"Boy, you're gonna carry that weight
carry that weight a long time … "
Dateline: Going Home
The earth came for me, these past 21 days of Spring.
Came for you as well.
Took our family, took our friends, took our memories, laid heavy the weight upon the earth.
The earth first came for me at Table Rock, Mo., and the B.A.S.S Central Open. It was the first whooping from the sky, the violence of the rain, the wind, the lightning, shook the db/bb/rv, night after night.
And the weather radio never stopped screaming, warning, warning, and then it went silent, calm, sweetness of spring in the air, sweetness that soon soured when the weather radio suddenly got serious.
Warning's turned to watches, watches turned to worry, and one night the violence above was so bad, I took to bed with me the only photo I had in the RV of my children.
If the weight of the earth crushed me, I would go holding those who meant the most to me on the planet. My family.
The storm also came for the Elite anglers with me, as the sky touched earth back home. "Beneath The Wind" told of the fear:
I will never forget driving across a bridge that lead to downtown Branson, Mo., and sitting in the dually with Elite angler James Niggemeyer and his family, wife Sandy, and their two young children, Daniel and Abigail, and looking out the passenger side window as the river below rushed through the front windows of the family homes below.
That sight will always weigh heavy on me.
Then came Cullman, Ala., and the tornadoes that ripped through the south that night.
Once again, the sky was angry, and it came not for me, but for towns big and small, homes big and small, families big and small, and as I toured the area in a Cullman County Sheriff vehicle, every mile of devastation I saw I could feel the sky take part of me as well.
When the sky comes, it comes for us all. Comes for those in its path, comes for those who follow its path.
And it keeps coming. Here's an email I got the other day that made me curse the sky:
" … they had the rest of their house bulldozed down on Tuesday ... .and Xxxx is still having a bit of a hard time ... been crying at school ... "
I will never shoot the faces of a young family who stood and watched a bulldozer take the few things the sky left behind.
I will never print the name of a child who fears the sky and now cries beneath it, because I too fear the sky, and will cry with all the children in their "Field of Tears."
Please, just because this area is out of the news, please know that the affects of the violence from the sky will be on the ground there for a long, long time.
Maybe, forever, for as long as the children cry.
No matter how small, or how big, you can help, AND YOU WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE. You can donate directly to families of Cullman, Ala., very simply by following the information at the end of the story, "Field of Tears."
Anglers all over the country are stepping up … the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Federation Nation raised $1,000 from its members and sent the money straight to Cullman.
One of our Elite anglers, Brody Broderick, saw the destruction firsthand, and through his eBay store, Brody-Of-The Lake, along with other Elite anglers, Ish, KVD, John Crews, Ike, Denny Brauer and Dave Wolak, sent hundreds of articles of clothing to Cullman.
As Brody told me, "db I didn't count, but it was boxes and boxes, easily 400 shirts, hats, rain apparel, all sorts of things."
Gerald and LeAnn Swindle, who reached out and helped me, also reached out to victims, to the point that Gerald crawled through debris to rescue a dog who had been trapped in a cellar for several days.
But it's the email I printed above that haunts me … and to the young man with tears, you know I know who you are … and son … we're coming for you.
For the last week I have been rooming with Elite angler, Russ Lane of Prattville, Ala., when I told him of your story, all he did was look at me, and after a couple of seconds we both smiled. Both knew what had to be done.
Son … as soon as we hang up the rods and reels at the Dixie Dual on Wheeler Lake … we will head your way … and we will take you fishing. We will give you a day of smiles, to help erase a day of tears.
Country music artist Randy Montana, who played at the Bassmaster Classic, also has been affected deeply by the violence from the sky. Please watch his tornado relief video … and take his song, his soul to your heart, and help:
And Cullman, please know that I will always help carry the weight of this for you, in my soul, and on my back if that's what it takes.
" … and in the middle of the celebrations
I break down … "
But through the violence, through the destruction, through the anger, comes the two things that separate us from every other living creature that walks upon this planet
Yesterday, back out of sight of the crowds, a terminally ill man sat in a director's chair listening.
It was a wish he had, a simple wish, a wish to meet someone special to him, before he passed away.
It was arraigned through the Granted Wish Foundation in Ohio. I knew nothing of it before hand, found out right before, his wish was granted.
I walked up to the man and I told him exactly this: "Sir I know your story and I write stuff around here. If you want I will do your story, but I won't do it, won't write one word or take one picture, if you tell me you don't want that to happen. I will walk away on your word."
As his hands shook as he tried to drink water, he looked up at me from under a real old, well worn Bassmaster cap and said only this, "that would be fine, you can do your job, I'm OK with it."
So I stepped back and photographed, Dave, "just call me Super Dave." And Sir, I will.
Through the lens, I was there when his granted wish came through.
And KVD came to meet Super Dave.
Super Dave told KVD that it is "great meeting you," and "boy I won't be doing much sleeping this night, I tell you."
And they talked back behind the stage. And KVD told Super Dave that he would be right back, and I watched as KVD almost sprinted through the waiting fans, and then came back with two hats, of which he signed for Super Dave.
Both hats were the ones KVD wore when he won the 2011 Bassmaster Classic.
After KVD gave Super Dave the hats, he stayed awhile longer talking and having his photo taken with Super Dave, and I heard him tell the man how humbled he was to have met him.
And then, KVD did something that showed me that humans, those of us who live under the violent sky, will crawl out from underneath the debris, from out of the ‘fraidy-holes and we will hold each other and we will comfort each other and we will care for each other.
KVD asked a simple question of Super Dave, "I have to go, is there anything else I can do for you?"
Super Dave told KVD how hard it was for him to find a KVD jersey where he lived.
And a few minutes later after having met and taken photos with the fans who were waiting, KVD walked back to where Super Dave was sitting and took off his jersey, and handed it to him.
Finally, Saturday morning at 4:05, an hour or so before launch, Callen Wayne McCaghren became the newest member of the Family Elites.
Callen is Norma and Billy McCaghren's baby boy, all 7 pounds, 10 ounces of him … their first child.
A child they were told they would never be able to have.
And even with the weight of the last 21 Days Of Spring pounding on me, when I talked to Norma and Billy and they texted me one of the first photos of their son, I smiled and in the car, I looked skyward.
Through the violent sky that hung above the ground today.
Beyond that sky, to the stars and heavens above.
And knew that from way up there …
… love was sent back down to earth.
"…boy, you're gonna carry that weight
carry that weight a long time…"
Carry That Weight