The Forever Launch

"And when you finally fly away

I'll be hoping that I served you well ..."

Dateline: Tomorrow

I wished under the Florida hanging moss.

That I had fished with my dad.

I wished under the Florida hanging moss.

That I fished with my mom.

I wished under the Florida hanging moss.

That mom and dad were not gone.

I wished under the Florida hanging moss

That I had, like the children launching in the boats in front of me, parents who took me fishing.

Because then, I would have taken my children fishing.

In time, they would have taken their children.

So on a bank, or in some boat, or standing on a dock, when my Grandchildren would have caught their first fish, a small part of me would have been there with them.

Even after I was long gone.

And that would have been my gift to them.

The Forever Launch.

Message on the window

Today started yesterday.

Bass time ... 6 a.m. in the service yard.

I was asleep in the security guard's golf cart. Nightmaring about what story to do.

Central Florida ... Lake County, named because they seem to keep most of their lakes in the air. 75 degrees, humidity in the 700 percent range.

A local told me, "Ya'll get used to it, ain't nothing."

The guy then took a towel out of his back pocket and wiped his face. A towel! A white hand towel.

Hankies don't work over 300 percent.

Today I drove here with my windshield wipers on high. It was raining.

Inside the minivan.

At one point I had the air conditioning AND the rear window heater on at the SAME time, and I still couldn't see out any window.

This is a lovely area. Tavares, Fla., has a beautiful historic downtown, but if you want to move here I have one piece of advice: Read your car manual.

Know how to defog.

I don't.

And frankly, I don't think this local security guard read the manual either.

His golf cart front window was all humidity-upped.

A sheet of car sweat. Behind which, I'm sleeping.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz ...

Except that midway through my nightmaring about whether the story I was here to do WAS a story, the security guard's golf cart gets to shaking, this way, that way, and as I open my eyes I see this ... a finger tip flat-ended up against the window.

And the finger tip is moving in circles.

So I jump/fall out of the golf cart and go around to attack whomever it was connected to that finger ... and I see one of the truck handlers, Nick standing there.

As I follow his arm down to the squished finger tip I see that he's not actually trying to wake me up ... the dude is drawing in the car sweat.

And as I stood in the dust and humidity of the 6 a.m. service yard, the nightmaring was gone. I just stood there and pawed the dust while the universe sent me a message through Nick's squished finger tip.

I came here, wondering if indeed I should even bother doing a story about the Bassmaster Junior World Championship ... and children fishing.

The answer was on the security guards golf cart window.

The cartoon drawn in the humidity told me so.

The most important launch

Forever wore a smile.

And a fishing jersey.

Forever took to the water today.

In a bass boat.

Forever stood on the bank.

And snapped shots of their kids.

On this, the most important launch.

"Fishing didn't start with me," Jim Sprague told me while taking dozens of photos of his 13-year-old son, Danny, who was taking to the water for the Bassmaster Junior World Championship practice day. "It started with my grandfather taking my father fishing, and my father then taking me fishing."

The Forever Launch.

You had to be quick to see it.

The love in her eyes. The little wave with her fingers. The quick kiss she blew with her lips.

The universal signs of motherhood.

On a Florida boat ramp.

"I'm not a soccer mom ..."

I was doing the interview, Dana Cushman was doing the answering stuff, my notebook was pointed her way, her mouth was pointed my way, her eyes though, never stopped watching her 15-year-old son, Lowell, behind me on the water.

"... I'm a fishing mom."

In Dana's estimation she fishes with Lowell, "Oh about, hmm, maybe 200 days a year."

"I value it so much, so much He wants to do it with me, It's created such a huge bond between the two of us, I can't tell you how much."

And with that admission, Dana cried.

"You know, I've never told that to anyone before ... "

Again she stops talking. And I know that she had never told that to HERSELF before.

"It's the time ... the time we spend together ... that's the most valuable time I have in my life ..."

Lowell standing next to mom comes to her rescue and jumps in with, "You know it is fun to do stuff with her, even if she is my mom."

And then Lowell, inching about as close as a 15-year-old will get to his mother in public looks at her, then at me and says, "... and I love it."

The Forever Launch.

I actually asked a 13-year-old if he plans to take his kids and grandkids fishing.

Danny Sprague has had good rearin'.

The kid knows how to be polite, "No sir," was what he said.

This is what he was thinking, "This long-haired weirdo in the strange hat in front of me needs to get more sleep."

And Danny would be right.

On all counts.

Danny's dad, Jim, probably feeling that I've rendered his kid speechless with that question, jumps in.

"Danny keeps me fishing, he's the one who peels my butt off the couch to get up and go fishing."

Danny: "It's fun for us to go fishing, er, sir"

I've clearly stunned the child.

Again, dad jumps in.

"The fishing is fun, but you know what ... it's the ride in the truck back and forth to the fishing that is the special time for me. We talk ... we talk during it ..."

And when the two walked away, Danny was carrying a bunch of fishing poles as dad placed his arm around his son's shoulders. Danny never said another word to me.

But as father/son hit the shade of a Florida palm tree Danny shot a quick look back at me over his shoulder, and smiled.

The smile of a 13-year-old who is going to take his children and grandchildren fishing.

The Forever Launch.

Through the lens, they looked like twins.

Jeff and Cody Harris. Father and son in red baseball caps.

Dads best sit down right now, go ahead ... OK, the reason, this 17-year-old boy actually told me his father was his ... FRIEND.

"Sometimes, I'd rather fish with my dad than go out with my friends."

I'm looking at dad, what I can see of him behind the grin.

"Cody dude ... really ... have you like, you know, ah, discovered, you know, uh, girls yet."

"Man, ah, sir, I said sometimes ... SOMETIMES."

Cody, Dad and I looked at each other with the universal dad look that says, "Hey, hey how cool is that ... girls and dad time ... I'll take that in a heartbeat."

Jeff Harris: "You know we talk about everything under the sun in the boat, that's our time ... when do you ever get your kids with one-on-one time. Fishing gives us that."

"You learn a lot about life in that 20-foot boat ... stuff that sticks with you."

The Forever Launch.

E-4 stopped me in my tracks.

E-4 was all shirt.

And oversized baseball cap.

E-4 came up to my knees, and when I asked him a question, E-4 started sucking his thumb.

If you're not a 2-year-old, don't even think of doing that when I'm notetaking.

But it worked for E-4.

This is what's on the back of E-4's fishing shirt: Hook IV

"He's the 4th generation Hook ... Eddie Hook the fourth."


E-4's baseball cap says this, "Grandpa's Lil fishing buddy."

And Grandpa made sure I knew it. "He just caught his first bass the other day."

db: "Excuse me."

Grandpa: "Yeah he wanted Papa's rod, so I handed it to him in my boat, and then suddenly the line goes tight and he ends up catching his first bass. He's caught a bunch of perch before but that was his first bass."

db: "Excuse me."

" It wasn't a monster bass, mind you, but it was about 12-14 inches long."

Which would be about a third the size of E-4.

"I've been fishing with E-4 since he was about six months old, caught his first fish with me."

E-4 ... you will never catch another first fish.

E-4 long after its impossible to sit there on "Papa's" lap, long after you stop answering questions by sucking your thumb, long after you grow out of the children's fishing shirt, you will cast a line, and set the hook.

And you will bring another bass onboard.

And your child will be hooked.

Thanks to "Papa."

And his gift of, The Forever Launch.

"...but whatever road you choose

I'm right behind you, win or lose

Forever Young, Forever Young."

Forever Young

Rod Stewart


See you next year,

— db

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

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