"May you stay here ..."
I'm a working stiff. I was born of working stiffs. My father sold appliances for 20-some years at Sears. My mother was the "cafeteria lady" at a middle school.
I married a working stiff, Barb, who was also born of working stiffs. Her father was a longtime Buffalo, N.Y., firefighter and her mother was a mom at home raising six kids.
I get the idea of coming home smelling like burning buildings or a mix of middle school stinky kids and macaroni and cheese. I get payday, steak on Saturday, leftovers on Thursday.
I get fixing things because you can't afford to pay another working stiff to fix them for you. I get 'new' shoes that smell like your older brother. I get the 'new' dress with your sister's perfume on it. I get trying to get a hand up while wearing hand-me-downs.
The neighbors, construction guys, town workers, cops, a bus driver, a muffler guy, the big guy on the block, Bobby the State Farm Insurance salesman; we worked with our hands, our backs and our feet.
We are blue-collar proud. Every house has a flag on the Fourth of July, and the fifth, and the 30th, and in May, June, and November.
We stood for parades. We went to church. We went to wars.
We put a dollar every week in the sock drawer for Christmas money. Our annual vacation came every three years. My father had 'good' pants, and 'good' shirts. My mother saved loose change to go downtown and buy a hat for Easter.
I grew up on 'Someday' street. I chased 'someday.' "Someday I'll ..."
Dreams are "someday" come. To live the dream is to make it to 'someday.'
My father wore out the soles on his shoes pounding the department store concrete — for 'someday.' My mother served mystery meat to middle schoolers — for 'someday.'
I am a working stiff. I was born of working stiffs. Among working stiffs are these 90 or so Elite Bass Anglers. They are working with their hands, their backs, and their feet.
They are chasing the dream of working stiffs everywhere. They are chasing the same dream you chase; you the carpenter, you the transmission guy, you the barber, you the car salesman, you the accountant, you the insurance guy, you the school teacher.
You get it.
You're all in for the chase to catch your dreams, as they are, because they know that 'someday' comes.
"... may you stay here ..."
These are 3 bedroom, 2 baths, a dog or two, probably no cats, kind of guys. Single, married, divorced, dating, hoping to be dating, young, middle, mature, blonde, grey, bald.
Most have kids, some don't, and some have grandkids.
They are republicans, democrats, and who knows what. Some were born here and some moved here. God, family, fishing. From steak to seafood, they are a buffet of individuals.
They are all unique and they are all chasing the same dream.
"db, someday ... someday I'm going to be Angler of the Year, someday I will compete in the Bassmaster Classic, and someday..."
Greg Vinson didn't finish that thought. He didn't have to. You know it, I know it ... win the Bassmaster Classic.
That's what every cast out here is about.
That's what every 12- to 13-hour practice day is about.
That's what every ounce weighed comes down to — your name in the rafters. It is a chance to stand on the auditorium floor and gaze upwards and see your name -- in this case 'Greg Vinson' -- amongst Skeet Reese, Kevin VanDam, and Rick Clunn. It is 'someday,' stitched forever on cloth. It is a trophy you leave for your children. It is a championship ring you leave for your wife.
But, 'never' comes too.
"I thought it was over, knew I was done with the Elite tour after just one year. One year," said Greg Vinson, a six-foot-something, NAIA All-American Pitcher for Auburn University/Montgomery.
He has a degree in Biology and Environmental Sciences and is married.
"My wife Stephanie is pretty much the only girl I ever dated steadily in my life. In fact we started dating when I was 15. My mother had to drive me over to her house to pick her up.
"I remember back then, as I was about to start dating saying a prayer at night ... Lord just give me someone I can love who will love me back as much as I love them ... if ever there was a prayer answered, it was that one, with Stephanie."
Working stiffs, Greg's parents were both school teachers. Stephanie's father worked in a mill and her mother did housekeeping.
Greg and Stephanie have been married nine years now. They own an "almost" 1600-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath house. They have two dogs.
Like you and me, they've got bills. They have 600-or-so bucks a month in a mortgage, two car payments, utilities, food, and dog stuff.
They have everything figured out — Greg can chase his dream of fishing the Elites and one day fishing in and winning the Bassmaster Classic even though his income is anything but steady. This is possible because Stephanie "has a real job" where she works in a bank.
But in the off-season, between his rookie year last season and this season, the economy came knocking on the Vinson's door.
"Stephanie's bank went out of business. She was out of a job," Vinson said.
It was two months to the day that the tournament entry fees were due to be sent in to BASS.
"[I] didn't know what we were going to do. I remember sitting at the table at home and telling her that I can't risk our livelihood to pursue my dream, that I couldn't live with myself ... couldn't."
"It was the toughest, emotional phone call I ever made when I called Tripp [BASS Tournament Director Tripp Weldon] and told him that I didn't think I would be back to fish, that maybe somehow in the next three or four years I would come back by re-qualifying through the Bassmaster Opens once again."
As I write the quote down, Greg says, "And db, do you have any idea how hard it is to do that, re-qualify through the Opens?"
I don't look up from the reporter's pad, but I shake my head 'no.' Greg's answer is just a sigh.
"Then the worst day of my life, the day the money is due. And we can't send it, [we] need it for living, not fishing. So the phone rings, and it's for Stephanie and she is told, one position at the bank just opened up and it's hers if she wants it."
"... happy in your own skin ..."
And when I look up from my reporter's notebook, there sits Greg Vinson in his tournament jersey — in his second year on the Bassmaster Elite Tour.
At this writing, he is in 10th place for the Angler of the Year race. He is in 10th place to make his first Bassmaster Classic.
"We told ourselves, if I can just make three cuts this year, three checks, $30,000 dollars, we can make this work. We can survive," he said.
So far, Greg Vinson has made five cuts.
"I have never fished so hard, worked so hard, studied so hard in my life."
That's the only way you get to the rafters. Fight for it, claw for it, and work for it.
"db, it's been my dream ever since I was a little kid. I've been fishing with my dad since I was four. And all I've ever wanted to do was to fish in the Classic."
I folded up the notebook and stuffed it and the pen into the bottom pocket of my cargo shorts. As I stood up to shake Greg's hand he said, "And then, win the Classic, you know, someday."
I am a working stiff. I was born of working stiffs. I am among working stiffs. And all of us out here are chasing the dream, chasing the rafters, and chasing legends stitched on felt.
And we know that, even for working stiffs, 'someday' comes.
"... on the ninth cloud.
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.