It amazes me how powerful and influential early memories can be in affecting how we later view life. In my case, I have to say that my grandfather, Louie George, had a very large impact in ways that remain vivid – they still come to me as if I’m there right now. Let me paint the picture I have in my mind.
I must have been about 5 to 7 years old, but each time we would go visit my grandparents on their small ranch in Lemoore, I would get excited. It seemed to me that I was going on a treasure hunt, one where I got to explore undiscovered new worlds centered around fishing. It fueled my imagination.
After hugs, my first steps were always straight out the front door, then a right turn and down into their small basement on the south side of the house. That’s where Grandpa kept his main tackle, right next to the big freezer. There were all kinds of wonderful things I could go through and inspect, starting with the big ocean rods and reels he used down in Mexico. What were all those heavy weights, spoons and giant hooks used for anyway? Grandma stored all of her Mexico stuff there, too, like pottery
Between the damp smells of a cement basement, the narrow stairs going down into the bowels of the earth (or so it seemed to me!) and the single light bulb casting its low yellow glare over the exotic tackle strewn about, it all added up to my very own secret cave full of treasure for a young, impressionable boy! Each time I went down there, I was sure I would find another previously undiscovered prize. It was my secret place, and I didn’t usually let my two younger sisters down there much. The smells, feeling and wonder of it all made me want to go fish and do what Grandpa was doing! I was enthralled by it all.
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The second secret place was the small upstairs cedar-walled room above my grandparents’ garage. Going up the stairs that high made the place a unique fortress in my mind. Filled with more fishing and hunting stuff as well as mounts of birds, deer and fish, it had that special outdoors feel a cedar-walled room always has. Where had those animals or fish come from, and what was the story behind each of them? Soon I knew that every mount did have a story and each represented a victory! I wanted one, too, … someday, somehow!
There were chester drawers full of old pictures, and dusty old machines and stuff I imagined had to be used for hunting or something! From above I could look out the second-story window and dream I was in my own treehouse. I spent hours there, alone, dreaming and imagining, surrounded by a legacy to which I aspired. Don’t think that doesn’t have a lasting, profound impact on a youngster.
To this day, whenever I walk into a cedar-lined room like that, it takes me back to those days of childlike wonder. I knew what I wanted to do – and it wasn’t video games. I wanted to be a part of every trip. I could feel the specialness of what Dad and Grandpa did each time they went fishing or hunting. It was their world and I wanted to be a part of it. This environment laid the foundation for a simple vision that still drives me.
Being a young boy with a world to explore, a clear-cut dream and a place to use my imagination in a healthy way were blessings I didn’t fully appreciate till later. Simple, powerful and driven in deep. Old school? You bet! Never give up!
We want your fish photos – I’m excited to tell you about the “Fishing Photo Gallery” we’re starting up through this column and The Bee! It should be a lot of fun, a great place to post your biggest catches and share with other anglers at fresnobee.com/outdoors. OK, since some folks tend to fudge a little on how big their fish really is, we would appreciate accurate weights and sizes for us to include in the post, as well as when and where the catch was made, names of those pictured and where everybody is from! Send to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to seeing your next BIG ONE get posted!
Roger George is The Bee’s fishing expert. He can be reached at email@example.com,