We have a new kitten. Her name is Minka and she is a blue mink ragdoll. So far, she seems like she’s going to have the perfect demeanor we adore in our cats. When she plays, she is aware of her jaw and paw strength so when she touches human skin, she is careful not to apply so much pressure that she could puncture the skin. If I’m wearing shorts and she wants picked up, she reaches her paws up onto my legs but keeps her little claws retracted. That is difficult to teach but a great cat instinctually knows it. She craves human affection and will sometimes cry if she thinks she’s alone. So far, she’s sleeping with us every night. The cutest thing of all though is how she loves to play with her little caterpillar at the end of her fishing pole. Speaking of fishing poles….
As kids growing up on Prytania, we got a lot of fishing in. We could have died one time on the way home (link) and on another time, one of us accidentally stumbled into the fish stocking pond (link). Most of the time though, we just had fun catching catfish and mosquito bites. Knowing how to fish came in handy when it came time to be a parent to my three boys because boys just love getting out to fish and it can be a nice little opportunity to do something as a family.
Our first son is Mitchell. He was born in 1981 and I think we first took him out fishing as a four year old. I remember Mitch’s first pole being a shiny red one that ended up being a lucky pole. Kim’s dad belonged to an organization that hosted a little annual fishing derby. They gave out various prizes for different catches and age groups. Mitchell participated a couple of years and once he caught the largest fish in his age group, winning a nice bicycle. I never thought to question the Rules Committee, but now that I’m much older and wiser, I’m wondering if this wasn’t fixed by Grandpa (hmm). Either way, his first bike was a freebie.
Our second son, Corey, seemed to be more interested in eating and less interested in the actual sport of fishing. What’s that you’re saying? So what, you prefer the eating part too? Maybe I should clarify; Corey seemed to prefer eating the ‘bait’.
Mentioned in a couple other stories, we used to do a lot of camping at Hueston Woods on the weekends with Kim’s family. On one weekend day there, we decided to go down to the boat dock area to let the kids do a little fishing. Corey was maybe two years old so that would make it 1988, Mitch being 7. Corey being a little too young for fishing, we would be more concerned with just keeping an eye on him so that he didn’t accidentally fall into the water, (we didn’t want him to end up like his cousin after all, link). So when we’d fish with both of the boys, typically our attention would be more focused against the older boy, you know, helping him bait his hook, setting his line, etc. While I was helping Mitch on the occasion in question, I heard Kim suddenly shriek out “COREY, NO-NO!”
Nemo touched the butt!
I turned around quickly, halfway expecting to see Corey trying to touch a boat in the water or perhaps doing a toddler handstand near the dock edge, you know, something daring that maybe a dad might later high five the toddler for. But no, my son had a mealworm flipping around on the outside of his lips. Half of it was submerged inside his mouth and the other half outside, doing everything in its power to escape back to the safety, (albeit temporary), of its little plastic container with his wood shavings and little mealworm friends.
Mealworms are relatively clean. If you’re not familiar with them, they basically look a bit like a jaundiced maggot (appetizing, huh). I’m sure they’re packed with loads of protein and probably healthy to eat, (hey, I’ve never seen a fish throw one up), but we had plenty of burgers and hot dogs waiting for us back at camp. The mealworms are probably better for you, but let’s save the bait, Corey.
One of my favorite fishing memories though occurred far, far away from water and fish. We moved to Louisiana in 1989 on a job transfer from my employer. Louisiana you know is a “Sportsman’s Paradise”. Corey had turned 3 years old that year so when Christmas rolled around, he was quickly pushing the ripe old age of four years. One of the gifts we, (err, I mean Santa), got for him was a brand new Zebco Snoopy fishing pole. Christmas Day came and Corey was happy to learn that he no longer had to eat the bait but could join his older brother in the sport of fishing.
The Snoopy fishing pole was great because it came equipped with a big plastic weight at the end of its line, allowing the little fishers an opportunity to practice their casting and retrieval. When you depressed the button to the line, you didn’t have to keep a thumb on it in order to allow the line to cast. All you had to do was to press down the button and then make your cast. Turning the handle would make a clicking sound and then the allow you to pull in your catch.
I showed him how to snap his 4-year-old wrist and the best timing so he could make his best cast and he seemed to learn quickly. He was casting his plastic weight all over the house and reeling it in like a little four year old pro. I was such a proud daddy – good going son!
The morning after Christmas , the kids all excited about their toys, had gotten up early in the morning. Kim and I were lying awake in bed, enjoying not having to entertain the kids and just chatting about what we were going to do that day when all of a sudden….
CRASH!! CLINK! BREAK! BREAK!
Our little four year old, ever the sportsman, had reeled in his very first…..Christmas tree!
The cats had scattered from the shatter, (intentional rhyme there), but had soon returned to sniff through the carnage. We shot up out of our bed and flew into the living room where the tree was, to see it lying flat on the ground. Bulbs were broken, ornaments strewn all around the room, the tinsel a mess, making fun playthings for the cats. And still standing there, pole in hand with a toddler ‘uh-oh’ face was our little sportsman.
One thing we had learned already in our then 8+ years of parenting was that accidents were always going to happen. You know, after Christmas comes and the presents all get opened, all that’s left really is the putting up of the ornaments, until next year. So we simply picked up the tree, cleaned up the mess and un-snagged the catch of the day.
I thought our parenting days were largely over, but I’d forgotten how much attention a new kitten requires. We don’t mind, this is a bonding period. Getting up in the middle of the night the first few nights to carry her downstairs to the potty, the constant playtime, the cute crying we hear when we leave her alone, insatiable curiosity she portrays towards everything new and of course the purring. I’m keeping her fishing pole up on the pool table though so there aren’t any midnight accidents (and I know what some of you are thinking – she doesn’t even have thumbs, Focker!)