Gone Fishing

August 14th, 2006 | Posted in General

Literally. I have spent the last several days in Colorado and Wyoming trout fishing. No, I am not what you might consider an outdoorsman, but I did do a fair share of fishing as a kid. It’s hard not to when you grow up on the banks of the Mississippi River and in a state where you can throw a rock in any direction and hit a lake. The “Sunday Mailbag” post was post-dated and posted before I left, so that was cheating. I haven’t really posted since Thursday.

I flew out Friday to Denver to meet my uncle, cousin and especially my grandfather for a fishing trip. We drove about 3 hours north of Ft. Collins, half of it on gravel mountain back roads, to a 5 mile stretch of stream between two reservoirs called “Miracle Mile” (apparently 1 mile=5 miles in Wyoming). We fished for trout for 2 days and ‘roughed it’ in the wilderness. This is not city boy roughing it, either. No electricity, no running or fresh water (except the bottled stuff we bought) and certainly no telephones or cell phone service. When you live in today’s plugged in world, it is a little unnerving to be completely incommunicado like that, although it’s possibly the most completely peaceful atmosphere possible once you get used to the break from civilization. I washed up with stream water, side stepped rattlesnakes and ate the fish I caught hours earlier for dinner every night. Not bad for a suburban guy who draws funny pictures for a living.

Yes, I’m very busy this time of year and getting away is hard to do. The main reason I went was to spend time with my grandfather. He will be 90 in a few months and as befits a member of Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation” he has seen and experienced more in his life than many will in several lifetimes. He has become small, frail and tires easily, and it was hard to see the robust man I remember from my youth succumbing to the ravages of old age, but it was a great pleasure to listen to him tell stories of his youth and life. He grew up in Wisconsin the son of Norwegian immigrants, and has been things beyond count including a dairy farmer, mechanic, carpenter, railroad man and served in World War II. It is fascinating to hear him talk about the war, life on the railroad and all the things he’s seen in his time. I know he loved seeing me and spending time with me, as I did him.

I’ll be getting back home tonight, and will have to pay the price for my time away in terms of late nights and hard work to get caught back up, but it was worth it. If anyone reading this has a grandfather, grandmother, an aging parent or relative who was important in your life and for some reason seems to always slip through the cracks when it comes to getting your time and attention, turn off your computer, put aside your busy life for a moment and spend some time with them. The elderly are so often shunted aside and forgotten in today’s hectic style of living, but they are people with much to give and they ask for so little in return… just a little of your time and attention. My grandfather moved to Colorado to live with his son when my grandmother died after a lengthy illness, and he is lucky as he sees some of his grandkids and his great-grandkids a lot. Other elderly people are not as lucky. I likely have seen my grandfather for the last time, unless fate allows me another trip in the very near future, and that make me sad. One day soon he will close his eyes and all the sights they have seen and miracles they witnessed will be gone. It is hard to believe that so much life can be here one moment and gone forever the next, and even harder to believe that so many people rush by the windows of dark, quiet rooms where the people who once bounced them on solid knees and held them in strong arms sit alone and wishing for just a moment of thier time. They say your life is measured by the people who love you, and I would say that makes my grandfather a rich man. I hope I am as fortunate, and that my final room is not a dark, quiet and lonely one.

So, my apologies for the lack of posts while I was out in the desert dodging mountain lions and wiping my ass with pages from the Sears catalog. To make up for it I have a very involved post for tomorrow I have been working on for some time about caricatures and the Right of Publicity. Some may consider that punishment rather than reward, but what do they know?


  1. zwallenfang says:

    Wow Tom, that is some nice gut wrenching material! This is precisely why I drove to Chicago last week, if only for two days. Sure, I went to see Tom Waits, but it was also an excuse to visit my grandparents and spend a little time with them. Not only do I feel obligated to give them a little bit of my time and attention, I also take great pride in doing so.

  2. Keelan says:

    That’s a very moving story, Tom. Makes me think. I’ll be going to SC in a few weeks for my own grandfather’s 80th birthday bash. He’s still quite a character, and has had tons of incredible experiences in his life as well. But he’s slowing pulling away from those he loves, cutting ties with this world, so to speak,so my time to learn about him and his life is already limited. I’ve decided I’ll make more of an effort to get him to talk now, after reading your post. Thanks for sharing.

    PS….Glad you didn’t get eaten by bears!


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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