“No straight lines make up my life…”
Dateline: ICAST 2014
This pen, this silver Cross pen, this pen with the initials D. B. engraved on it, this writing instrument,
is probably the only gift my father ever gave me,
that he thought of himself, that he bought himself, that my mother didn’t buy and put his name on it as well.
My father gave it to me the night before I started college, started college at the university that he used to deliver furniture to, started college at the university where our neighbor, and his good friend, plowed the snow, cut the lawn.
When he handed it to me he told me he was proud, proud that I was going to college, proud that HE had a son that could go to college. The son of an immigrant, the World War II Pacific Theater veteran, the Sears Roebuck appliance salesman, a proud, funny, caring man who thought college was only for other father’s kids.
Dad spent his hard earned commission on this pen so, “You won’t be the poor guy, so you will belong just like them.”
It was September of 1978, when he handed it to me.
Thirty-Six years ago.
Every paper, every story I ever wrote in college, I wrote with this pen.
In 1981, I used this pen to sign my very first journalist contract.
And yesterday, I used the pen Dad gave me, to sign my last, journalist contract.
It’s official, writing for Bassmaster will be my last job, and B.A.S.S. will be where I retire from.
“…and all my roads have bends…”
I have to tell you honestly, of all the accomplishments, of all the awards, of all the stories broke, being able to say that I will retire from B.A.S.S., to me, is my greatest accomplishment.
The one, in the end, that I’m most proud of.
Because it is the one I fought the hardest for, overcame the most obstacles for, the most improbable ending to my career imaginable.
And not one bit of it would be possible without…you.
You at B.A.S.S. and JM Associates who believed in me.
You in the industry here at ICAST who befriended me.
And especially you, you who read my stuff, you are the ones I’m most thankful for, you are the ones I stuck with this for, you are the ones who make us, you are the ones we learn from, listen to, and work for.
You…The Family, Of Us.
And I am forever in your debt.
You in The South who have opened your doors, and hearts to a longhaired Yankee.
You in Texas who have shown me your amazing state filled with amazing people.
You in Europe, you in Japan, you in Canada, you in Australia and South Africa who prove there are no boundaries for the Kind in Man.
And you, who are not yet here, or to young to read this, I hope to cradle, I hope to gently hold, I hope to help make this sport better,
“…there's no clear-cut beginnings…”
I have to tell you, honestly, I had other offers to leave B.A.S.S., in fact, to leave this sport altogether.
Those contracts are left, unsigned, on my desk.
Walking through this ICAST, my 6th ICAST now, for the first time ever, I can feel the excitement recharging this industry, and those of us in it.
Sure, we still have hurdles to clear, but I believe we have finally found the answer on how to make this industry, this sport, strong…and the answer, is us.
The Family, Of Us.
We may compete with each other but we are learning, that we are all in this together, and that if we help each other, that if we make each other better, we will make the sport better, and the sport, we love, will make us better.
If we cherish the sport, the sport will nurture us.
We are the stewards of a sport that crosses all boundaries of age, sex, economics and cultures.
We touch every lake, every river, every pond on this planet.
No sport has as many fields of play as we do, and when you look at the sheer numbers, fishing, is the universal sport of this planet.
To those in this industry, my colleagues, we hold a sacred trust in our hands, one first held by our ancestors, one passed on to our grandfathers, passed on to our fathers, and now to us, it is not ours to do with what we please, it is ours to protect, to nurture, to make better for those tiny footprints behind us.
This sport is not ours, this sport belongs to those who follow us.
This is a God given gift, and it is in his trust, in his honor, that we kneel, that we pray for guidance, and in whom protects this blue rock floating in space.
Do good for earth, for each other, is all he asks.
Let me tell you the real reason I signed this last contract with the pen my father gave me almost 40 years ago, it is the pen I associate with nurturing, with love.
I signed a contract with B.A.S.S, but I also signed a contract…with you.
And the contract I signed with you simply asks me to love, to nurture, your sport.
To respect the sport as much as you respect us in it.
My father had no idea what I would write with the pen he gave me, but I know he knew that the pen came with love, and love would be what the pen would spread.
Please know that I, that many of us in the industry, do what we do out of love of the sport, and love of those who play the game.
We stand on the edge of a breakthrough, believe not the pundits, the doubters, the naysayers, those who say, can’t.
Believe in those who say yes.
Believe in those who say they can.
I do, and they are all around me in this industry, this sport.
Believe, in the The Family, Of Us.
The family I am a part of.
The family for whom,
I signed the last contract of my career,
Signed, with love.
“…and so far no dead-ends.”
PS: Thanks Daddy, the pen worked…