were fishing’ buddies;
when they went it was serious fishing, not drowning a worm like when he loaded us kids in the car and headed for a local pond…real fishing. They’d spend the whole day fishing and when they returned it was like the conquering hero’s return, everyone from the neighborhood would come over to see what they brought home and to listen to their stories of what they experienced and “the one that got away”.
In what seemed like the middle of the night, I felt something on my shoulder, it was my father trying to wake me without disturbing my brother above me in the bunk bed. . . “come on, wake up” he whispered. “Want to go fishing’ with me n Sal?” Did I hear that right, or was I dreaming? I bounded from the bed and walked into the kitchen, trying to clear the sleepers from my eyes. It was all lit up, my mom in her robe frying up some bacon and eggs, the toast stacked high on a plate and the coffee pot percolating’ to the beat of Johnny Horton on the radio. “Sit down and eat now, you can’t go all day without eating. . . hurry up and get dressed, your father’s in a hurry!” Wow, I’m finally gettin’ to go with dad was all I could think about, and it was like my brain shut down from the anticipation and thrill of being able to actually go. The sandwiches were carefully wrapped in wax paper and stacked in a cardboard box, along with 2 thermoses of coffee. “Put on your coat! It’s chilly out there” “now listen to whatever your father tells you and have a good time” were the last words I heard before we left.
Out the door to the car which was already packed, we headed over to pick up my Uncle Sal. . . it was still pitch black when we got there, I was instructed to stay in the car and wait. . . it seemed like an eternity, but there he was! They packed some more gear in the car and we were off!
It was just beginning to get light out when we turned down the dirt road and pulled up to a dilapidated old house along the Kankakee River. An old lady comes out of the house just as we’re getting out of the car, my dad goes over and talks to her and comes back and says “she saved one for us, all the rest are gone, must be hittin’ for sure.” I had no idea what he was talking about until we started carrying our gear down by the river, where there was on lonely, wood river boat tied to a tree. My dad and uncle carefully packed the boat with food and gear, and brought out his trusty Johnson motor and attached it to the back of the boat . . . “make sure she’s got some oars Sal” says my dad, and while Sal is off getting the oars my dad is strapping me into an orange life jacket “now don’t take this off, no matter what, you hear?” I nodded yes. “OK, here’s Sal, let’s get going” My dad got in first, then I in the middle and Sal pushed us off as my dad pulled the cord on his motor and he jumped in the front of the boat.
Was it still a dream? Was I really here on the river with the big boys?
The whole day was just a blur, and I really don’t remember much of what happened throughout that historical day in my life . . . but what I’ll never forget is the anticipation, and the realization of actually going on a ‘real’ fishing trip on the Kankakee with my dad.
The smell of the river has stayed with me for all these years, like an aphrodisiac it calls me to her shores. She beckons as if she knows that my fondest memories of times spent with my father were really spent with her.
Interested in other articles by Mark Toth on fishing? Read Finding Hidden Fishing Treasures, Basic Ditch Fishing, Strategies for Ditch Fishing, My Approach to Slop Fishing, and Packing for Mobility. These articles my be found under Bass Fishing Articles, in the Bass Fishing General Tips category.
Mark Toth, The Ditch Fishing Chronicles
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