2011 B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship Ouachita River - Monroe, LA, Nov 3 - 5, 2011

From America, with love

About the author

Don Barone

Don Barone

db has been in the reporting biz for over 30 years, won some Emmys and other awards, but is proudest of his four-decade marriage, his two kids and the fact he founded Tackle The Storm Foundation to help children.

"I'm so glad … "

Dateline:  Monroe, La.

And so, they are here.

They are old, they are young.

They are stout, they are lean.

They are doctors, they are working stiffs.

They are us.

The quilt called America.

Patches.   

Lives, stories, sewn together by one thread.

Love.

" … that I finally found you … "

The boat yard was closed until 1 p.m. today.  There was a line to get in.  I walked the line, 6 or 7 vehicles.  Everyone parked was waiting, white knuckle waiting.

Some turned their head to look at me, some only turned their eyes, all snapped back to looking straight ahead.

At the boats.  Sixty-four Skeeter boats. 

Waiting, for them.

Not a vehicle was running.

Not a vehicle was moving.

Yet, on every steering wheel, white knuckles.

When dreams are within grasp, it's always a white knuckle hold.

White knuckle dreams.

As they waited I took photos of the quilt of America.

Quilt of tin.  Vermont green, Nebraska white and orange, Iowa white and blue.

Connecticut, now bordered by Montana.  Two old friends, roommates once at one of these events, sat in boats next to each other, talked of wives and kids, life in between events.

Soon, you will know their names, these men in the Skeeter boats.  Soon you will know who will win this event, which six will go on and fish in the Bassmaster Classic.

One could become a household name.

Most will not.

Some will never.  Will never take to the stage.  Will never have their photos taken, will never be interviewed, and if the men in the boats are honest about it, and if you take the time to ask them, they will tell you, none of this would be possible without …

Their loved ones.

And today, you will know their names.

" … yes, that one in a million girls … "

If not for Netflix, Janet wouldn't have seen it happen.

"I was home when Don was at the tournament, so I went on his computer to update our Netflix queue."

Don is sitting in the boat listening.  I asked him his name and he told me. I told him I wasn't going to ask him another question. His wife of 31 years, Janet, would do that for him.

"So I saw he had this bookmark for B.A.S.S. so I clicked on it, started looking around on the site, and suddenly I was watching the tournament Don was competing in."

Don tried to say something, I did the universal sign children of all ages know … zip it across my lips … Don said nothing.

"I called our son on the phone screaming … 'Dad's on TV … Dad's on TV … "

Don tried to correct her that he was on the Internet, not TV, but I pointed at him like I'm sure every one of his teachers did … Don said nothing.

"And then, and then they said he won … and I started screaming and dancing around the kitchen … screaming … dancing and crying … freaked out our Yorkshire Terrier."

Don jumped in before I could hush him, "Actually I had my buddy call her on the phone as it was happening and I asked him if she knew and all he said to me was … 'I think so, all I hear is screaming … '

As I was leaving, Janet leaned over and whispered to me, "He's jazzed about this."

"Me too," was the last thing I heard her say.

" … and I wish my loving arms around ya … "

"It was my prep period at school."

So first-grade teacher Melissa got to watch her boyfriend, Aaron weigh in live.  "He went into the final day in third place and the weigh-in was taking like forever."

Zip it … Aaron.

"It was just me in there with my room mom."

Aaron is pretending he is working on some kind of tackle stuff.

"I'm saying come on … come on … come on … the period is about to end … I've got my phone out and I'm videoing the computer screen … then they weigh-in some guy third, and it's not Aaron … "

Zip it!

" … and then Aaron is up there and they weigh his fish … and he wins … and me and my room mom jump up and we are high fiving and screaming and yelling. ‘He won! He won! He won!’ The next day I told all my kids, told them Aaron won … he won … they are all pulling for him."

As is I'm sure, the room mom.

" … I can stand up and face the world … "

"It's his dream," Cathy told me, and she would know, she's been married to Ed for 33 years.

Ed too had been told to zip it.

"I was home. Ed went up to Lake Champlain by himself this time, so I was watching it on Bassmaster.com, and I noticed Ed hadn't weighed in yet, then I saw they were holding him back."

Cathy is sitting on the chair on the back deck, Ed is sitting on the stairs that lead to the front deck, when Cathy talks he just looks at her and smiles.

"Then they bring him up, and I'm watching and I'm saying ‘Come on Ed, come on Ed, win this thing.’ "

And Ed, on the stairs, looks down at his hands.

"Then they say Ed wins … ED WINS!! … and I start screaming … "

Ed is still looking at his hands, but I can see him smiling.

" … and I'm screaming and screaming and I open the kitchen door and run out the door … "

The smile on Ed's face grows.

" … and … and I start running down the street, down the neighborhood and I start going up to all my neighbor’s doors banging on them … "

And Ed, to no one, just starts nodding his head yes.

" … and … and I'm screaming ‘Ed won! … ED WON!!  I told the whole cul-de-sac."

Ed starts talking and I let him because he begins with, "I'm not an emotional guy … "

You give an unemotional guy his time.

" … but it was like a delayed reaction … It hit me as I was driving home … I'm 55 and this is something I have dreamed about for so long … "

Cathy is watching him with the same smile Ed watched her with.  The smiles blend together after 33 years.

" … dream so long … tears … crying … tears." 

And sitting on the steps of the boat he would fish out of during the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship, he was once again … driving home … white knuckle dream.

"I'm so very excited for him, so excited, and when we got up in the morning to drive here … those neighbors who I pounded on their doors screaming that Ed won … those neighbors had a sign made, and during the night they snuck over to our yard and hung it between two of our trees for Ed to see."

The quilt of America.

Screaming and dancing around your kitchen, freakin' out the dog.

The quilt of America.

High fiving your room mom.

The quilt of America.

A banner neighbors hang between your trees.

And so, they are here.

From America.

With Love.

From those who love them.

" … your love is lifting me higher
" … than I've ever been lifted before."

(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher

Jackie Wilson

(music by the Funk Brothers)

-- db

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