The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, “The children are now working as if I did not exist.” –Maria Montessori, educator (1870-1952)
(time is around 1946)
She unwraps a short length of line. The fish hook is a little less than an inch long is attached about two feet from the end of the line, and the weight is attached at the bottom. She gingerly works the fleshy body of the shellfish onto the hook, and then, picks up the baited hook in her right hand and the wood reel in her left, and rises.
Cautiously she maneuvers across deep water-lapped gaps between the boulders, outward along the flattened top of the jetty until she gets to a place where she can no longer see through the depths of the swells to the white of the sand. Then she balances herself, feet well planted on the rock.
She unwraps six or seven feet of line , then tucks the wood reel into the top of her bathing suit. You can see her studying the water to the lee of the jetty; studying the lie of the rocks below. She then grasps the line a few inches above the hook and lets the weight hang loose. She swings the it back and forth over the water to get the motion going, and then she tosses it as far as she can. It disappears beneath the surface and then is slack, the swells moving the line slightly, but plainly the weight has found the bottom.
Testing, testing– pulling gently on the line to feel the weight, the line becomes taut. She jerks it slightly and waits. Nothing. But it is still taut. She carefully tugs in the line until it comes free, and when she pulls it in she sees that it has caught a wet brown mess of seaweed. But the bait is still on.
Seaweed discarded, she tosses the line in once more and sits down, her legs propped against neighbor boulders, occasional waves slopping spray at her face and the breeze riffling her hair.
In time there is a momentary strumming on her line. She stands. She is ready. She jerks to set the hook, and she can feel the tugging. She draws in the line and there is a mess of seaweed again, but behind it there is a brownish green fish– not ten inches long. Now it is flopping about on the dry jetty and the girl is squatting over it and waiting until the flopping becomes less frantic. Then she lays her hand against the fish. The hook is well set in its gasping mouth.
If she pities the fish, she quells the feeling. She winds the wet line again around the piece of wood and carries her assembly, fish still attached, across the crevices of the jetty and through the burning sand and up the long wood steps and into the pines toward the cottage. Behind her climbs a slim man wearing sun glasses, carrying her sandals in his hand. He is smiling as they talk together.
(jump to 1973)
I see a small redheaded boy about five years old accompanied by his mother. They have been to the general store on Route 28 where the child exchanged a small fistful of money for a flat plastic rectangle with a line wrapped on it, a fishhook and a lead weight about the size of a brazil nut.
The child and his mother are now walking alongside the jetty, her hair damp and curly in the salt air and his face showing pink under a white styrofoam pith helmet. She points to smooth oval forms sticking to the side of the wet rocks. They pick one off and then find a large stone. They are cracking the shell and attaching the morsel of flash to the hook…
On this particular expedition the mother will carefully shepherd the little boy to a place on the jetty where they will sit down together and assemble the gear. The mother will attach the bait and explain the dangers of fishhook barbs. She will station the boy on a flat rock and stand beside him. She will instruct him to tightly hold the plastic square and explains that she will throw the hook and weight into the water.
He will watch with intense concentration the weighted pendulum swinging back and forth over the water, and the mother will say ” One….two….” — and on “three…” she will toss the baited hook and weight into the water… and..on “three..”, the little boy will also toss in his end.
Together they will watch all the fishing gear disappear beneath the water next to the jetty.
This will not be the last time the little boy will go fishing. (Nor certainly will it be the last time he gets “skunked.”)
(jump to 2007)
Uncle Kent gives rod and reel lessons,
If you could spy on Lake Kachess (pronounced Kuh- cheece) in the Cascades of Washington State, you would see that a man with red hair catches in a very short time enough trout for an early camp breakfast. And now he has a son!