You might not recognize the name Harvey Ball, but, like many things prominent in our “water-colored memories” (“The Way We Were” Barbara Streisand, 1973), you will definitely recognize his world renown creation—the circular yellow face with two black eyes and a broad half-moon closed smile with little hyphens on each upturned end. Interestingly enough, the younger generation will harrumph (even though they have never heard that word before and never seen the “harrumphing with the governor” scene in the iconic Mel Brooks’1974 ground-breaking comic western spoof, Blazing Saddles) at the mention that the heart-warming model of simple happiness, the smiley face, is actually the precursor of today’s omnipresent “emoji.”
To background, in 1963 freelance artist Harvey Ball designed the “smiley” (as he called it) when he was commissioned to raise employee morale at an insurance company. As inspiration sometimes happens, in less than ten minutes, Mr. Ball came up with the smiley face. The image’s simplicity brought smiles to the faces of the executives, who paid him $45 for his creation. According to his biography, the company made 100 yellow buttons with Ball’s creation on them to hand out to employees. Incredibly, neither the company or Ball ever applied for a trademark or copyright of the “smiley” and therefore did not make any money on its gigantic future sales. Ball’s son, Charles, however, said his father never regretted not registering the copyright saying, “He was not a money-driven guy, he used to say, ‘Hey, I can only eat one steak at a time, drive one car at a time.’”
The word “smile” as a symbol of happiness, of course, has been a significant part of human lexicon for eons. Even the Bible in “Proverbs” tells us so as it is written, “A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.” If you were scratching your heads regarding the phrase, “tells us so,” just think childhood Bible or Sunday School.
With that hint, many of you will immediately remember the catch phrase “tells us so” came from the song, “Jesus Loves Me.” What you might not have known is Dale Evans Rogers (born Lucille Wood Smith; Oct. 31, 1912 – Feb. 7, 2001) wrote the song in 1955. According to her bio, Dale was an American actress, singer, songwriter and, if you were wondering, the third wife of singing cowboy Roy Rogers. If being married for the third time bursts your squeaky-clean image of Roy, their marriage was Dale’s fourth. As one unknown writer quipped, “Seven was definitely a lucky number for the couple as their marriage was as solid in real life as it was in public.” Her beloved lyrics are: “Jesus loves me, this I know, For the Bible tells me so; Little ones to Him belong; They are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me.”
Another memorable musical smiling reference is the song, “Smile,” the music for which was written by none other than the “Everyman” Little Tramp, Charlie Chaplin, as the soundtrack for his 1936 film, “Modern Times.” The lyrics were added in 1954 and the song was memorably covered by Nat King Cole and Grand Rapids, Minnesota’s favorite daughter, Judy Garland.
Even though this late spring and its dour gray-cold (and sometimes white with snow) weather has somewhat dampened our enthusiasm for the May 11 opener, many of us are none the less still joyfully (but frantically) getting ready.
As we all know, anglers are cut of the same proverbial cloth. Our batteries and trailer lights have been checked, wheel bearings greased and a new license tab put on the trailer, bought our 2019 fishing license (and boat license if needed). After we have put on new line, stocked up on jigs, popped out the paint-filled eyes, secured life jackets and throwables, ensured the launch line is in as well as the anchor, put in the landing net(s), rain gear, hip boots to facilitate landing and loading and made sure the rods are in as well as the suitcase-sized tackle box and waterproof tote bags, it’s nice to simply relax in the boat and just remember.
Even for those of us who have spent many moons on the water, “opener” is still special. Sure, it’s not as extraordinary as wedding days, children’s births or any of the other smile days we experience, for some strange reason as we sit in that boat getting ready for opener alone with our thoughts, a host of past fishing experiences wash over us.
Many of us will remember the old days of trapping rainbow chubs in the mining tailings ponds and seining shiners as they swarmed in gravel-bottomed spawning waters and crick mouths and then babying them in coolers until tempering them in homemade minnow tanks spraying sprinkler-like fresh water. Those who did not go the minnow-roundup route, will remember the excitement of the early morning bait shops where everyone was in a Christmas-like mood, sharing handshakes and good lucks and partaking in a form of Americana those who do not fish will sadly never get to know. In our youth, we snidely labeled them “of the fish stick world.”
While sitting in that pre-opener boat, we will remember how family or friends took us on our first fishing trips. Whether plopping bobbers with worms for panfish off a dock or casting red and white daredevils for northerns from a rowboat, we will never forget those early “fish on” feelings. And, what’s more, as we think back, we realize the reason we still fish is the same—it makes us smile.
Some of us will even humbly recall being “schooled” by a fishing buddy because we were too proud to switch over to the “new-fashioned” blue and white Canadian feathered jig he was using, opting to stubbornly “fish memories” with a Kahle hook and leader rig. Then, after being down eight nothing, finally changing over only to have the same “skunk” stay with us. Adding insult to injury, of course, was having your partner who is smoking you sniffing the air and asking, “Can you smell that?” “That,” as you smilingly might well know, is the “skunk.”
The greatest thing about the “opener” and fishing in general is because we have experienced and accepted catch and release, wise fish management and embraced “leaving some for seed,” we still get to once again feel the thrill of a tight-lined, tugging “fish on.” We still get to kibitz and needle and even sometimes compliment. We also know fishing is more than the sum of all its parts, and every good fishing person knows it. And, just before that first cast of the season, whether we are looking at an ivory pre-dawn sky or a daylight one, take a moment to smile a special smile for those who first took you fishing who are not with us in body, but still remain deep in our hearts. Then, like the song “Smile” says, “Smile though your heart is aching.”
We will leave you with this precious pearl of wisdom from a late great, hardworking, wise and caring fishing old-timer who adored his family and loved life, “The best time to go fishing is when you can.”
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.