Memories of Roaring River last half a century
Wright: 'We never left until we caught our limit'
With Opening Day at Roaring River State Park arriving in less than two weeks, many are excited and gearing up for what is a memory-maker for people of all ages.
Joe Wright, who never missed an opening day since he was five years old, is one of them.
"I went to Roaring River since I was old enough to stand on a stool," Wright said.
Originally from the Wichita, Kan., area, his grandparents lived near the park.
"My dad would always make sure we'd go on Opening Day, and that way, he could visit his family." Wright said. "We'd go several times a year and stay at my grandparents' farm. It was a chance for him to go home and see his folks, and we just didn't miss a lick. He was an avid sportsman, and having his parents there, we'd have a place to go. And my mom's family lived in Exeter. We enjoyed every minute of it."
Wright remembers starting the day early.
"We'd go early to hear the siren go off on opening day," Wright said. "The siren would go off, and man, the guys would start throwing their lines in."
Of course there was work involved while at his grandparent's house, but fun, too.
"My grandfather, William Andrew Wright, was a farmer and wasn't really into trout fishing, but taught me how to catch fish off Flat Creek," Wright said. "He liked the downstream Flat Creek fishing."
His grandmother, Nancy Merl Wright, would fix lunch for their fishing trips, and used to write for the Cassville Democrat. But it was his father, Glendon Wright, who taught he and his brother Bob how to catch trout.
"My dad was quite an interesting fella," Wright said. "He was a TV repairman, and self employed. He taught me how to catch the fish and showed me all the tricks. They're kind of a funny fish. They have a real soft mouth and are hard to catch, but my dad was a tough guy. You had to make sure the hook was hidden.
"We never left until we caught our limit. When I couldn't catch mine, he'd say "'We're not going home until we catch the limit."' One year, we caught our limit in 15 minutes. We went back to the motel and mom couldn't believe we were back that fast. We'd got our permit the day before. I think the limit was four or five at that time."
When he was younger, Wright said he would get tired and go warm up at a bonfire.
"I'd not have my limit, and my dad would say he'd show me how to catch the fish, and once he showed me, I went my way and he'd go his, and we'd meet up later," he said. "I got good at it."
After fishing for several hours, they would stop and eat lunch.
"Dad liked bologna sandwiches with mustard and tea that his parents would send with us," Wright said. "We never ate out because our grandparents always fixed us lunch. We'd talk about where we were going to fish next, at different holes. We always seemed to land up back near where the spring is, near the hatchery."
Now 59 and semi-retired, life circumstances have prevented Wright from going to the park every year, and he hasn't been back since 2005. His mother passed away in 2006.
"Health issues and making a living slowed me down," he said. "I was a mechanic, then started flipping houses for a living. My dad always said have two different jobs so if one got slow, you'd have one to fall back on. I wanted to go last year, but it seems like something just keeps coming up."
His brother, Bob Wright, has a hard time getting away, too.
In 1998, Wright's father died from colon cancer.
"I spent the last seven months of his life with him every day," Wright said. "The colon cancer went into his liver. It was a difficult time. The last year, we wanted to go real bad before he passed away, but the weather just wouldn't cooperate."
However, during his illness, it helped his father to go there in his mind, Wright said.
"You could feel the sun and mist from the river hitting your face, and smell the fish in the air, and it would just soothe him," Wright said. "Those are the memories that helped soothe his pain, and brought back memories for both of us. It was a way we could mentally go together. I still have my dad's fishing string and fishing box with his name on it. I use it when I go. It's like my lucky charm."
Wright is planning another fishing trip to the park, and will be taking his taking his father's tackle box with him.