Pick 9!

“Raise your glass to the hard working people…”

Dateline: Point Sebago, Lake Sebago, Maine

I’m drinking sweet tea and eating cubed watermelon from Wal-mart.

A bag of Rollo’s sits in reserve in my backpack.

I’m cold.

I woke up at 4:30am to stand in 42-degree fog in sandals, my left big toe has stopped talking to me.  Yesterday I sent in a photoessay from inside my Tundra which was parked under some sort of huge pine tree thing while most of the time a duck squatted on the truck’s hood.

It was the only spot I could get on the internet, I wasn’t giving it up to a duck. 

Got the web, and webbed footprints all over the truck.

Fair enough.

Duck won today, he got the tree I got the empty sales office at Point Sebago, all web, no footprints.

I’m at the B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Divisional, 9 teams from 7 states and 2 countries.  One-hundred or so anglers battling for one spot.

The spot…the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville, Alabama this upcoming February.  One of the anglers out on the lake right now will be in the Bassmaster Classic.

They just don’t know it yet.

It is the people you never really hear from, that is the symphony of this planet. 

All those folks on TV, in the news, they’re just noise, the music of earth, is quiet, soft, humble, and in more harmony with you than you may think.

News brings you the percussion section, I want you to hear to the strings.  Not the front man, but the chorus.

Not the shouts,

but the whispers.

It was the whispers, that began America.

“…say a prayer for the common foot soldier…”

Meet, Todd Covert.

A member of Team New York, 54 years old, lives in Port Crane, NY, married for 16 years to Juliann, been a painter/sheet rocker, “for 30 plus years now.”

Random pick #1.

“Why would you pick me, I’m not that interesting…”

“Everyone has a story.”

“I don’t.”

“Really, what do you do.”

“I’m a painter, sheet rocker.”

“Ah hum.”

“Not that interesting, see.”

“Where do you do this painting, sheetrocking.”

“Back home, I do it for a company that buys homes and then fixes them up to be group homes for disabled people, it makes me feel good that I can take a place and make it so it is easier for a disabled person to have a normal life.”

And all I do is smile.

Todd has a story and it’s one of helping people.  Turns out he is Captain of the New York State Youth Team, “I enjoy helping the kids, working with them, not getting in the way mind you, but just being there if they need me.”

Todd has been fishing, “all my life, since maybe I was a year old (laughs),” but is “ a quite laid back kind of guy, fishing has helped me become more competitive, but I’m still a pretty laid back guy.”

As I put my pen down and start folding up my notebook Todd clears his throat and then softly says, “You know I married the greatest woman…”

I pick the pen back up, don’t say a word, a few seconds goes by, Todd clears his throat once again, I’m just sitting there, experience tells me when he is ready he well say what’s on his mind, I just sit and let the story breathe.

“My wife, is the best, whenever I’m away from home we Facetime on the phone, we facetimed last night as a matter of fact.”

My only question, was just a smile.

“When I was here on the water she went out and got a hair cut, I told her it looked nice, she’s beautiful you know.”

And it was then I knew the story of Todd’s life, helping others, and, Juliann.

“…spare a thought for his back breaking work…”

Meet Alex Wetherell.

Todd is the captain of the NY youth team here, Alex also fished the junior side of the competition, he did it for a couple of years for Connecticut, but now, at age 20 he’s a regular dude, fishing the regular dude side of the boat.

In 2010 Alex won the Bassmaster Junior World Championship, got a $5,000 scholarship, which he assured me he handed straight over to Central Connecticut State University, “I’m majoring in Marketing and Business.”

I believe him, I know his parents and I know they are smiling over that scholarship dough.

How important was Alex’s time in the Juniors with mentors like Todd, “db it was extremely important, kept me focused especially in high school where most people were just partying.”

“What where you doing.”

“Fishing helped me concentrate, I was given goals and I worked hard to reach them.”

In his first year of eligibility to fish on the state team, not as a junior, Alex made the team, at age 20, certainly the youngest man on the team.

“I want to be a pro angler, but I also want a college degree to fall back on, and with pro-fishing the way it is today, it’s not bad to have a degree in both marketing, marketing myself and my sponsors, and business, banking the money I make.”

“Tell me dude, what did you get out of all that junior stuff, did you get anything out of it other than a few cool lures and rods and reels.”

“Absolutely, I learned it is possible to do all this, man.”

Alex, my young friend, “all this” is waiting for you.  What do you tell someone younger than most of the sweaters in your closet, blue sky, or dirt.

Blue.

Earth, is a team sport.

Listen not to those who shout, but to the whispers of your heart.

Market, the kind, in man.

Raise a toast to Todd, and all those like him that got you here. 

Your future comes from those in your past.  Your role models are those who love you, care for you, not those you see on posters and in pictures.

Touch the world, softly.  Be gentle with hearts, and all living things.

And listen to guys like, Ray Meyer, a dude on the New Hampshire team.

“…spare a part for his wife and his children…”

“db, you have to pay it forward.”

Meet Ray Meyer, 49, Married 23 years, from Alton Bay, New Hampshire, 3 kids, 2 girls and a young boy.  Been “a sales guy,” with FedX for 24 years, is the team’s Youth Director, “Love it, helps gets a kid off the street, or off the couch playing those electronic games.”

“You know, db, my dad was always there for me and my brother, he took us hunting and fishing, allowed those times with him to be life lessons.”

Life lessons don’t come with a game controller.

In real life, real human interaction, there is no google to lean on, “Kids out on the water learn success, and they learn failure, and there is somebody with them to use those moments to teach.”

I was a 16 year old punk, in and out of trouble, mostly in.  Stabbed, for the first time, at age 15, left bloodied and beaten on the steps of the Delaware YMCA in Buffalo, NY.

Willie Manuel, the phys ed director at the “Y,” is the one who picked me up and brought me inside.  He was 50 years old, a black man with a deep gravely voice that many times, to this day, is the voice I hear in my head.

“Barone, you look like a life guard to me.”

I thought the man crazy, “I don’t swim.”

“Perfect.  You need to learn to do what you don’t do.”

Willie Manuel, read my future 45 years ago, prepared me for a life of doing what I don’t do.

To this day, in the dresser in my bedroom, the very bottom right hand drawer, rolled up in the corner in the back of the drawer is my best shirt,

on the front of the blue shirt in yellow it says, YMCA,

on the back in yellow it says,

LIFEGUARD.

Forty-five years ago, after much trying doing what I don’t do, Willie Manuel handed me the shirt, and I have never let it go.

Ray:  “At my Grandmother’s funeral my cousin got up and read the poem, “The Dash.”  It’s a poem about the dash that’s in between the date of your birth and the date of your life.  I’m filling my dash as best as possible.”

Pay it forward.

It is the bits of wonderful in life that make you the person you turn out to be.  The Willie Manuels of the world, Ray’s dad, who help lead you, to you.

“db, all I want to do is to leave something behind better than when I found it.”

Willie Manuel,

did just that.

 

Editor's note: Parts 2 and 3 of Pick 9! will be published in the coming days. You can find those and other wonderful stories by db here

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