Catch and Release

hootinhCatch and Release
By E. Sterling

When I was a kid I did the same stuff as you; I jumped my bike off bridges and stole golf carts, repainted them and auctioned them to the kids on the back block where they would ride them around and sell weed out of them because the cops didn’t go there. Not for those petty crimes. I never tortured dogs or cats or fish (even though fish don’t have any feelings, thanks Kurt). I wasn’t a bully and I wasn’t bullied. Had I been bullied I’d probably have called the guy out and fought him after school between the baseball field and Laura’s neighborhood, we’d have been circled by all his friends because he was older and bigger, probably, and when he hit me (on the skull with his hitting hand) he’d probably bust open the stitches on his hand that he got from his pet tiger. Now, if this was true let me tell you I was incredibly luckily because no one should fight a kid who owns a pet tiger.

Then there were sports. All of them. All of the manly sports a jock thinks are manly; follow in big brothers footsteps, right? The problem was my feet were already the same size as my 4 year senior brother so at times I had to make my own footsteps; enter extreme sports and long hair. But not yet. We’ll keep going with the non-extreme sports and some stories that made me famous.

First one, my only touchdown in my entire life of playing football came during a downpour of rain, it may have been a hurricane. During a hurricane we were up by a 1000 points or so and no one was in the stands, I take that back, Dave, my step-father, would have been in the stands, by himself, on a cushion pad, with an umbrella that proudly supported our teams colors and he could have possibly been eating a hotdog. Dave saw me score and he was proud.

Second one, Nick “Marris” Harris, all star at everything that is baseball. Marris could hit, catch, run, dive and he could have whittled the bat had he owned the proper lathe (which he probably did but at that age we used metal bats). At this point in my mediocre athletic career I must have been batting 3rd, because god knows he was clean up, or maybe I was 9th and he was lead off. Anyhow, while I was in the on deck circle practicing my swing like Big John, our coach, taught me to do (along with many other things I can only now realize) Marris got about 6 inches too close to my back swing and took my best home run shot in the ol’ kisser. I’m still sorry about that and he ended up keeping all his teeth. Marris ended up marrying a beautiful woman, they have kids and all and seem to do well, so it didn’t seem to affect his outcome (to this point).

I played soccer for two seasons and the best I can recall I disliked both seasons equally. I liked my teammates as most were close friends and one older hippie like kid would later become one of my closest. Big John was our coach for soccor as well. Big John coached everything his kids played and how he had the time, to this day, I do not know. Maybe he won one of those lotteries where you get a little money over a long time so you don’t blow it all and maybe he lived off that and didn’t tell anyone. Regardless, he seemed to always be there supporting his 3 good kids who are still to this day, 3 good kids. Back to soccer, I didn’t like it much. I wasn’t good at long distance running when I was 8 and to this day that hasn’t changed. I can run though, don’t get me wrong, just not far or quickly and I’m not great with lateral movements or jumping for that matter. As I got older I turned out to be above average in size and that got me all the way to walking on to a junior college football team. Fate would have it that I walked off just as quickly as I walked on though. Well, I played two seasons, but injuries, girls, beer, parties and teammates derailed my career. Had I realized those things only came because of the football maybe I’d have iced my shoulders more often and practiced a little harder. This last story extended into 2 sports so we’ll start the next at 6.
I also played basketball when I was young and Bill Gates will buy your gas for a year if you can guess who my coach was, you got it, Big John. Big John’s youngest son was almost my age, he was 9 days younger and a close friend and a good athlete. Also, a little fact that I’m not sure how many people know, my mother had planned on naming me the same name as his and I was 9 days early; guess it wasn’t meant to be. Back to basketball, sorry if I ramble, I’ve been called a rambler, not sure if they meant the kind that jumps from topic to topic or one that can’t live in a house long enough to get the first light bill, or even if they meant both, probably both. During a game I got hit in the nose with the ball and never went back. Not sure that makes me famous, but I still got a trophy and a picture beside the team even though I wasn’t looking at the damn camera.
This brings me to roller hockey. Big John wasn’t our coach but I’m sure he would have been if this had been a real league with real teams that played on real courts and not after my older brother got off work in front of the Winn-Dixie Supermarket parking lot. However, this was a tough sport and not really because of the sport per say. We played on asphalt that was made using large, rough rocks. The kind of parking lot that when you were riding a skate board and got to that parking lot you walked. Think of rubbing your arm on a cheese grater and then pouring in random dirt and used motor oil for added infection. So most of my time was spent trying not to fall, to hell with the ball. When you did fall there would be part of you left in the asphalt for future races to trace your DNA. Not to mention I was there at night, was under age, so everyone who was there had a car, which means my mother made my brother take me along, but what that really means is I was the youngest and usually the vent of frustration. It seems like a fair trade to both myself and my mother, plus it gave her some alone time to repair whatever I had broken that afternoon while she was at work.
At last we arrive to the real sport, fishing! A close friend might disagree, but it was my boat and trolling motor so in my mind I was the founder of the “Hootin’ Holler Gang”. Named after a local gas station / bait shop our picture was regularly in the local papers with write ups. If you hadn’t heard of the Hootin’ Holler Gang you weren’t in the local fishing circle. I was even a member of the North American Fishing Club! Which later turned out to be a scam and every person in North America was a member, but to a 12 year old, I was in a club and I caught fish amongst other things.
The most memorable of all fishing excursions was with a friend of mine, who’s no longer with us as he moved to Minnesota a few years back. I had this little fiberglass boat that looked like a miniature jet boat, but instead of a jet motor, I had the 12 year old kid version, a tolling motor. We lived on a large lake, well, we lived on a small inlet of the lake, right next to a large bridge. The bridge was lined with huge white rocks and that’s where the fish liked to hangout and do their fishy things. So, we’d get 20 yards from the bank and remove them from their home and relocate them into our live well, usually an ice chest that doubled as an actual ice chest. So, one day in the middle of summer on a breezy afternoon (because that’s what everyone always says, I don’t know if that’s right but it wasn’t raining, I do remember that) we were fishing like always and I cast too close to the rocks and by too close I mean into the rocks. I got hung up, snagged or what the Polish call “cliff faced on a mountain tire.” I had snagged my Little George lure and I really liked this lure. Little George is a small, metal fake looking fish with red eyes and a treble hook on the back side. So I’m pulling and pulling and since I only caught huge fish at the time my 5000 lb test line could have yanked a truck up a tree. And bam! out comes the lure, straight for the source of energy that was tugging it and that would be my face. At the last minute I ducked my head and it hit me square center on my scalp. If you’ve worn a baseball cap and you’ve ever hit that little button on top against something then you know where I’m talking about. The lure smacked me hard, but nothing serious. Not until I started reeling in my line. That’s when my buddy and I both discovered the end of my line was attached securely to the center of my skull. Now this was the exact moment that we both started freaking out. It was my biggest catch ever.
There was no blood and it didn’t hurt. Just a really sharp object, with a barb, had went into my head. Needless to say we started back in for the day, maybe forever if my Mom had anything to do with it. I had to let her know what happened easy but wasn’t sure how. Then it came to me. My buddy cut the line at the lure and I borrowed his hat, I remember it was a red hat with a patch on the front, one of those solid cloth hats to provide full coverage. We parked the boat and my friend sprinted home, I assume he ran home, he ran somewhere. I gathered myself and calmly walked up to the house to have a chat with mom. The chat went something like this.

Me: Hey Mom, whatcha doing?
Mom: Oh just watching TV.
Me: So mom we need to go to the emergency room.
Mom: (insert hysteria) Why what’s wrong, who’s hurt, are they okay, are you ok!???
Me: Mom, it’s okay, no one’s hurt everyone’s okay.
Mom: Then why do we need to go to the ER!?
Me: It’s me mom, I’m perfectly fine, but I can’t seem to get this fishing lure out of my head.

I then took off the hat and revealed my latest catch. I don’t remember if she laughed, cried, threw up sick or what but we headed off to the hospital for a little catch and release.

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