Put this in the category of a Sports Shorts...things I wish I were better at. I have been a sports fan since before I can remember. Where it came from I do not know. My misfortune, if I can call it that, is that I was not very big, fast or agile. It did not, however, distract from my interest in things athletic. I have shared in earlier blogs that my secret ambition as a kid was to be a sports writer; if I couldn't star myself, I could at least hang out with them and write stories about them. But then I thought: How can a kid from a small, obscure river town ever aspire to be a bigtime sports scribe?
Which brings me to several athletic skills I wish I could have excelled at - and if I ever come back for a second shot at life I'd have on my second-time-around Bucket List.
The first was prompted by Dennis Anderson's StarTrib column about high school trap shooting. I'm surprised and delighted how this has caught on. I started hunting when I was all of 12 years old. My dad and his cronies were all pheasant hunters and they included me in the part at an early age. The night before pheasant season I barely slept a wink. In my mind's eye I could see a colorful ringneck rise ahead of me, flush to the left and with the wind at his tail (the hardest wingshot for a right-hander), and then crumple to my shot...my tail wagging Brittany then retrieving the bird and proudly placing it at my left foot.
Back to trap shooting. The range was in the open meadow on the west bank of the river. The king of Henderson trapshooters was Art Furch, just a stride ahead of Ray "Fat" Oldenburg. We kids would gather and watch Art, Fat and the others stand at the stations, call "pull," and powder the clay. After the round we'd scramble out into the field and pick up any clays that might have survived. Seldom did they belong to Art or Fat. Art was a Minnesota State trap champion...and 25 straight was a regularity for him.
Back then, kids didn't shoot trap. The cost of the clays and shells were out of our reach. But take a check on page 462 of the Henderson Then and Now book for a photo of the Valley Gun Club members; a substantial group. After I grew up, family and work pre-occupied my time and I managed to bust maybe 20 or so clays but never 25 straight. Only in my dreams. How nice it is to see this sport come back with high schoolers, boys and girls.
My second fantasy: Fly fishing. I've had the privilege of fishing all over North America, and other parts of the world, as well. Mostly fresh water lakes and streams, mostly spin and baitcasting. I've fly fished just enough to know how devilishly hard it is. And when done expertly it is more beautiful than a Tiger Woods golf swing, or Ted Williams baseball swing. My opinion.
We did not get to fly fish around Henderson in my growing up years. I don't remember the subject ever being mentioned. Too bad.
If readers have seen the movie, "A River Runs Through It," there's a scene where one of the brothers is pictured fly casting.I have run that scene on the screen a dozen times, or more; in my head, even more. It is poetry in motion. Author Norman Maclean describes it as "a four-count rhythm between ten and two o'clock. The one count takes the line, leader and fly off the water; the two count tosses them seemingly straight in the air; the three count was my father's way of saying that at the top the leader and the fly have to be given a little beat of time to get behind the line before it moves forward; the four count puts on the power and throws the line until you reach ten o'clock. My father would clap out the four-count rhythm with his cupped hands. In my family there was no clear division between religion and fly fishing," Maclean concludes.
While I mastered neither the skill of trap shooting nor fly fishing, I am in awe of those who do them well. They are two skills that every young person should be taught. It is a gift we can give them. They can last a lifetime.