White Hat Sports Headlines

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Without Women,We Are Men.

I know the title might need work, but it encompasses a couple things and all actually apply. It is an ode to the piece "Men Without Women" by David Halberstam, where he covered a week long fishing trip with 12 men. Some of them he knew, some of them he knew through a friend and some of them he had never met before. This past week I started as an assistant coach for the American Legion team that I played for in my high school years, but in doing so I was going to have to cancel a planned camping/fishing trip with my buddy Joey. But with rain in the forecast for most of the week, the tuesday and wednesday practices were canceled on monday, giving me a chance to potentially make the 2 hour trip to northern Maine for the trip. Driving back from practice about 11pm monday, I sent a text to Joey, I was going to Boyd Lake tuesday.

We met up in Bangor where I would leave my truck and from there take Joey's car into camp after stopping off at his parents house in Bradford and picking up enough fire wood for what promised to be a cold and damp midweek camping trip. We arrived around 4pm to the camp that his grandfather's camp on Boyd Lake and got our gear unloaded. I had been to this camp once before, only a few monthes ago when I helped Joey clean out the camp, which had not been properly opened up for going on 15 years. I had known of Boyd Lake much earlier however. My grandparents, like Joey's, had once had a camp up there that I had stayed at a few times during the summer. I remember swimming off the boat launch and catching a sunfish with an old fishing pole. There were some very good memories of my childhood spent up there with my older cousins before they started families and while my grandfather was still alive. Since then, my grandmother has sold the camp to one of my cousins and I have heard that they had fixed the camp up nice. After pouring ourselves each a drink we went out to the screened in front porch and watched the waves as they lapped against the shore in front of the camp. Talking about sports, baseball, people we both know, old times gone by, women and fishing stories. It's during this time we see a fish jumping about 12 yards off the dock. Joey decides that it must be a Pickerel, I concur and after my encouragement, he goes out to the dock and tried to land the fish. It seemed of good size and had been quite active as we watched him, leaping half way out of the water 5 or 6 times in a 5 minute period. After coming in unsuccessfully, we spent the night listening to the Red Sox-Yankees game on the radio and playing cards. There were drinks, but the drinks were the main focus, neither was the numerous games of Cribbage, or the hot dogs we grilled midway through the game. Though the Red Sox game was omnipresent, it was present the whole time. Just when you got into the rhythm of playing cards and hearing the familiar sounds of Joe Castiglione call the ballgame, you could instantly be pulled back in by moments like David Ortiz's 2-run home run off AJ Burnett. The Red Sox ended up coasting to a victory and moving their record this season against the Yankees to 6-0.
After the game ended we switched back to another common love, country music. As the songs of George Strait, Garth Brooks and Brad Paisley played on, so did we, battling hand after hand, game after game of cribbage. Never really talking about anything substantial, more just analyzing the hands that we had just played or the cards that we threw into one another's crib.
The second day was darker, grayer and a little wetter. It didn't rain at any point, but the feeling was always damp and the skys always ominous. Forging ahead anyway, we took off in the canoe, to see what we could catch and to try and not camsize in the wake of the now strong winds. In the hours that we were out there the only catch was a small pickerel that Joey caught and released. Like most canoe trips in tough winds, the ride out to our farthest point was much easier than our ride back into camp. Night 2 was similar to the first with the Red Sox once again beating the Yankees, although tonight we had to listen to Jon Risch instead of Dave O'Brien which took away from the experience. After the game ended and we returned to country music we kept the drinks coming, but now we started playing ping pong and we didn't stop. We started with a few games into the afternoon and that quickly escalated until 3am in when our driving abilities had most assuredly abandoned us, but our ping pong abilities had been enhanced. The games took a similar pattern; one guy would get a lead, one guy would blow the lead, we would battle each other for every point with volley's that would make Nadal and Federer at Wimbledon look like two guys playing ping pong at 3am after drinking Crown Royal, Coors Light and Natty Light on a camp porch......on a wednesday night.
Thursday I had planned to head back as there was another practice that night. I awoke and found that the skies were actually lighter and the water very calm. I quickly brushed my teeth, dressed and got out onto the dock and set to cast a line or two and see what I could see. After about 20 minutes and only a nibble from a curious sun fish I got a hit, a big hit. I landed what looked to be about an 18 inch pickerel. I called Joey's name, who had yet to get out of bed, (perhaps the ping pong had taken it out of him, or perhaps it was the Nat Light, who knows) he came out as I was bringing the fish in. I didn't have a Leatherman on me and anybody who has caught or even seen a pickerel before knows you do not want to put your hands in their mouth to get the hook out. Joey and the fish approached the dock at the same time, I brought the fish up to the dock and the fish spit the hook. The timing could not have been better, I brought the fish up and I didn't have to deal with the pickerel allagator like teeth. Figuring that this was a good omen for the day we got our gear together to depart the camp so we could set out and fish on Big Boyd Lake for a few hours first. My goal for the day was different however, to find the camp that had belonged to my grandfather and where I had spent some terrific times during my childhood. We encountered loons, ducks and very little else as we trolled a line behind us and made our assent to the end of the lake where I believed the old camp to be. Just as we hit the corner of the lake Joey said he thought we had something. Sure enough as he grabbed the Shakespeare Ugly Stick rod, I looked back from my spot at the front of the canoe and saw a good sized bass lift out of the water, with the hook in his mouth. After a short battle, and the revelation that we had left the net back at the camp, I grabbed the line and brought the bass into the canoe. We both felt a rush of exhileration, even without the net we had manned up and brought the fish into the boat. We took pictures of the fish and released it back into Boyd Lake. It took a while for our levels of exhileration to come down, but it did just in time for us to paddle along the shoreline to see the camps down at that end.
With the improvements to my grandfather's camp by my cousin Karen and her husband and the fact that I hadn't seen the camp since about 1995, I wasn't sure if I would be able to recognize the camp even if I saw it. The one thing that I did remember about the camp was that there was a road into the camp that was directly to the left of it and then another road in front of the camp, so the camp set on the corner and of the course the boat launch across the street. As we paddled and I was about to give up, there it was, still barn red as I remembered but it looked much improved. But because of the proximety to the intersecting roads I knew it was my grandfathers camp.
It's amazing in life how you can comeback to a place where you once were without expecting so. It's almost like you're supposed to go back there for some reason or supposed to bring back the memories that were made there. The time at the camp, which I will refer to as "The Midweek-Weekend" was something that every man needs. Time away from the world was just what I needed, the Red Sox beating the Yankees didn't hurt either. Sometimes it's just important for guys to be guys without women around, without too much technology around and to be back to where men were once and still are great:

Sterling Pingree

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