In Things that should have killed us (read me), I wrote about how when we were teenagers, several of us would sometimes go off together for a nearby fishing adventure. We had ‘our spot’ and normally each of us would drag back a couple of catfish. We’d clean them up and then maybe my mom would fry them up for us, or one of the other moms (note – one of the other moms would fry the fish…my mom would not fry up one of the other moms).
My dad was a golfer. He was one of those kids who hung around the golf course as a young guy, hoping to score a caddying position in attempts to earn a few extra bucks. He also liked to fish. I have a Canada fishing trip I think will one day make a story in of itself, but today’s story is about a fishing trip, ventured not so far away – a local adventure.
There used to be a small pay lake nearby Hamilton, Ohio out on highway 128, just outside of town. It was called Tanglewood Lake (looks like it is still there – here is the website). The lake wasn’t so much a lake as it was a large pond and I’m not quite sure where the owner got the name “Tanglewood” unless it was the fact that our fishing lines would often get tangled up in the trees and roots there. If you’re not familiar with the term, a pay lake was simply one where the owner would keep the lake stocked with fish. If you wanted to try to catch some of the fish, you would have to pay a rate – either at the door or perhaps as an amount against how many fish you caught or how long you spent fishing. Today, I think you’d have to pay me to go fishing as for the most part, mainly I was famous for catching the most mosquito bites.
Dad went to Tanglewood several times and he took us boys there perhaps two or three times. One particular ‘memorable’ trip I recall happened a few years after my parents were divorced (read me). Dad had offered to take several of us boys fishing. I think me and my two brothers, (Mike & Steve), were in attendance and then a couple of neighborhood boys piled into the car as well. I seem to recall them being Tim Hardin and Ed Kimble. There might have been another, but Ed was certainly there as he is the focus of this day’s action.
I’ve written this before, but despite my dad’s shortcomings as a father figure, he was fun to be around when he was in a good mood. He had a quick wit, was relatively up on politics and had a good sense of humor. He could tease others like no one else and typically it was harmless. He liked being around his buddies and I think he liked doing ‘guy things’ with us boys. So hauling a bunch of teenagers off to Tanglewood Lake I’m sure was a fun activity for him and not a chore.
So we all piled into the car, cramped and squeezed in next to each other and made the trek out to Tanglewood. I think I was 15 at the time, so Mike was 12 years old and the other boys, (Ed, Tim and Steve), would have been 13 – five boys and my Dad. When we arrived, Dad took care of the business in the office and then we all proceeded to walk back behind the house, to where the lake was located.
We all moved towards one side of the lake and started baiting our hooks and pitching our lines out into the water. Within minutes, a few of us ‘crossed the streams’ and got tangled up with each other so we tried spreading out to other sides of the lake. Dad was pointing us to his favorite spots, but every spot we tried that day just wasn’t hitting – the fish were not cooperating this day. When boys go fishing and the fish aren’t biting, they get restless – we were no different.
Before long we each began getting more and more bored with fishing and more and more interested in ‘not fishing’. Mike was throwing sticks into the water and Dad was telling him to stop and to pay attention to watching his bobber. I continued to hang around Dad but I was getting more and more anxious to leave. Ed and Tim had wandered off, away from the lake, and were enjoying their good fortune as they had found another fishing pond.
Unbeknownst to Dad, they had left the main lake. Dad likely had his hands full with Mike and the rest of us to know that a couple of us were not within visual range. (In fairness to Dad, we fathers don’t always pay attention to what our teenage kids are doing – survival of the fittest – if you make it back to the car at the end of the day, you live to enjoy another adventure the following weekend). After only a short few minutes, Eddie had hit the jackpot at his new spot! He started yelling – “Bob, I caught a bass, I caught a bass!” And so he had; as he was walking back quickly with bass in hand to show off his big catch, it struck my dad as to where Eddie had been ‘fishing’.
Ed had wandered off and found the ‘stocking pond’. You’ve herd the expression, “like shooting fish in a barrel”? Well throwing bait into a stock pond is likely a much easier way to catch a hungry fish. The stock pond was essentially the storage area where the owner kept new fish he was going to release into the pay lake. It had a small fence around it and was clearly marked with a red “no fishing” sign (the sign alone would make it reason enough for us to want to fish there). Dad realized what Eddie had done and began lightly chuckling while also at the same time raising his voice a tad at Ed, telling him to ‘get the hell out of there Eddie – that’s a stock pond’.
But that was us boys, or at least accurate to say, that was typical for boys in our neighborhood. We always seemed to get into some form or another of mild trouble or predicaments driven by our tendency to explore our boundaries. All grew up together in ‘The Alley’. During the entire ride home, my Dad was enjoying himself by teasing Eddie, shouting – I got a bass, I got a bass, look Bob I caught a bass! We laughed together, we played ball together……and occasionally one of us got lucky and caught a fish in a barrel.