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Rite of spring – dashed! (part 1)

In to the Wind

May 17, 2011
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

One of the great civilizations of all times is crumbling under the weight of its own bureaucracy. As a nation, we have lost our collective sensibilities in an overly litigious, “me first” sort of perversion.

But what does that have to do with a dashed rite of spring? Sometimes nothing is wrong while nothing is right.

There is a certain ritual I look forward to every spring. I work towards a certain goal, and when all the pieces fall in place, I am rewarded with all the fixings of what I think is one of the finest meals.

The first part of the three part preparation is being abundantly supplied by nature. In front of my office here at Gilly Hollow is a very nice asparagus patch. Every spring for several weeks that patch supplies a daily growth of very fine produce. In fact, by mid June we will have eaten so much asparagus we will be tired of it and quit picking. Several bags will await winter, safely stored in the freezer, and we will allow the asparagus to go to seed.

The second part of my ritualistic spring meal is morel mushrooms. A too cool spring has put the damper on a sometimes unpredictable morel hunting season. I am still holding out hope that recent rain and warmer weather will allow me to go out and find a sack or two of delectable fungi. The weeds and grass are getting fairly high, and it will be a challenge to find those morels, especially if they are hiding from me as they appear to be doing. After I am done with this column and have it filed with my editor, my plan is to head to “mushroom hill” and give it my best effort.

The third part of that meal is fresh caught fish. I prefer crappie, bluegill or stripped bass for that portion of the feast. Part of the ritual is the fishing expedition and catch must be a reward. I need to feel like I deserve the fishing expedition and that I have balanced my Karma to the point I will be rewarded with an adequate haul. This part of the ritual requires some preparation.

This year your columnist hatched a new plan. For some time now I have been drooling over the recreational kayaks rigged for fishing. One of the nice things about being somewhat computer savvy is the ability to go from dreaming to planning by searching and scanning the Internet for ideas. I found a good deal on a recreational kayak locally, and didn’t have to pay for shipping, except for a trip to town with my Jeep and trailer.

The kayak was a bare shell. This means it didn’t have any of the rigging a proper fishing kayak might have, and which adds a couple hundred dollars to the cost. After a few hours researching, I had my ducks in a row and had all the necessary hardware headed my way. As usual, I tried to assemble as much of it as I could using local sources, and found the rest on the Internet. Part of it involved some innovation and engaged my creative side.

Instead of spending forty dollars on a fishing rod holder that must be mounted forward of the kayak cockpit and which becomes an obstacle to loading and transport of the craft, I designed and built my own removable holder from one of those black plastic universal glue clamps with orange tips I found at Pamida, a lightweight white plastic plumbing drain tube I found at Wilkerson’s Hardware, and a marine grade rivet.

The rest of the rigging required me to rivet eyelets and a pair of pulleys to the shell. I now have a trolley system which allows me to drop my improvised anchor into the current without swamping the boat, as well as a system to lash certain needed items to the deck, like a cooler and small tackle box. A method to carry the craft atop my Jeep was also engineered.

After many days of planning and a couple days of rigging, I was ready. I hoisted the boat atop the Jeep, lashed it to the carrier, loaded the fishing essentials into the Jeep, and went to the task I wanted to accomplish before the fishing trip reward.

First I needed to finish the first phase of my mowing routine. I usually break that duty up into three mowing sessions so it doesn’t seem so daunting a task. I had serviced the lawn tractor, installed a new deck belt, (the quest for the belt in itself could be a column) and fueled it up.

I only got a few strips mowed before there was an awful racket from below the mower deck. I shut it down so I could determine what was causing the ruckus. A reinforcement strip on the front of the deck had come loose and after making contact with one of the many mole hills your weekly columnist tries not to make a mountain out of, forced it back under the deck where it was making contact with one of the blades.

I knew what I had to do to fix it, but since I was already rigged and ready for my fishing expedition, decided to put the mower back in the barn and go fishing instead. I should have realized the broken mower was an omen, but no, I steered headlong towards the next disaster.

I headed to the Manatt’s quarry south of Tama. For several years I have been allowed to fish for stripped bass near the spillway between the active pit and the old one. Fishing has always been productive there and I was confident part two of my spring ritual could be accomplished.

I arrived at the office to check in as I had always done in the past. Jeff Upah, the Tama Operations Manager was at the front desk. He informed me that because of Federal mining restrictions, public access was no longer allowed on the quarry property. He suggested I go down river to Manatt’s Landing, launch the kayak and paddle up river to the cut where I could make my way to the old pit and fish where I had before. Since I wouldn’t be transiting the active mining area I wouldn’t be running afoul of federal mining rules.

Crestfallen, I followed Jeff’s directions and made my way back up Airport Road to the landing and parked. I unloaded the kayak, rigged it with all of my fishing essentials, and pushed off into the current.

What happened next was rather harrowing. Like your weekly columnist is prone to do, he put his life in danger once again in pursuit of a fool’s mission. But dear reader, I have run out of time and space. You’ll just have to wait until next week to learn the rest of the story and how I got myself out of this pickle.

Until next time--

You can read past columns by visiting and clicking on the “Local Columns” button at the bottom of the page.

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2011 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.

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