We are currently in the great state of Mississippi, on the coast enjoying cool mornings and warm Gulf breezes in the afternoon. As is our custom when traveling, we avoid the big name restaurants for the most part, preferring dives and diners where, more often than not, the owner is at the grill and the conversations flow easily. I smile easily when I see a vintage pick up truck or a combine with more miles on it than an interstate trooper. The real America lies with the folks at a grill or with mud on their boots. That is from whence I came, and may be why I am so interested in the basics today.
I have lived in many parts of the world. Military brats have that in common. Without fail, I find other countries fascinating but am always anxious to return to America, even in these troubling political times. As a kid, running around Pulaski County, Missouri my interests ran simple. I was a teenager who wore his hair short, preferred starched paisley shirts and shoes in good repair. I lived for the outdoors, hunting and fishing at every opportunity in and around the Piney and Gasconade rivers. The young ladies in High School were charming and clever, no games, with pretension on the back burner. I was also fascinated by cars. After a life of hard work, I am able to slip back into the lifestyle that provided great contentment in those carefree days. Gasoline powered cars and trucks, soon to be obsolete have been a huge part of my life.
So what has changed? In those days a Mitchell 300 reel, spooled with 10# test line, hung on a Garcia Conolon rod was my fishing arsenal. I ultimately acquired a cheap fiberglass fly rod so that I could emulate the big boys at Meramec Springs, fooling an occasional trout with some silly bait that trout seem to prefer. My tackle box was a one handled affair with an array of live bait hooks, weights and a few lures. Surprisingly, I caught as many fish with this rudimentary gear as I do now. I fished from a canoe or Jon boat with a paddle for propulsion. Today, I have a ridiculous amount of tackle, a rod rack that looks like a Bass Pro display, and just divested myself of a 21’ Ranger with more horses than I have IQX2. My gun safe is ridiculous as opposed to those early days when a 30-30 and an 1100 Remington was the extent of my armory. Why? Because the weight of your toys seems important in this competitive age. The tragedy is that it is not important and it is unfortunate that you slip into old age before you realize that. My German Shorthairs, Luke and Belle were the best friends I had, and understood the important stuff.
I came to love Missouri within days if arriving here in a March sleet storm in 1964. It is my adopted home where I still love the sounds, sights and smells of an early morning launch into current on one of our spectacular rivers. A fat goggle eye on a long rod is my sailfish and a nice line-side is my grouper. A battered old Jon boat or canoe is my bass boat, a slab meat sandwich on a gravel bar my Ruth Chris steak and a cold drink from a small cooler my champagne. Our RV is our condo and second home, whether on a beach, lake or out west. I need to sell a bunch of rods and reels and and at least 100# of terminal tackle, most of which is in the original packaging. My remaining guns are utilitarian, for the most part, and I own several of them in defiance of those who think I don’t “need” them. A very wise man, successful in the Casino industry, upon our introduction offered this advice , “I have enough money to burn a wet mule, but it doesn’t mean a damned thing if you don’t have your health”. He died of cancer shortly after our conversation. He died longing for the simple days, years before.
I am closing with this advice. While you still can, return to from whence you came. Revel in the simplicity of those times and your happiness back then. If you are young and reading this, stop and reflect from time to time just exactly on where you are. Time is relentless and you’ll be sitting where I am one day, reflecting, not doing. Folks who are not being pushed around by the need to succeed are often the happiest of all. Add a measure of this advice to your recipe for life!