I was looking through some old family photos and came across two of my favourite photos of my father. One of the reasons I really love these two in particular is that they present two very different personas.
The first one is my Dad as a young man, with his John B and a cravat. As a boy I heard stories of his days as a rounder – betting the ponies, playing poker, and blowing sax and clarinet in dance bands. This was a different guy than the dad I knew, who ran a business, worked lots of hours, and never dressed this flashy.
Now this is the Dad I knew. More comfortable on a trout stream than just about anywhere else. There would often be trout in his creel, even on tough days. He was an unrepentant bank-napping worm plonker, and he was very good at it. When I was a boy he taught me to love nature, to get excited when I stood in front of some little trout stream in the middle of nowhere. And he taught me important lessons, like how trout like the edges of things, dark and light, deep and shallow, fast and slow.
One of my best childhood memories occurred when I was allowed to tag along with Dad and my big brother on a fishing trip. Dad used to drive these big old station wagons and he drove fast, very fast. We’d be roaring up the highway on our way to some fantastic place or another. For me they were all wonderful exotic places they took me to. They knew where all the trout were and I was crazy excited to get in on the action. I’d be in the back seat, and Dad and the brother would be up front, singing Wreck of the Old 97, loudly and off key. I was the only kid at our school who knew all the lyrics to that song before age 10. I was a lucky kid.