Sun shines down on college angler

"But it's the little things…"

Dateline: Under A Guntersville Sunset

In an Alabama parking lot.

Under a golden sunset.

With the sweet smell of pine in the air.

Came the sound of spring, the clang of metal bats as a high school baseball team took drills on a nearby baseball field.

Came the sight of ducks floating on the mirror that Lake Guntersville had become.

In an Alabama parking lot.

Under a golden sunset.

Came a young man from Tennessee.

And that young man was me.

" … the little things not expectation … "

Somewhere out there sits a lady.

Don't know her name now, knew her to be a young lady, a young teacher's assistant in the English Department at The State University of New York at Buffalo.

UB as it is named on my college ring.

Don't know if she wanted to be teaching English 101 or not, I did know that I didn't want to be sitting in English 101 though.

Not for me.

Me, who in high school, failed English 10 … three times, and continue to do so to this day. (Editor’s note: I back him on this one.)

It was my first day as a college student.  Been out of school for 10 years or so doing things, some good, some bad.

Knew though, the only way out of the bad, was an education.

Yet here again, came the road block … English 10 on steroids.  Didn't matter none that in junior high school, so long ago they hadn't even started calling it middle school yet, didn't matter none, that way back a few years before English 10, didn't matter none that I wrote the school play, from scratch.

When I was 14.

Came English 10, came grammar, came diagramming sentences, came adverbs, adjectives and other mysteries of English writing … and I was done.

Marked as stupid.

Marked as not chosen.

Sent where they sent the problems, the "work/study" program.  Came to school in the morning, taught shop, taught how to balance a checkbook, taught what a supervisor is, what a worker is, then sent out from school at 11:15 a.m. every day … to work.

Sat in the guidance department and listened to my parents being told of good places for me to go … Bethlehem Steel plant … the Ford Stamping plant … Chevy Tonawanda.

Talk of college left for the other guidance department cubicles.

Yet out there somewhere sits a lady.

A lady I knew as Peggy Henderson.

A student T.A. stuck teaching English 101 at UB in Buffalo, NY.

A student T.A. who changed my life.

When she marked my first college English writing paper with an …"A," and a short note, "Your grammar sucks, but love your style."

Every word I have ever written since that day over 30 years ago is dedicated to a young lady, a student T.A. who may or may not wanted to teach English 101.

But who in doing so gave me a second chance to become me.

In an Alabama parking lot.

Under a golden sunset.

I met a young man from Bethel University in McKenzie, Tenn. … and he told me a story … that was my story.

His name is Matthew Palmer.

And he had a Peggy Henderson, too.

'Cept his wasn't a person.

His was a program.

His was a team.

His was … is … Carhart Bassmaster College Series, or simply bass fishing.

" … that make life worth living, worth living … "

Matthew (left) and Myles Palmer of the Bethel University Bass Fishing Team.

"I went to college for one day … quit … told my father, told him I was wasting his money and my time, so I just done up and quit."

As Matthew leaned up against the Bethel University bass fishing team boat, he was telling me, "was going go out and find me some work, go work for my father, find other work if need be."

And while he talked I took notes and on those notes I wrote this, "You could get a job bolting bumpers on Chevy Trucks, make a good livin'."

Yet here stood Matthew all decked up in a college bass fishing team jersey, all smiles, somewhere, I knew, there must be a Peggy Henderson.

"So then I'm out of school for a little while, workin', and my little brother Myles comes home and says that Bethel University offered him a scholarship to go to school there … and it's a sport scholarship … for fishing.  For bass fishing!

"Mr. db, sir … I went back to school for one reason, for only one reason, bass fishing … to be a part of the fishing team. I'd a never believed it."

"That's great Matt, but how is the school part going."

"Mr. db, sir … going great … I'm a sophomore in the Business Management Program and right now I have a 3.0 GPA … maybe a little higher when some tests come back."

The Bethel University team coaches later told me that to be "on the water you need to have at least … at least a 2.0 GPA … and doing well in school and life or you'll be off the water quick."

As I was leaving, Myles Palmer, Matthew's brother and teammate came up to me and said, while looking over my head to his brother on a boat, "I'm very proud he went back to college, and if bass fishing was the reason, that's great. You need a college degree anymore to make it in the world … I'm glad he's here, he's doing great, glad he came back because of what he heard I was doing … kin got to take care of kin."

In an Alabama parking lot.

Under a golden sunset.

Sun shine down.

Thanks to collegiate bass fishing.

And a young lady T.A. who taught English 101.

" … glory, glory hallelujah
the sun is shining, shining down."

The Sun Is Shining Down

JJ Grey & Mofro


… for Peggy …

Originally published March 2012