“Who are you…”
Dateline: The waters of Logan Martin Lake
This is the story of a small town called,
A small town, by itself in a universe of a billion,
A small town with only one family, named,
And yet, we are a small town of,
Every time I see a photo of the universe, of all the various stars and galaxies, I only actually have one thought, and it is this,
folks, we may be all we’ve got.
Who knows what’s out there in the cold, in the dark, watching, waiting, thinking, but I guarantee that if something is out there watching us, to them or it, we are just one, all the same.
It is only us, in the small town, that believes in differences.
One day, I hope to do a story, without words.
A story that will show just how much we are actually the same, and I will do it this way, at a Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open registration with a couple of hundred people showing up.
I’ll stand at the end of the registration line, and as each person walks by I will ask them just one question, one sentence, and it will be this:
“Tell me, who are you, what do you do, what are your hopes, your dreams, your loves, your fears, your wisdom; pick one of those and tell me, who are you.”
And I will print every answer; print every sentence of their words, not mine.
Because I know, after doing thousands of interviews in my life as a reporter, when you read all of the couple hundred sentences, one thing will become clear to you.
You will hear about your dreams, your loves, your fears, your wisdom, all told to you by strangers.
And you will hear that because at our core, we are not strangers, at all.
We are, in fact, all family, here living on this small town,
“…well, who are you…”
He is the quintessential working stiff.
Meet Bart Smith.
Age 34, married 11 years to his high school sweetheart, 3 kids, 2 girls and a boy, been welding since he was 18, “I took a job as a welder’s helper on the pipeline, loved it but didn’t like being away from home.”
Now, back home, probably the best welder in town, “It ain’t, ‘Can you wield this?’ You better ask me if I WILL weld it.”
A friend of mine in town, Jeff Martin, who knows Bart told me, “If he can’t weld it, it can’t be welded period.”
Bart taught welding for a few years in a local technical college and now considers himself a specialist in something called, TIG welding, “It’s the hardest to do – small tedious. Out in my garage after work I do TIG on surgical instruments; it takes a long time and you have to be real precise.”
Bart tells me all this, looking dead center into my eyes. Then I ask this, “So you ready for the tournament,” and he immediately loses the steel composure of a welder.
“db, I’m as nervous as a cat.”
And he smiles the smile of a large person in a tiny life raft.
“Ain’t never done anything like this before. I wanna do good but I’m so nervous you would think I was having brain surgery.”
Actually, I have had brain surgery, and I wasn’t as nervous as Bart is right now.
“I’m never nervous welding; in fact I’m at peace once I put that hood down, very peaceful inside there, but this, this…”
Bart’s legs are dancing as he sits; his eyes are moving all over the place. I’m thinking maybe the dude just needs to fish with the welder’s hood on.
“I fish this lake all the time but this is my first REAL tournament, you know what I mean…”
I do. As Bart looks around, there sits Bassmaster Classic winner Chris Lane, next to him Elite angler Gerald Swindle and Britt Myers with Casey Ashley….none of whom are very nervous fishing this tournament.
“…I mean, this is my home water, I just want to learn new skills from the best of the best. I want to do well but I really look at this as a learning experience.”
“You going to be able sleep tonight, dude?”
“…oh, who are you…”
Meet Linda, Kathy, Miriam & Jenny of the Bass Capital Bass’n Babes Club from Palatka, Fla.
Okay, this kind of blows up the PICK-3, but I think it still qualifies because whenever I asked a question…they ALL answered at once.
So after the first couple of supposedly directed questions, I just asked a question to no one in particular and wrote down which answer I heard best.
Because of that, I’m going to be guessing pretty much who said what. I may be wrong but I’m still going to put quotes around it to be official-like.
Linda Higginbotham, 61, lives now in Palm Coast, Fla., but is originally from up where I live in Connecticut. A widow, she has been a RN for 25 years, works now in the ER.
Kathy Freelhing, 61, lives in Interlocking, Fla., widowed, been working at Walmart the past 23 years.
Miriam Donohoo, 57, lives in San Mateo, Fla., married 2 kids, been working at Georgia Pacific for 24 years.
Jenny Sander, 50, “I’m the baby of the group,” lives in Byron, Ga., works as a Field Project Supervisor for Walmart, been with the company now 26 years.
Here’s where it gets near impossible to say who said what, so here’s what the GROUP told me, “This is the fourth year we have been competing together in the Bassmaster Opens.”
All of the ladies own their own bass boats but compete as co-anglers, “We can’t afford to be up front yet, someday though.”
They all have been in the Bass club, “since at least the 1980s, maybe longer.” Three of them mention club dues; one of them, I won’t say who to protect her, how do you say, forgetfulness, says, “I know, I know, I’ll give you the check.”
Most of the interview is punctuated with laughs and wise cracks by a group of people who clearly like and enjoy the company of each other.
They tell me of how they would like to fish more Opens but, “we have to take vacation and personal days to do this, and sometimes we just can’t make all the events.”
Linda seems to be the leader, the most comfortable one in the group; it is her job to find and book the hotels for the tournaments, “got to find those types of places to stay where we can run power to the boats to charge the batteries.”
These ladies aren’t out here playing; both Linda and Miriam have Top 12 finishes under their belts… “It used to be none of the guys would talk to us; now they come around asking if we are catchin’ them and where on what.”
“So, do you tell them?”
“We compete against everyone out there but we really compete amongst ourselves. Thing is, the person amongst us who at the end of the tournament has the heaviest weight…that person buys dinner.”
And out broke four smiles.
“…oh tell me, who are you…”
Meet Brandon Lester.
Brandon, married a mermaid.
“I came around this river bend, and there she was standing in the middle of the river.”
The mermaid is Emily, “I got into his boat, and never left.”
Let me tell you how this went down since right about now my PICK-3 is at SEVEN.
I was about to pull a pro angler out of line; I do that by asking a B.A.S.S. staffer to tell me a number between 1 and 10. Say they tell me 4; I count 4 people down the line, and that person becomes part of the random PICK-3.
That didn’t happen with Brandon and Emily. As I was walking into the event, they came up to me and Brandon said, “db, man I read everything you write,” at which I said, “Thank you, dude. Every hit counts, and I appreciate it,” and then I started to walk away until Brandon said, “I’m now No. 2 in the standings.”
“You a pro-boater?”
“Have we ever met before?”
“So I’m walking in just minding my own business and a random dude walks up to me to talk, would you say it was a pretty random sort of thing?”
“Come with me.”
Five minutes later I write down this one word….Mermaid.
Brandon: “We’ve been married…
Emily: “…almost a year now.”
Both turn and look at each other and smile. I can’t help myself, I smile too. They got married June 2012; the pen I used to write that I borrowed from a hotel in May 2012.
Emily: “I was on a river just chillin’. It was cool on a hot day but the boat broke and I got tired of paddling so I just got out…”
Brandon: “…and I’m tooling down the river and see her standing in it, so you know, I stop and pick her up…”
Emily (who smiles while lifting her shoulders up giggly like): “…we’ve been together ever since.”
Fact is, Emily isn’t really a mermaid, more like a land based hair stylist; Brandon runs the receiving dock for a plastics factory.
Right now they live in an apartment but are looking for a house, “I really watch all those DIY shows on TV…I love the Do It Yourself stuff, I do it all the time and then Brandon comes and fixes what I tried to do.”
Brandon’s grandfather was a Pastor. Emily’s dad is a Pastor and is the one who married the two kids. Brandon is 25, Emily 26.
“During the wedding, dad talked about how you should treat each other, care for each other and have faith in your life as part of your marriage.”
Emily: “You know what we did the day after we were married…”
Brandon: “…we went fishing, Lake Guntersville. We were married at the Guntersville Lodge, stayed there that night, went fishing the next morning.”
They dream of buying a house, they dream of having children, of having a long marriage and fixing what the other one breaks.
PICK-3….or several more…the number doesn’t matter, someday I will PICK-300, and somewhere in those stories, the stories of strangers, will be YOUR story.
Will be our story.
The story of us.
I guarantee it.
Because, when I do PICK-3, I do so,
in a small town,
Where all of us are,
The Family, Of Us.
“…who are you,'cause I really wanna know.”
“Who Are You”