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The Village Idiot

Fishing with a tattoo

Jack Deatherage, Jr.

(7/2017) Out of the corner of my eye I see a black & white stopping in front of my house. I'm across the street, behind my car, casting a bobber into and reeling it back out of someone else's yard. The cruiser's red & blue rack lights up. That old sick feeling in my belly comes back. (It's been a lot of years since I've had red & blue flashing on me.) Crap. Am I about to get sited for trespassing?

The driver's side window glides down. The deputy stares at me. "Having any luck."

I return his deadpan gaze. "No. The grass carp aren't biting." I've been waiting for years to use that line. I wish it had been raining and a puddle had been available. It's been decades since Fred M. and I told a kid at Savage River State Park that we were fishing for mud cats in a puddle between the road and our campsite. The park ranger who came by about an hour later pulled up and shook his head.

"Mud cats? I knew it was going to be you boys from Emmitsburg." He laughed and drove away. So did the deputy.

Tattoo Don, Pillar of the Community pulled up a few casts later. We loaded my fishing gear into his truck and off we went a fishin'. Well, we fished a bit, but it sticks in my mind we spent some time picking up other people's trash before we moved on to another public access bit of water where we picked up even more left behind human detritus. Evidently my dad's rule of leaving a fishing spot cleaner than I found it isn't particularly popular nowadays?

Getting permission to access someone else's property has become a serious chore. Even people who've known Dad and me for scores of years are hesitant to grant permission to fish. Though thinking on it, most of the people who knew my dad are dead. Still, it's rare I can get permission to fish, and even then the caveat is always- "You can't bring anyone else with you." Which is a serious bummer when the latest guy saying that to me also told me he has catfish as long as four feet he wants out of his pond! Hell. Such a fish would pull me into to the water! But can I convince the landowner to let me bring a fishing buddy? Especially one big enough to keep me from being pulled in? Nope. And so it goes. Private property. Private reasons. I get it.

Don and I make do with public access, release the fish we accidentally catch and clean up the trash others before us left behind. Why do we bother? Who the hell knows. Until I moved into town in 1979 we always lived near fishable waters. Which might explain my alcohol consumption once there was no place nearby for me to cast a line and drownd a worm?

Don seems more of a saltwater fisherman than a fresh. I gather he's content communing with nature as he sits patiently waiting for a bite. He's seen birds hit the water and take fish skyward while I'm busy walking about casting a lure until my arm aches. Which these days doesn't take long. (Don has told me he'll do his best to pull me out of the lake should I fall in. Yeah. That's the kinda fishing buddy I seem to have become- the one needing rescued!) We rarely talk of anything but fishing while fishing Not so when we aren't fishing.

After I've jabbered with some customer of the tatt shop for an hour or two and they've paid for their torturous bit of art and left, Don will turn to me and ask, "Okay young Jack, what's on your mind today?"

My first thought is usually, I'm about twenty years older than you. Then I get it. I'm about 20 years behind Don in just about everything from reading to thinking to doing. I figure I'll throw a curve at him this time.

"I'm reading The Benedictine Option."

And away we go.

No. I am not going to become a "born again" Catholic. Organized religion is about as alien to me as government is. So why am I reading a book about preserving Christian traditions? I'm not. I'm trying to figure out how I can help build something here that reestablishes and then preserves a local community against a time of need. Unfortunately, from my perspective, I don't think that can be done in this place by anyone outside the Christian community.

A similar topic came up years ago when I was hanging with the pagans on a farm in PA. The farmer was attempting to set up a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) based on the local pagan community. I was told the idea wasn't likely to get off the ground because pagans in general were too independent to work toward a common goal. The farmer knew of several successful CSAs -some run by various Christian groups, others were operated by greenies and health nuts... urrr conscientious people -people who generally were all of a similar mind. The pagans weren't such people.

Don and I bat the idea around the shop.

"You won't work with the town government. You don't think anyone in the Christian community will sit down and listen to your ideas. So what do you plan to do? I know you aren't going to be the next mayor!"

After the laughter subsides I shrug. "I've already begun the youth market garden I had hoped to organize a year and a half ago."

"Oh? You found someone who will let you use their land? I know you aren't doing it on town property!"

Nope. I'm taking double decamillionaire Derek Sivers' advice and solidifying my passion for teasing life out of dirt (this year it's straw bales) and doing what I've been talking about for years- gardening as a means of changing this place. (Of course there is more to my plan than gardening. Gardening is the beginning.)

But I'm in no hurry. I don't need help this year and possibly not next. In fact, I'm not particularly concerned if I never get anyone to join me in this venture. Nature's little calamities are aggravation enough. Having to deal with talking apes might be too much for me to bear. Besides, I doubt I'll last long enough to acquire a piece of ground to work with other than our yard, which is good for experimenting, but not marketing.

When the laughing dies Don allows I can't escape the urge to plant and teach.

"Just do it. When you need someone to step up and deal with government they will be there. Unless you drive them off. You do know there is a picture of you in dictionary? Next to the word curmudgeon."

Harrumph. If I like Don at all -I like him when he's sitting along the edge of a pond waiting for a fish to strike. When he makes me think? Well, that's what fishing buddies with tattoos do I guess.

Read other articles by Jack Deatherage, Jr.