The Family, Of Us: Moore, Oklahoma

Don Barone
Not about the rods.

“Do you want to see what my house looked like…”

I was standing next to Barb and Bobbie Chapman, wife of AOY Brent Chapman who was down at the pond helping children catch catfish.

Before me was a short woman in a long dress, she held an iPhone in her hand, flipped it around for the three of us to see, see a pretty house, blue I think with white shutters, window flower boxes, American flag hanging by the front door,

then,

then,

she took her finger and swiped to the next photo,

and her home was gone.

All that remained, the front steps.

It wasn’t a house gone, it was a home lost.

Tears formed in both Barb and Bobbi’s eyes, there was a puddle behind my Costas.

“…when we got back all my son asked was could we find his favorite model car and his fishing pole…”

I knew what was coming, and I started slowly backing up, wanted to get away.

Another swipe of the finger, and suddenly amidst all the debris a young boy stood, smiling holding a red Camaro model car,

but,

no fishing pole.

“…we never did find his fishing pole.”

Bobbi Chapman, “Where is your son now.”

“…down yonder in the car with his Grandpaw…”

Barb, “Can you get him.”

“Yes…”

Me,  “Go get him.”

As I sat on the bumper of the Tundra I watched as the young boy, his grandpaw, his mother and sister all walked down to the pond to fish…all with new adult and children fishing poles.

Mean skies, you may take normal with you, but I’ll be damned if you keep it.

“…so the whole world would know…”

Shout outs:

To the Bassmaster Elite Anglers from Oklahoma who showed up to help the children, Edwin Evers, Jason Christie, Dave Smith, Fred & Julie Roumbanis and Kevin & Cara Ledoux…and especially the current Angler of the Year, and great friend, Brent Chapman and his wife Bobbie who drove 5 hours from Kansas to be there helping out.  And to best friends, Kevin & Kerry Short for donating all the stuff to wrap the Tackle The Storm trailer.

To, Chris Villani, Assistant Parks & Recreation Director, City of Moore, and his crew for making the whole thing possible.

To, Gene Gilliland, Assistant Chief of Fisheries, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for his tireless work with dealing with me to make sure everything came to be…Gene dude couldn’t have done it without you.

To, Zebco, BassPro Shops, Wright McGill, Shimano, Pinnacle, Livingston Lures, Missle Baits…you my friends put the children back on the water not me, someone asked me how it felt to be Santa Claus and I told them, you guys are the real Santa, I’m just the reindeer.

To, the B.A.S.S. Nation, The North Oklahoma City Bassmasters and the Sooner Bassmasters, without your help at the event we could never have done it without you, cheers my friends for all you did for the kids there…and elsewhere.

To, Barb and Ashley, I would not have been strong enough to do this without you there to lean on.

“…that we're…”

There is magic on earth,

and it,

is,

you.

The Family, Of Us.

In the end we probably gave away around 300 rods and reels to the children of Moore, Oklahoma, many of who lost everything, all of who lost normal.

To those children, please know this, that in the end, always and forever, love wins, not the mean skies, when all is said and done, goodness beats meaness.

Believe in that magic.

We also left behind with Gene and the B.A.S.S. Nation guys 104 rods and reels to bring to all the young anglers in the small towns outside of Moore who also lost all their stuff.

To those children, we will find you and we will put you back on the water, fine, dedicated men and women anglers are out there looking for you, you also matter, you are also loved, you too, are magic.

Through my eyes:

I will never forget the large man with tiny kids combos in his hands.  B.A.S.S. Nation Sooner Bassmaster Member, Bernie Strekansky stood for a couple hours behind the Tackle The Storm trailer ripping open boxes and handing the rods  and reels to the people inside to give out to the kids.

Bernie’s house was knocked of its foundation by the tornado and was totaled, Bernie himself and his three girls lost all their fishing stuff, and yet he was here giving to others.

Bernie my friend, thank you…and have fun now with your daughters fishing once again.

Through my eyes.

I will never forget the skinny man carrying 15 rods and reels.  Don Wallingford, an angler who wanted to help, called me a few weeks before and asked, “What can I do.”

I told him, “Find kids in the small towns, do whatever it takes to find those kids we are missing.”

Don found 15.

15 young anglers who lost everything are now back on the water fishing, thanks to one dudes determination.

Don my friend, you done good.  Real good.

Through my eyes.

I will never forget the young child walking through the morning dew on the grass, fishing pole slung over his shoulder.

Smile on his face.

There is magic on earth.

It is,

smiles.

When Barb and I pulled into our driveway yesterday after 12 days on the road covering 4,538 miles I looked at her and asked just one question, “Do you think it was worth it.”

All she did was smile.

There is magic on earth,

and it is,

Love.

I only physically handed out one rod and reel to a child, a young girl who told me she used to fish, “…before…you know.”

When I went and got her the magic wand of childhood, the fishing rod and reel, I handed it to her and she gave me a hug and asked, “Thank you for this…”

“…don’t thank me, it didn’t come from me….”

“…who did it come from then…” she said looking around for the person…

“…it came from an angler who loves you...”

“…are they here…”

“…they're everywhere.”

The Family, Of Us.

“…not alone”

Hold Us Together

Matt Maher

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