Jackson: Reflecting on my father's outdoors lessons
The trips were extremely memorable. The bait casting lessons always seemed endless, and the meatloaf chunks jammed between slices of whole wheat bread far outshined the kosher baloney sandwiches we also had with us once we hit the water on Channel Lake.
With my father's guidance, I became the family laborer once I hit a certain age, thereby qualifying me for heavy-duty lifting of the outboard motor. I was also tasked with setting up the rods and life jackets guaranteeing an element of safety for everyone who came along for a day's worth of water pounding.
And when I sit in front of my keyboard often daydreaming about those days gone by, I have to frequently get up, get a tissue to wipe my eyes and struggle through those tough moments remembering my late father and mother, Irv and Sylvia.
I can easily recall those dark mornings when I hoisted the Martin outboard from my uncle's trunk and trudged my way down the steep hill leading to the rental boat on Deep Lake.
Ma Bauer let Irv rent one of her rundown cabins for a week. It was feet away from the Peshtigo River near Crivitz, Wisconsin. It was during one of those special trips when my father showed me how and where to catch walleyes and smallmouth bass.
And one year the lodging scenario changed because Sylvia joined us and Irv opted to rent a slightly more luxurious (indoor plumbing) place on Caldron Falls for another crappie and smallie adventure.
One fall day my dad decided it was time I learned how to handle a 12-gauge shotgun, so we went pheasant hunting in Iowa. After hours of safety lessons and "dry shooting," with a dummy shell in the breach, I was ready to slowly walk the fields with Irv, without a dog to aid us.
The weekends belonged to Sylvia and me. My father was a "working stiff" who owned and operated a tavern in the city. He was cast in the role of sole provider who took pleasure in taking us to some excellent restaurants where I learned the finer points of dining. Saturday mornings were often reserved for fishing and hunting excursions.
The Chain O' Lakes was Irv's playground. Later in life, he told me that he had me in a boat on the Chain when I was three years old. He claimed I caught my first bluegill when I reached four. Sylvia was a natural with a rod and reel and she was able to outfish Irv quite a number of times.
As the years went by and I moved around the country while changing jobs in the broadcast and newspaper business, Irv came to visit and we would head to local lakes to fish and catch up on how life was treating us in general.
I recall one outing on Browns Lake in southern Wisconsin We caught and released more than 50 bass. We were exhausted and yet decided to have a light lunch at a nearby greasy spoon. We ultimately settled on a couple cheeseburgers and some Wisconsin brew.
This was the time when I looked him in the eye and proceeded to thank him for providing me with a wonderful outdoor education. Irv rarely exhibited any emotion except when he would reluctantly recount some bloody battles on a South Pacific island during World War II.
Irv and Sylvia are both gone now and I suddenly realized I did the very same thing by teaching my daughter Melissa about the outdoors. And now I have a chance with my grandchildren as well.
Father's Day is not just a Hallmark invention. For guys like me, it's a daily remembrance of how I grew up and shared the time with Irv.
• Contact Mike Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org, catch his radio show 7-9 a.m. Sundays on WGCO 1590-AM (live-streamed at www.1590WCGO.com) and get more content at www.mikejacksonoutdoors.com.