Jared Lankford: Super-duper mega huge whale of a trout

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

One of the keys to being a good journalist is having a heightened observational skill set.

In every situation and setting, you watch how people react. Sometimes, it’s their body language that says everything, and that is the context needed in order to set up the next question.

Not too long ago, I stopped at a local gas station and while filling up I watched as a boy, barely 7 years old, struggle to contain his excitement.

His youthful exuberance was apparent and nearly infectious. A simple gaze into the bed of his father’s truck saw it loaded with camping and fishing gear.

While his father and I filled our vehicles, I asked the young man where he was headed.

“Roaring River for three whole days and with my dad,” was this young man’s reply.

That simple question unlocked a flood of information from a boy who was eager to hit the road.

His father was a welder from Bixby, Okla., and was often gone weeks at a time. The three-day trip was going to be the longest consecutive time the two had spent together in the last six months and this was the first time the boy had ever been fishing.

According to his son, his dad was the best fisherman that ever lived.

As we both went inside to pay, the young would-be angler noticed some bait on the wall.

Like a fastball headed to home plate, the young man rushed to the section of the store and immediately picked out three packages of red, black and orange plastic worms.

His dad tried to explain to him that they had plenty of bait, but his son insisted they needed them.

After a short debate, the father relented, especially when the son explained to his dad that the bait was guaranteed to catch him a “super-duper-mega-huge-whale of a trout.”

The whole experience and conversation put smiles on nearly everyone’s face that witnessed the exchange.

The young man wasn’t being obnoxious. He was simply happy and excited to go on a camping trip that no doubt had been promised many times before.

We are blessed to live in an area and community that affords opportunities like the one the boy and his father were getting ready to experience.

I remember my family outings to Roaring River, staying at Camp Smokey, hanging out with my father and learning how to fish and thinking that he was the greatest fisherman ever.

In today’s society, we need more bonding time like that father and son were experiencing. Old-fashioned conversations, bonding and quality family time in the great outdoors are becoming replaced by our work, cell phones and video games.

The other day, I watched as a repair shop owner explained to a 30-something customer that they needed to bounce a trimmer on the ground in order to get it to release more line and then had to explain why you can’t put straight gas in a two-cycle engine.

These were things I learned from my father by the time I was 10.

The young man at Roaring River, I can almost guarantee, is going to learn how to tie a hook on a line, how to cast, how to reel in a fish, put it on a stringer, to observe the state limit laws, to clean it, to cook it and to enjoy being outdoors.

In addition, he’s going to learn how to listen to his father, take instruction, and more importantly, make memories that will last his entire life.

To me, that is what fishing has always been about, making those memories. That is what we need in today’s society more than ever.

As the boy prepared to leave I handed him a $5 bill to buy some snacks at the park and my work business card.

I told him that when he caught that super-duper-mega-huge-whale of a trout to send me a picture and we’ll gladly put it in a prominent spot on the sports page.

I have no doubt that one day he will.

sports@cassville-democrat.com, or 417-847-2610.

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