Peace, quiet, and a family fishing derby – Beside the Point

I have a headache.

I think it’s oxygen induced. I’ve spent the last four days at a cabin in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.

It could also be the sound of young children racing through the house again, but that’s always been a source of enjoyment for me. I think the older I get, the more I enjoy the peace and quiet.

I found that peace and quiet on several mornings after a cooling rain pelted the metal roof of the cabin we were staying in. There’s something extremely relaxing about being the first one out of bed in a large home-away-from-home.

I would open the small jug of decaf coffee I picked up at local market on our first day. The family was a little miffed when I told them two days later they had been drinking unleaded. I sprinkle it lightly into a filter- pour a couple big bottles of water in the back of the coffee maker, push the start button and start in on a Tupperware dish full of quartered strawberries.

The warm, full smell of the coffee brewing reminds me of my great-grandmother’s house on Saturdays when my mom and aunts gathered for gossip, coffee cake, and coffee. I remember being excited about the possibility of someday being part of the adult faction of the family.

Now being part of that faction, literally gives me a headache. I love being around family, I do. I spent a few hours this week repeatedly baiting hooks, taking very small bluegill off the lines of these precious nieces and nephews. The fish in this decent size pond were the craftiest devils.

I told my brother the worms we got for sit-fishing seemed to be old and fragile.

I wasn’t wrong. These worms were the red variety and they would seemingly dissolve off the hook with regularity. Either that, or the fish here have morning training sessions on how to nibble without snaring themselves on the barb of a golden hook. Either way, after about two to three dips of the bobber, the worms would get slurped off to the dismay of these kids with aspirations of a record-setting catch.

The window for fishing was about as small as the fish themselves. Nothing…. nothing…nothing, then bam, bam, bam and I couldn’t keep up, let alone find a moment to throw in my own line. Several parents found themselves lost in the joy of watching their children anxious, but laser-focused on what’s happening just below the surface on a thick, summer night, with the bullfrogs bellowing along the shoreline.

The kids’ faces are worth the effort… and that headache.

Scott Dilsaver and I took a group of girl scouts fishing at a local private pond about 10 years ago in a Daddy-Daughter Fishing Day. This pond was loaded and the owner was looking for a way to get some of the fish out. It was also the time my nephew, who came along for some fishing, dropped his shorts to his ankles with his back to us. There was no porta-potty. We stood in horror and told him that was a no-no…and then captured the moment in perpetuity for a photo that hung in his parents’ house until he hid it – very recently, and very permanently.

But the derby was on. Dilsaver was working on taking fish off the lines of youngsters with names like Fehseke, Vandenberg, Bailey, LeMoyne, Altman and so forth, at a feverish pace. I think he got the better part of the gig, as I handled the worms and hooks. The elder Richard Fehseke stood with a smile as his grandaughter cast and reeled.

We had a lot of smiles this week as well.

But between the games of Rummy Royal, Euchre, pool and even shooting marshmallows with a high-powered BB gun, we built more memories. Mom is getting older, but still way viable and a wicked Canasta player. She holds her own into her late 70s…and most of the time insists on paying the bills.

…so there’s that.

But she’s getting to be more adamant that we make the annual summer treks. It’s getting harder and harder to get the whole family together. But we manage and the connections get better and better every year. We talk about life, business, ideas, and future plans. We catch up and drink up and ignore the entire rest of the world.

Except for this weekly unrobing of my psyche, I was doing alright with just the memory of Kelsey who also loved to fish.

It’s funny…. I never had a headache fishing with her, but that’s Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is the editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

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