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August 28th, 2000

The Rose Garden
By James Castwell

Dear Debbie,

I wanted to write this so you would have a chance to understand what happened. What really happened. I don't trust history to treat the matter fairly. Guilt may prevail and perhaps force a bit of a cover-up. You see, there are a lot of good people in this country of ours, real good people. The problem seems to be they didn't always agree on how things should be done. That is why your grampa can not fish anymore. If I do I will be a criminal.

I am sure it was not the real intent at first, just a group, and soon a few other groups, of well-meaning folks who figured it was not a nice thing to catch a fish and put him back. They felt the fish had feelings and didn't enjoy the pastime. They didn't seem to mind if guys caught fish and used them for food, especially if the fish was killed quickly and 'humanely.' That may be where all the trouble started. Fish are not human. They somehow didn't quite see it that way though.

Before long they had banded together, raised a 'war-chest' of money and started promoting their ideas on a wide scale. They fought against 'Catch-and-Release.' They pestered fishermen on the streams and lakes, causing disruption of the fishing. Tempers flared and some nasty events evolved. With these on film they prevailed and grew larger and stronger. The news media gave them opportunity to tell their story. Over time they had control..

But, I am drifting from the point here. Lately, notices were placed in the papers, it was on radio, TV, the computers, and even the major news programs announced the final end of fishing. It was a strange day indeed. Folks at lunch-counters, in barbershops, on the street, by telephone, at meetings and just about everywhere were talking in low voices about the final day. It would be here soon. How many of us would become criminals. How many of us would not turn in our fishing rods, at least not all of them. How many would choose to become criminals by hiding some, perhaps a cherished old cane Payne, or Leonard, or a classic hand made Kusse?

You see, in the beginning some thought if they could keep us from catching fish and putting them back, the fish would not be harmed and only a few would be killed. To a point, they may have not been too far off. What happened however was this. When the Federal Government outlawed 'Catch-and-Release' in the whole country, fishing fell of dramatically. When a fellow could not go 'astream' and enjoy the company of his companions and the total experience of an "Aldo Leopold' afternoon, they simply gave it up. They quit fishing. For, fishing is not just about catching fish. The others never understood that point. They had no frame of reference for the 'oneness' with nature and her beauty, the feeling of freedom fishing, any kind of fishing, brings to those fortunate enough to have found it. They never knew. I think I even felt a little sorry for them - - - for a while.

And so, my darling grand-daughter, the day has now arrived. Today the police will come up my walk to take my rods. I expect them any time now. They have won. They have succeeded in stopping all fishing, period.

When we quit fishing, the license fees quit coming in. The hatcheries had to close due to lack of money. Trout Unlimited and FFF collapsed. The work they had been doing stopped as well. Water quality in general diminished and fish became scarce. Tighter controls were instituted to attempt to save the struggling fishery nation wide. Not willing to admit failure, groups demanded more and tougher controls. Well, there are only a few fish left. Many have whirling disease and are not multiplying. That program was dropped too. I do think they were very close to controlling it, darn shame.

But, today it is over. To protect the few fish left it is now illegal to fish. That's it, it is finished. I will mail this after they have gone. Their car is in front of the house now. I knew they would come, after all, you know how much I have enjoyed all those years with your dad on the streams even before you were born. How about the time just you and I took the old boat out and got all those blue gills, didn't we have a time though? I can still taste them, your mom sure did a fine job frying them up for us, didn't she? Think I can still taste them. Be right back . . .

They are gone now, the two guys from the police department. I think I may have seen one of them somewhere before, I'm not sure though, about the only places I have gone these last years is fishing, be a funny thing if that is where I saw him, wouldn't it?

Remember that old casting rod you used on the lake? It's gone now, they took it. So are a lot of the other rods. You know, they had to pick up my reels as well, it's the law now. Funny how a person can get attached to a darn old fishing reel. The spinning rods went, reels and all, too. I think one of the guys recognized the old fly rod your dad grew up with. He seemed to be only following orders, actually felt a bit of pity for the chap. Those old H.I.'s were collectors stuff. He took it right down from the den wall.

I hate to tell you, honey, your dear old grandpa is now a criminal, at least if they dig around in the back yard by your grandmas yellow roses. The ground is soft there and we always keep it loose and cultivated. Not hard to dig in. There is a long aluminum tube there now, by the third rose from the left. Someday when I and grandma are gone you might consider doing a little gardening, perhaps a bit of cultivating, kinda look after the old folks rose garden.

Your loving grandpa, Jim

( This column was inspired by a story written by a real writer, Gene Hill, and published in his book Hill Country, published by Countrysport Press. It was about hunting and guns. I felt compelled to write this.) ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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