Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Gone Fishing (02/01/07)
TITLE: Canadian Canoe Trip
By Ed VanDeMark
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Dave sat in the front of the canoe and I desperately tried to keep him from ramming into a fallen tree. At the same time he attempted to keep me from running us aground. It had been going that way all morning. The generic form of the words that we exchanged sounded like heck, darn and son of a gun. A pair of fifteen year old Explorer Scouts paddling a canoe for the first time on a narrow 18 mile long river. The river connected two lakes the first of which was at the end of a 40 mile logging road some where in the Canadian wilds. The rest of our gang had long since disappeared from sight leaving us to bring up the rear.
Somehow we managed to complete the journey and arrived at Big Bear Lake where we joined up with the more experienced paddlers. All of us came here intent on catching monster fish. Bob had motivated about two dozen men and boys to join him on this trip to nowhere. The monsters we sought were northern pike that we believed were as long as a twelve year old boy is tall.
Before we were permitted to set up base camp Bob gave us a lecture and all of our leaders bobbed their heads in agreement. “We will not take any fish home with us. We will eat every fish that dies whether on purpose or by accident.” Is that clearly understood?” One by one we acknowledged that we understood Bob’s clearly spoken words.
Our guide, Tony, told us there was a big one that experienced fishermen had failed to catch for more than forty years. He pointed to spot just off a point of land about a quarter of a mile from camp. Big Bear is a big lake but for five days a half dozen canoes huddled together off that point Red Devil lures landed in canoes fifteen yards away and lines got tangled as boys vied for a chance to bring home this monster trophy. Twenty five inch fish with skin piercing teeth must surely be the fabled monster. A dozen of these monsters flopped around in the bottom of one canoe after another. Everyone was sure the monster would be an exception to Bob’s rule. This mind set ruled until someone got one that measured thirty inches. Suddenly boys remembered Bob’s admonishment “no fish will go for a car ride back to the States”. Artificial respiration attempts began on the twenty five inch minnows that now lay still in the bottom of several canoes, but to no avail.
Supper, breakfast, lunch, supper, breakfast, lunch and supper and we were sure that Tony would soon run out of ways to prepare northern pike. Then came breakfast, we were served cream of northern pike soup. Finally every dead monster had been turned into a meal. That morning one boy after another threatened the life of anyone that caused another northern pike to die.
We made this trip to the edge of the planet in the mid 1950’s. Time has erased some things from my memory, including the identity of the boy that caught the fish that died that morning. I can however still see a teenage boy sobbing as he carried that dead northern pike across the beach. Fear of the wrath of God and total banishment from human culture weighed visibly upon his brow. He made no attempt to bury it at sea or under a rock on a remote section of beach. Honor was still alive in him as he presented that dead, dead very dead fish to Bob.
I never found out what happened to that final dead pike. All I know for sure is that it didn’t show up for lunch or supper. We had split pea soup instead. The rumor went around that our leaders cooked it while we slept and ate it themselves. This is a believable rumor because these men were all self sacrificing individuals. Each was a compassionate leaders committed to ecology, developing good character and standing by their decisions. It is lessons like this that served as leadership by example that helped me develop into a man of good character.
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