DECATUR, Ala. — Dateline: Basstown, USA
"I was bornin a small town,And I livein a small town ... "
100 or so families.
Lake to lake. River to river.
5th wheels. Truck Campers. Class A's. Motels. Hotels.
A small town on the move. A flotilla of families.
Basstown USA: The families of the Bassmaster Elites.
"We are all a big family," Tammy Cook, wife of Elite Pro Ken Cook, "We see each other more than we see our real family, tournament to tournament we see the same faces."
Today was a celebration of two new faces about to arrive, a baby shower for Julia Kennedy and Jennifer Lowen. Baby Lowen, a girl, due this upcoming Sept. 13, Baby Kennedy, already named, Sophia Kennedy, due Oct. 30.
Here's my invitation to the shower:
Kerry Short: "db do you want to go to a baby shower with us?"
db: "Ah ... humph ... eh ... you know ... Tammy Cook: "There'll be cake."
Even though my mind was kind of pausing there with answering Kerry, the thought of icing got my tongue to saying, 'You betcha.'
Guys, in almost 56 years, I had managed to escape these things, except for walking in with my head way down when I had to pick up my wife, Barb, and her shower gifts at the two showers thrown for my two kids before they were actually kid-like.
And at both of those experiences, this is exactly what I said, head all bowed down looking at the floor, "Yes ma'am. Yes ma'am, Uh-hum ma'am," all the while thinking exactly this: "RUN."
So I get up this morning at 4:45 a.m., put on my fishing pants that detach at the knees to show the bottom parts of my ugly white legs, grab a handful of vitamins that my wife swears will keep me alive for at least a few of those retirement social security checks, pop the vitamins, knock them down with a 20-ounce coke, brush my teeth and rinse my mouth with the Comfort Inn Premium brand coffee placed a little to close to my normal mouthwash bottle.
I'm shuffling down the hall when I run, actually sort of bounce off, Elite Pro Paul Hirosky, who's all perky-like AT THIS TIME of what I still consider LAST NIGHT, and he says to me, "So what's up with you today," or something like that. I say exactly this, "I'm going to a Baby Shower later."
db: "They have Cake."
The Elite Pro guy: "Ohhhhh."
The Elite Pro guy is out the door in a flash with a big bag of ice that I'm assuming has to do with something fish-related, instead of putting it on my head-related, and I beep-beep my minivan open, fall into the seat, turn the thing on and head to what can only be called, FISHING YESTERDAY, instead of actually fishing TODAY which I don't believe arrives until around noon sometime.
But I've seen it allin a small town Had myself a ballin a small town.
Fast forward a few hours and four donuts knocked back with a can of Jolt.
Having not actually convinced my wife Barb up in Connecticut that bringing my camera and possibly tape recorder "is not actually considered an appropriate baby shower gift," I was told this, "Dress Nice."
Again, my mind is thinking exactly this: "RUN!"
I'm assuming my unstinky Buffalo Bills T-shirt is not my wife's idea of, "Dress Nice," and since I'm going to a place with a lot of other WIVES all with that born-in gene that knows what's nice, and what's sleeping on the couch for a week wrong fashion choice, I dig around in my almost month-old suitcase, smell this or that shirt, and find the perfect non-stinky, NICE shirt: A Tommy Bahama Brown shirt with Hula girls across my chest, belly and soon to be sweaty back.
And it's a matched thing, something that Barb gives me points for when I pick it out by myself, because it has all the colors in it that the fishing shorts with built in mesh underwear and my white socks have as well.
Cool. Dressed nice and ventilated all in one.
I'm off ... hrough a drive-thru for my morning chocolate shake, trying to eat healthier now, a couple lefts, into a campground, drive around all the circles until I find the "Enclosed Pavillion," up a gravel "road," park, walk up to a door, open it, and ...think, "RUN."
It's like HGTV, DOUBLED. Lifetime Network, TRIPLED. Oprah must be here.
Everything is pink, something I'm sort of getting used to being around with having a friend like K-Pink who picked it to be on everything, BUT everyone is dressed NICE, and I seem to be the only one with a Hula Girl blazed across my chest.
And there are KIDS everywhere. Not the pre-kid type of whom baby showers are built for, more like the already-kid type of whom I was once built for 30 YEARS AGO.
I know how the bass feel when a tournament comes to town.
"db. Come on in."
And as am about to do exactly that, something taps my KNEE. And it's kind of wet. Sticky. Wet and sticky. So I swing my camera bag around off the two hula girls out front, push my Gargoyles back on tight, and look down.
Looking up at me, brown hair, big eyes, some seersucker diaper holding in clothes, Harrison Faircloth, he's tapping me on my leg with his baby bottle, and while I'm looking at him, he steps back, kind of wobbly like, and holds the bottle up to me in the universal gesture of, "Hey dude, you want a swig."
Once a Dad, always a Dad. You melt.
For the Faircloth's Medical Insurance Premium sake, I politely avoid drinking from the same baby bottle, pretty sure Harrison isn't ready for the shock of that experience yet, him being fairly recently just born and still all healthy, and me being ... ME.
All around me kids. I count them once, came up with 18, for truth in journalism sake double counting is as good as double sources, so I count again, 21. OK ... one more count ... 24.
Whatever you're brain is telling you is a BUNCH of kids, just put that number here , probably as close as I got to it.
So I go around and take a bunch of pictures, kids, families, cake.
Then I start asking some questions, some I hate: "Ah ... so ... ah ... umh ... you know ... ah ... Julia ... so ... hmmm ... how ... you know ... many ... ummh ... sort of, you know, months along."
I'm dying here, she answers in 00:05 seconds, faster than Google for God's Sake.
"No I cannot forget where it is that I come fromI cannot forget the people Who love me."
"It's like it takes a village," 22-year-old Hunter Cook, who somehow ALSO came to the baby shower, and who was on the Bass road with his twin brother, Tanner, when they were THREE WEEKS OLD. "At least half the women in here my mom's age tell me all the time that they changed my diaper back then."
Yeah, that's something you want to keep hearing about.
And the circle continues, Jennifer Lowen says that next year, her baby girl will, "Be right out here with us at every tournament."
Sophia Kennedy better be born with roller skates on. She'll be in the Kennedy Class A motorhome, "at about 2 months old," on the way to tournaments, and "if she is born on time, will be at her first tailgating party at the Auburn vs Georgia football game."
That would make Sophia, a 16-day-old Tiger fan. That's what happens when both mom and dad are Auburn alum.
Hunter Cook told me that he remembers being on the road ... not actually when he was 3 weeks old, but during the summers when he was in middle school, "Made some friends with the other kids back then. There's one person I still talk to that I remember from the tour."
You should know that Hunter just graduated with honors in bio-something and will be heading to medical school in the fall, twin Tanner, is off to dental school in July as well.
Sitting on a chair watching all this, Tammy told me it brought her back in time, young wives of the Bass Pro's, young children all around.
"I think it was very good for the kids, anytime you can expose your children to the outdoors is good. Plus they are able to see other places, meet all types of people, and you know, a lot of times when you are at home the mom's busy doing one thing, the kids are off doing another, so you really don't spend any time together. On the road with your kids, you get lots of quality time together. Everybody watches out for and cares for everybody else."
"Yeah I can be myself here in this small town. And people let me be just What I want to be."Small Town, by John Mellencamp
Don Barone is a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association. Other stories of his can be found on Amazon.com. For questions, comments or story ideas you can reach him at: db@DonBaroneOutdoors.com