Our title’s wonderful words from a youngster thrilled with fishing mirror what famed archer Fred Bear once said, “Take your kids hunting so you don’t have to hunt for your kids.”
Given that most Minnesotans fished as youngsters, experience tells us to keep kids interested in fishing we should bring lots of food/beverages, try to get some rod-bending action and have what Sir Isaac Newton called “the genius of patience.” And, speaking of genius, who can refute the undeniable charm of what children say.
Upon mentioning what children say, many will point with nostalgic joy to Art Linkletter’s perceptive ear via his remarkable documentations of “what kids say” in his classic 1957 book, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” To background, Arthur Gordon Linkletter (born Arthur Gordon Kelly, 1912-2010) was a Canadian-born, naturalized American citizen and iconic radio/television personality who hosted the programs “House Party” on CBS radio/tv for 22 years (1945-67) and “People are Funny” on NBC radio/tv for 17 years (1953-69).
Without a doubt, Mr. Linkletter’s legacy is eternally linked to these light-hearted interview segments with children. Interestingly enough, his book was a collaboration with famed “Peanut’s” creator, Charles Schulz, who did the illustrations featuring his famous “Peanuts” gang. Included in the forward written by Walt Disney was this quote from a four-year old San Francisco boy who said in a 1941 Linkletter radio show, “If I was an elefunk, I’d be a fireman, ‘cause then I could squirt fires out with my nose.”
No matter how technologically “advanced” our society has become, this special view of life expressed in a magical manner is still the sole dominion of children who see life much more innocently and joyfully than adults. In this vein, English Romantic poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850) once wrote in his 1807poem, “My Heart Leaps Up,” that “The child is father to the man.” One of Wordsworth’s favorite themes was adults are essentially the products of their physical and emotional environments, which, of course, has led to the much-debated question of “nature vs. nurture.”
Wordsworth also examined how, given the basic necessities of life, food, water, shelter and general safety, the “light of childhood” he alludes to in his poem, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” becomes more fleeting as we age. Perhaps this is why according to those who study such things, happy adults smile about 40 times a day, average grownups around 20 and children 400 times a day?
Lest you think Mr. Linkletter’s kids’ sayings have gone the way of the rotary phone and road maps dads would crumple up when hopelessly lost on family trips and refusing to ask directions, here are some current wonderfully warm thoughts out of the amazingly honest mouths of four-year old babes from Cohasset’s Our Redeemer Lutheran Church’s Little Lambs pre-school courtesy of teachers Mrs. Fox and Mr. Johnson. On hopes and wishes—“I hope there is a hot chocolate tub in heaven.” “I wish I was a baby, then I could remember how I was.” To the teachers—“I’m not supposed to tell you I have a cough, runny nose and fever ‘cause that what my mom told me.” “I can’t eat that snack ‘cause mommy told me that’s high fruit-toast corn syrup.” “Mommy always sings to me at night, ‘Sprinkle, sprinkle little star.’” “Mr. Johnson, you are really old, you have worms on your forehead.” Then, responding to the teacher when asked, “What’s up?” “I’m still four!” One student to another who was crying, “This isn’t cry-day, it’s Friday.” To the child nearby who said the project they were doing was too hard, “Just pretend you’re picking wood ticks off your dog.” On coloring—“This orange crayon doesn’t work, it goes everywhere” and “If you don’t watch it, this crayon changes color just like our clock at home.” And, finally, when asked how his new one week old little baby brother was doing—“He cries a lot, but doesn’t walk yet, he’s too lazy.”
Ah, the light and delight of childhood. Interestingly enough, some of these heart-warming exclamations do lend themselves to presently pertinent topics. Take the “tick” reference, for example. Those of you who have either experienced or know someone who has been affected by a dreaded tick-borne disease or have even had your dog afflicted, understand how true the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” truly is. Please take the time to do your due diligence and research tick prevention and be conscientious in tick searches every night, no matter if you live in town or not.
Not to be preachy, but it is also incumbent on caring fishing people to understand how important the total fishing experience is, not just the take. Don’t get us wrong, kids are not going to just sit in a boat or cast off a dock simply for the thrill of being outdoors, they need the hands-on exhilaration of “doing,” of casting, playing with minnows/leeches, netting fish and relishing the feel of a “fish on.”
It is also key we allow kids to be kids and not treat them as miniature versions of ourselves. Although many of us tend to focus on the walleye as king, we should nevertheless keep in mind a fish is a fish, of course, of course like in Dr. Seuss’ 1960 children’s book, “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” Even though it is a simple rhyming book for beginning readers, with a freewheeling plot about a boy and a girl named Jay and Kay and the many amazing creatures they have for friends and pets, the lesson learned is something that is amazing should not be glossed over just because an adult deems it to be a lesser entity. In this regard, a northern, perch, rock bass or any fish that bends the rod and screams the drag should be treated with respect. When we raise children to demean a northern pike as a “slimer,” “snot-rocket” or malign any non-walleye as being of a “loser” species, we diminish that specie and the outdoor experience itself.
In this regard, consider John Donne’s (1572-1631) lines in his poem, “Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII”: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…because I am involved in mankind… never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” And, yes, that’s where Ernest Hemingway got it.
Whether we know it or not, we in the fishing world are all connected. To ensure fishing’s future, try not to be condescending. Avoid talking down to anglers or be so equipment showy some become ashamed about what they don’t have. Also, keep in mind the often used for humor aphorism about men in the hunting and fishing world, “The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys” might be apropos for “t” shirts and other seemingly harmless distributions, but when made painfully obvious to those “have not” children, the impact might be “another lost outdoors person.” Or, as American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote, “A torn jacket is soon mended, but hard words or deeds bruise the heart of a child.”
Nurture our kids, they are the future.
Nik and Rod Dimich are on the pro staffs of Mercury Marine and Ray’s Sport & Marine in Grand Rapids, Minn. Rod is also a pro-staffer for L&M Supply and his radio show “Woods & Water” can be heard each Friday at 5:50 P.M. on KQDS 95, 106.3 on “The Train Wreck’s Drive at Five.” To contact Dimich Outdoors, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Kristin Dimich contributes to this column.