LITTLE EAGLES RV JOINT — I've been married for 35 years to the same woman, Barb.
Yeah, I know what you're thinking, I'm pretty sure she can't believe it either.
Most of my life consists of bad habits. I'm a crows feet, wrinkle-causing guy. My friends age quickly.
But Barb's as beautiful today as the day I married her.
I, definitely, am not.
Barb has grown into a Lauren Bacall type, a clean white collared shirt and faded blue jeans kind of lady.
I've grown into ... Homer Simpson.
There is some debate between Barb and the several different Dons inside my head, as to just how long we dated before getting married. I think it was maybe a month, two tops. She knows exactly, even down to the first date and first movie. I took her out for dinner last week before I left, and I can't even remember where we went or what we did. So Barb wins.
Here's a true story that all you folks out there with children of marrying age will cringe at, and all you children of marrying age should not even think of doing.
Our children already know the story so there's no danger of throwing them into therapy.
I found the priest who married us from the stamp inside a Providence, Rhode Island Holiday Inn bible.
I can't remember his name. Barb can.
I was a head bartender for a restaurant chain at the time (I think it went out of business, not completely my fault though) and they transferred me to Providence, R.I., to do something with a bar they had there (you have to understand it was 1973 or 1974 and I'm a little vague memory-wise on pretty much anything that occurred for a short period of time back then, say from about 1969 to 1973 or '74). Barb and I were dating and she wouldn't move with me unless we were married. (Again, don't even think of doing this at home.)
So in a phone call from the bar I was supposed to fix, I told her pretty much exactly this (remember the time frame and my memory issues though), "The wedding is all set Hon, get here as soon as you can."
None of that, at that moment was exactly, how you say ...true.
But back then the world was not instantaneous like it is today which allowed you to hide some truths, a knucklehead grace period now gone, and it took a day or so to book a plane ticket, so I still had a chance.
That night back in the hotel room after either fixing or hurting the new bar I was at I scanned the phone book under Marriage & Quick Marriage ... nothing.
Then I saw the bible in the drawer, opened it up, did not get struck by lightning, saw the priest's name and phone number and called it.
This is what I said exactly and will never forget it:
db: "Is Father (can't remember this part) there."
db: "Hi, ah, hmmm, ah, I'm in a Holiday Inn and I saw your name in the Holiday Inn bible here and I was wondering, ah, hmmm, is there any chance you can marry my fiancé and me, you know, kind of quick."
I pretty much expected the pause I got.
"What's her name?"
"What's your name?"
"How long have you been together?"
db: "... ah ..."
"Do you love her?"
db: "I do."
"Come see me."
Barb pretty much went from the plane from Buffalo to the church in Providence, R.I. We met a couple times with the priest, found some flowers, met the lady who would play the organ and sing, got my parents and my two sisters there, as well as Barb's parents and sister and my best man. With a total of eight people watching the ceremony, we got married, had a breakfast reception in a pancake house and then I went to work that night back at the bar.
We've been together ever since.
But don't even think of trying this at home.
Now I say all this because across the table from me sits Elite Angler, Billy McGaghren and his wife Norma. We are having dinner together when Norma says to me, "Today's our anniversary."
Billy looks up from his Buried Chicken (grilled chicken with enough mushrooms and cheese dumped on it that you can't see the chicken underneath) and says exactly this to me: "And I was fishing that day too."
Normally, that may shock most folks, but as you've seen from my wedding plans, I'm pretty much immune.
I say nothing (except ask for more Sweet Tea).
Billy: "Yeah I was in a local tournament and I knew we weren't getting married until 6 o'clock that night so I could easily fish until noon or 1 before I had to get off the water."
Norma: "The night before we had to cut our rehearsal dinner short because he had to go home and go to bed early to get up to fish the tournament."
Billy is smiling and unburying chicken.
Norma: "... so then today, Billy, gets up on stage and says, 'Today is my 13th wedding anniversary and I just want to tell my wife I love her.'
Billy stops eating chicken.
Norma: "... 'cept it's actually our 14th."
This I react to because I had a sort of marriage-math miscalculation myself. On our 30th. Which, unfortunately was actually our 29th. Barb brought out the Marriage License to prove it (ouch).
So, all the stuff I got her for the first 30th, I had to redo for our second 30th (double-ouch).
Then, after telling me that, Norma smiles and says, "But you know db, I knew what I was getting into, and I love it."
Barb and I say the same thing.
Happy Anniversary Billy and Norma whatever the number may be.
A bag of fish
The Bass record books may never show it, but you should know that I had the big bag of bass today (actually yesterday but I fell asleep writing this last night and had to finish it this morning).
Not Skeet. Not KVD. Not Bobby Lane.
ME! 26 pounds, 14 ounces of bass in my hands, four largemouths and one smallmouth that weighed just under 5 pounds.
But here's why BASS refuses to honor my feat. I didn't actually, you know, technically, kind of, catch them. And that would be a problem.
Steve Kennedy did.
And then he proceeded to beat me with them.
Here's why standing on a dock while the Elite guys tie up for the weigh-in can be a very dangerous profession.
I walk up to Steve's boat and very innocently say this, "So how'd you do?"
Period. Nothing remotely libelous in that, and frankly I was just being friendly, not journalistic with a pen/paper locked and loaded.
Steve, with cell phone to his ear, turns to me and says, "Have you seen Julia?"
Julia Kennedy is his wife, and a breakfast club member (one of the Angler's wives I have breakfast with whom all tell me while I'm eating just how bad the stuff I'm eating is for me. Barb, by the way, thanks the club for this.) and I tell Steve, "No."
So far, so good. Then it goes bad.
Steve: "db, get in the boat."
In truth, I'm not really paying attention because the dock I'm on is moving with the waves and I'm kind of surfing this thing that if it was a real dock wouldn't move at all instead of being some kind of log rolling thing you can tie a boat up against.
Steve: "db! I need your help, get in the boat."
This I hear.
db: "What? Get in what boat?"
Steve: "MY boat."
db: "THAT boat?"
Steve: "THIS boat ... get in."
Steve: "What do you mean no."
db: "I mean no. I hate those boats, last time I was in one K-Pink about killed me."
BTW, this whole conversation is taking place right out there in the public with much of the public actually walking around taking pictures and hearing this public talk between Elite guy and someone dressed head to toe in a brand new Green rainsuit with a goofy hat on top — me.
Steve: "db, I need help bagging the fish and I have to get them up to weigh-in pretty quick. GET ON THE BOAT."
I don't move. I'm not exactly sure what 'bagging the fish' means, but if I have learned nothing about fishing I have learned this: If the angler asks you to do something, and you do it without full knowledge of what that something is, it's going to hurt. Me.
And there is this other little problem Steve Kennedy seems to be oblivious to. His boat, the one I'm supposed to be getting in to, is drifting away from the alleged dock.
db: "I can't get in there, it's not even near the dock."
At this point this is exactly what I'm thinking, "This dude is out of his mind."
I haven't 'jumped' since Mr. Theet's seventh-grade gym class and that didn't work out very well even then. Oh, and I have never actually 'jumped' from a dock into a moving boat nor ever thought of doing so.
Steve: "db ... Jump!"
Here's this other little slight issue. I have several pounds of metal in my butt. I'm leasing my hips. They're replaced. Steve Kennedy was born the year before I graduated from high school. Chronologically, I'm 17 years older than this guy. Physically I'm probably six or seven times his age.
Old guys don't jump. We fall, sometimes it's more controlled than other times. But basically we are moving through the air with our eyes closed.
So with Steve looking at me with the, "would you get on the darn boat," look, and the public with the "oh this is going to be good," look on their public faces, I get close to the drifting boat and try and remember what it looked like to actually plan to jump. I get in that fake position, and fall forward towards the boat. With my eyes closed.
For the record, during the arrival of the third Elite flight on Day Two, an old guy jumped. And somehow I cleared all of Steve's fishing poles on the side of his boat deck. I was stunned, and pretty proud actually, even while knowing I just made an 8 Ibuprofen/4 hours on the heating pad, move.
Steve: "Hold this."
Steve: "This what."
Steve, by the way, is pretty much now guaranteed to be the last angler in his flight to get anywhere near the weigh-in holding tanks.
Then, even though I didn't agree to anything at this point (ESPN attorneys please note) Steve hands me this big red bag with the stinkiest water in it that I have ever been near, not to mention hold, and then he says to me: "db, I really whacked them today. I mean whacked them."
When Steve Kennedy gets excited, you had better buckle up. Imagine, Indiana Jones after about six pots of coffee. Steve's sunglasses are off (bad sign #1), his face is getting red (bad sign #2), and he's asking me to do something fish related (bad sign #3).
And then Steve reaches into his livewell and pulls out the biggest bass I've ever been forced to smell and sticks it right in my face: "See?"
Steve is looking at me, the bass is looking at me, behind me the public is looking at me, and I'm looking straight down the insides of this bass and suddenly realize why the things are called "largemouth" in the first place, and the bass suddenly sees this big green thing with a stupid hat on in front of it, and he starts shaking, and getting bass stuff all over me and the brand new still with a crease in it green rainsuit. And then the bass starts moving his mouth trying to eat me.
And I realize, I'm a worm. If worm's have eyes, we are one.
Then, real sudden like with no warning, Steve drops the big bass into the red bag with all the stinky water, which since it is in a bag and has no where else to go, shoots straight up into the air right into my face.
db: "Dude! You're getting bass on me."
Splash, another huge bass hits the bag and I learn a very valuable lesson. Do not complain about stinky bass/water with an open mouth while a highly excited Elite Pro angler is trying to get said stinky stuff up to the stage.
Steve is smiling, giddy like, all I can do is stare at him. My new Costa's have bass stuff all over them, my new, barely rained on rainsuit has streams of stinky water running down it, and in an involuntary reflex, I have just closed my mouth with stinky water and uncooked/unfried bass stuff in it.
And behind me the public is taking pictures.
Three more bass hit the bag, and me, then Steve is off like a shot to the stage where he jumps from 52nd place all the way up to 10th place, and gets to fish another day.
I fall back off the boat, walk up to the marina store, find one of those metal boxes of tiny very strong mints, and as I'm in the aisle I take off the clear plastic wrapping, open the top in front of the public standing there at the candy counter, and pour the whole can into my mouth.
And to the startled public I mumble exactly this with my mouth full, "Welcome to Bassmasters (mumble mumble) I had the biggest bag today."
Don Barone is an award-winning outdoor writer and a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association. You can reach db at www.donbaroneoutdoors.com