Dennis Tietje is fishing his dream

Don Barone
...under that jersey back, is a brace, and pain.


"First thing I remember was asking papa, 'Why?'
For there were many things I didn't know...."

Dateline: Greyhawkin' T-Bend, Many, La. I dream of catching, someday. "Someday," is sweetness wrapped in a word. One of the churches of my life is "someday." Not a day goes by where "someday" doesn't come to me. "Someday" I'll be this, "someday" I'll be that, "someday" I'll get that, "someday" I'll have that. But few times does my "someday" come. Few. So I speak from the part of me that wishes, not the part of me that knows. When comes the time, that "someday" comes, will I know what to do with it? Will I be the old dog chasing cars who actually catches one? Last night I had a nightmare that woke me straight up and sweating. I had just knocked the dirt out of my cleats, tapped home plate at Fenway and looked straight past SS, LF, and locked on the Green Monster wall. When the pitch came, I swung for the fences. And I actually watched the ball rocket straight to left at 38 feet, 2 inches above the grass, clearing the monster by 2 feet. Heard the kerplunk as high and inside bounced on Lansdowne St. and rolled slowly by Gate C. Felt the rawhide being scuffed. And then, I just stood there. All frozed up."Someday," came. Now what? Speaking, once again from dreams of "someday," what happens when "someday" comes. Actually, what I really want to know, and why I did this story with Dennis Tietje, was to ask a very simple question. "When comes the time, that your someday comes, what then?" When someday is in your hands, how long can you hold it? Is someday more about the journey, then the arrival? Is someday, the end? Or the beginning?
So I sat in an old rocking chair on a wooden Louisiana porch with a man, his wife, and their dog, telling them I came to do their story, when in fact I came to do our story. Ours, all of those of us hoping for our "someday." Came to that porch, that fish camp, to find out, when comes the time … does "someday" ever really come? Ask that, of a man, TJ, who's someday … came.


"...and Daddy always smiled, took me by the hand..."

If the man has a family, you do the interview with the man AND his family. And if he has a dog, the dog needs to be there as well. So before me on a wooden swing sat Dennis (called TJ out here), his wife Trudy, a lady with a comedic reaction quicker than a blink, and a white Maltese named, Niko. When I search for the soul, I watch the hands, watch the eyes, body language without most of the body attached. With the sunset on my right, dusk hanging on to my left, I watched TJ gently stroke the hair of Niko on his lap, while also touching Trudy's arm, her leg, her fingers. When Trudy talked, answered a question from me, TJ didn't look at me, he looked to her. Not a sideways glance, but the type of eye contact you have between a couple married for some 24 years, "and we dated for three years before that." Between Team TJ, they have two kids, boys, 20 year old Donavan and 12 year old Logan. Trudy: "We have an engine and a caboose, nothing in between." TJ, a 46 year old guy with a waist measurement smaller than his pant leg numbers, is a slow talker with words that always come from behind a smile. He has a degree in "Agriculture Business" from Louisiana Tech and is a third generation "rice, soybean, crawfish farmer." Lost a bunch of that in a Louisiana hurricane though … and not the one you are thinking, the hurricane that came in the back door after Katrina. "db I've been a volunteer fireman for 14 years now, was down in New Orleans helping those folks out when we got word that Hurricane Rita was heading back home-way. Lost most of my crops to it, the barns, our equipment." His left hand rubs the dog's ear, right hand slides across the wooden swing slates and just the little pinky comes to rest slightly under Trudy's left jean leg. I give them their hurricane heading home-way pause. Respect needed when comes the hurts.


"...saying, "Someday you'll understand..."

And the Green Monster watches me, as I still stand at the plate. Frozed.
But for TJ … "I was fishing the B.A.S.S Central Opens, been fishing competitive since 1987, but I was fishing the Central's when the call came db. Crawfish farming running 3,500 traps -- needed surgery on my shoulder from that, had some back issues, fishing weekends, opens, all sort of local derbies, and then one day …" Someday … came. "I tell you the truth, I got the call that I qualified for the Elites the same week I took the civil service test to become a professional firefighter, and I passed the test, did really good, was high up on the list …" "What does that mean?" "It meant db that I was probably going to be a fireman full-time." "Something you wanted?" "A dream … 14 years as a volunteer … now that." "And you get the call up to the Elites?" "Uh-huh. Also a dream …" "So what goes through your head?" "Only one thing: talk to my family. It was going to be a family decision." TJ has a week to decide, face the heat of fire in the buildings or the heat of Elite fishing on the water. The vote to go Elite he got from his 12 year old son, Logan. "I sat him down for seven straight days and asked him the same question over and over. I said to him, 'This means I won't be home a lot.' And every day Logan gave me the exact same answer, 'Daddy, I know but I think it's awesome for you.'''
And then TJ forces the swallow and emotion down. Slowly, Trudy's left hand slides across the wooden swing slates and her pinky rested gently under TJ's right leg. So you know how much that answer meant to TJ? Dig this: his boat is wrapped in green and orange. "I'm not much of a green color liking guy," he said. But he is a son loving guy. "I asked me two boys what their favorite colors were. I think I have the best colored boat out there … " In Donavan green and Logan orange.


"...well, I'm here to tell you now each and every mother's son..."

Last year was the first year of the tour for TJ, 2010 his rookie year. "Never saw any of the water we fished. When I showed up, it was the first time I laid eyes on the water." That works when the field of play is always the same, no matter what city, what gym, what neighborhood court. Not so much when it comes to lakes. "The first tournament I missed the cut by ONE OUNCE." That one ounce of Bass cost $10,000! The second tourney TJ's bad back went out once again. "Missed that cut because I couldn't bend over and lift the fish out of the water. I had to bring them in the boat on the hook without holding them. I lost two within inches of the deck." Last year, TJ only made 2 of the 8 cuts that give the anglers $10,000 dollars. "I paid $43-grand to play, made $20-grand back … I kept thinking, "What have I done, what have I done?"
Luckily, back home in Roanoke, La., there are people who like to eat pizza, lots of pizza. "A while back we invested in a Mr. Gatti's Pizza franchise, and that takes care of my family, thank goodness." In the offseason TJ also drives a huge combine during the rice harvest season, which he said lasts several months. "Long hard work, but good money db, good money." So far, in 2011, "My first three tournaments went TERRIBLE … didn't make any of the cuts and my back went out again." TJ hides it under his jersey, but if you look close you'll be able to see the bulges of a big black back brace that lives under there like a troll to a man who has to lift bass and trolling motors. But "someday" came … and it is here this week. For TJ. "I grew up on this lake -- Toledo Bend -- I bet over my life if you added up all the days I've spent fishing on this lake … it would total 3 or 4 years. This is the lake Daddy took us to vacation for a week ever since I was a child. I guided on this lake, hundreds of weekend and local derbies out there." In the eye blink of wit Trudy chimes in, "db … this is where we spent our honeymoon." Both pinkies touch. And I swear, I think even the dog, Niko, smiled too. Only home teams believe in home field advantage. If the game is on the line, I want to beat you, in yours. Your place. Fed by the boos. So I asked TJ, "Dude … home field … pressure … you know how that turns out." Normally, not well. "db, it's going to be a special week for me. All my family will be here. My sons will be at the tournament, my Daddy Cybill will be here, and when they call out my name at launch and I leave that dock on this lake that has so much family history for me … I will take to the lake, in front of all those I love, as an ELITE angler." And he says no more, needs not to, and I ask of no more from him, need not to. Because for TJ, "someday," came. And when he launches this Thursday, his "someday' will stay. With him, with Trudy, with Donavan and Logan. Someday comes ashore for the Tietje's. And will be there forever. As I drifted back to sleep, I saw that the Green Monster still waited. With the feel of the Louisiana porch rocker still fresh on my hands, with the creak of the wooden swing echoing in my head, sunset to my right, dusk to my left, and the sight of touched pinkie fingers. In dreams, not life, I let go of the bat … …went round the bases… …as the Green Monster glared… …in case my "someday" only comes in dreams.


"... You better learn it fast; you better learn it young, 'cause, 'someday' never comes."



Someday Never Comes
Creedence Clearwater Revival

-- db

Don Barone is an award-winning outdoors writer and a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association and the Outdoor Writers Guild of the U.K. You can reach db at www.donbaroneoutdoors.com.

 

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