"I wore my boots out walkin'
poured my heart out talkin'..."
Dateline: Clear Lake Sunrise
I woke up sick.
Stomach stuff going on. About around 6 a.m., California time.
Most of you had already punched in, when I was about to punch out.
So I'm thrashing around the room looking for my stomach medicine, which mainly consists of Pepto and donuts. Didn't pack them, what with trying to explain that concoction in the carry-on at airport security.
I tend to have a "Hair-of-the-Dog" approach to life.
Airport security does not.
But there is a soda machine right outside my door, and I knew back in the days of growing children, that "Coke Syrup" was some sort of magical elixir that pretty much stopped all the tummy aches.
Figured a quart of Coke would pretty much fix me up. Along with the bag of Fritos in the machine next to it.
Never made it to either machine.
Earth got in the way.
Seems the planet has its own way of making tummy aches go away. No Pepto. No donuts.
Just a sunrise. Dropped right in front of me. Between motel room door and soda machine. There for the lookin'.
"...been on the road 'til tomorrow
been through the joys & the sorrows ... "
One by one, layer by layer, in shades of red, pink, crimson, morning came west. A paint by number universe.
Behind me I could hear the tarps being pulled off the bass boats. Could smell the coffee, hear the bacon, the crack of eggs skimmed off the lake.
But it was just me on a dock as the morning came west.
In front of me ... hope.
Behind me ... joy and sorrow.
These guys are not playing out here. This isn't six-pack fishing. You would think I was out of my mind if I said this was life and death out here.
And you'd be right.
Except when you see a bass boat, trailer and truck all flipped around in a ditch on the side of a California road. And you know the man driving the rig.
And you know his child in the rig. Just rubbed the child's head, just bent down to talk to the child, just gave him a knuckle bump as the family left Stockton headed to Clear Lake.
Then the call comes in and you hear of a wrecked truck, boat, trailer. Totaled.
You can still feel the child's hair in your hand. Still feel the seconds, minutes, hours it took to know that the child and father were safe.
And as I stood alone on the dock, the morning came west.
Last night as I was running errands, mostly around food which could explain the sickness, I ran into Skeet Reese and his older brother, Jimmy Reese in a local restaurant.
These parts are old stomping grounds for the brothers Reese.
And we talked about how much an OUNCE weighs.
John Crews won the Delta tournament by one ounce ... John had the ounce, Skeet did not.
It was John's first win ... and it was special because his wife, child and his father were all there with him. Priceless shots of the three of them on stage.
Nothing but the best to you John, nothing but the best.
Off stage, stage right to be exact, while all the winning hoop-la was occurring, Skeet stood in front of a large crowd and signed autographs.
For 10 minutes.
For 15 minutes.
For 20 minutes.
And he did so with a Sharpie that weighed about the same as the margin of victory. Or loss.
It was a $75,000 OUNCE. The difference between first and second. But beyond the autograph seeking crowd, there was also another family.
Skeet's wife and two daughters. I didn't need to look at the leaderboard to know who won.
What you see on stage is the look of a winner. What you don't see backstage is the blank look.
The stare of competitors who come so close. In the news photos, don't look at their smiles — that's the P.R. stuff — instead, look in their eyes. Can't fake that.
In their eyes you will see them playing out EVERY move of the tournament. Every decision, every cast, every hook, every miss. A movie you don't want playing in your mind.
And as I stood alone on a dock, morning came west.
Not much there between joy and sorrow. Side A and side B of the 45 record that is life.
Side A: You're driving down a California highway with your child to the next tournament ... a car full of joy.
Side B: You're in a ditch on the side of the highway.
Side A: You're hoisting a heavy trophy above your head.
Side B: An ounce.
None of which I would have thought about had not the morning come west.
And I woke up sick.
Without Pepto, and donuts.
"Been down the road a million miles
but I still got a long way to go."
Long Way To Go
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.