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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

In Other Words: You Can Be A Spectator Or You Can Dive In To Go After What You Want


Susan Holt Simpson: Unsplash

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By Chuck Keller 

My parents had a river cottage in southern Indiana and that’s where we spent our summers. Dad would drive the extra distance to work in the city just so we could live in the country. 

My younger brother and I didn’t mind. We swam in the river, explored nearby creeks, target shot at our small range, fished, and wandered through local fields. We fell asleep to rain falling on the tin roof. Sometimes we slept on the screened porch. 

18 N. Fort Thomas Ave.

It was a primitive cottage. We had a hand pump in the kitchen for well water and we had to walk about 25 yards to the outhouse. There was no air-conditioning. (We didn’t need it then.) We had an old radio so we could dial in Reds games or old radio shows. We had an out of tune upright piano where we banged out songs we heard on that same old radio. The eyes of a raggedy stuffed buffalo head followed us around the room. And we had a party line telephone that we shared with a few neighbors. 

We were surrounded by farms and some of the most unique people I had ever met. This was the summer center of the universe of my youth. 

There was one man who lived alone in a small, unimpressive wood-framed house across the street. I had no idea how old he was. As a child, every tall person was an older adult. Every few days, he would walk barefoot across the road dangling goggles and swimming fins from one hand. He would wave to greet us and he and my father would chat.

He’d make his way down the stairs to a rocky shore. I so clearly remember the first time I followed him to the river. I asked him what he was going to do and he replied, “Fish.” With goggles and fins? Don’t you need a pole? And bait? And a bobber? 

He geared up, waved, and dove into the river. A few minutes later he popped out of the water with a pretty big fish in his hand. He tossed it on the shore and told me to make sure it didn’t get away because that was his dinner. He dove again. It was simple and productive. I now know that this technique is called noodling or hand fishing. There are TV shows and big competitions dedicated to the activity. 

Sometime a fish would cut his hands but he always went home with a fish. Always. He got what he wanted. I would sometimes sit for hours on the shore hoping for a nibble but this guy dove in the water and came up with a fish. Every. Time.  

I readily admit that I was too nervous to try his technique because there were some big snapping turtles that nestled under the tree roots and rocks along the murky shore and I wanted to keep all of my fingers. But it changed the way I saw my little piece of the world. 

All of us have had moments like this. Sometimes it is gradual and other times it is immediate, but we eventually arrive at an understanding, a lesson.

Here’s the point. You won’t get what you want unless you dive in to grab it. It’s not always easy or safe. It took some time, space, and reflection to understand the meaning of what I saw. I learned that if I wanted something then I had to gear up and go after it. You can sit on the shore and be a spectator or you can dive in and go after what you want. Either way, it’s up to you. 

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