I grew up on a farm in SE Missouri, youngest of 13 kids. My father, who was born in 1896, was 58 yr's old when I was born. His days of hunting or fishing, if there ever were any, were long gone. His days were too filled with making a living off a small farm. Nobody in my family ever hunted or fished that I knew of. Even the extended family & friends didn't or at least that I ever heard about. To them, it was time wasted when real work needed to get done.
My brother nearest my age, was 8 years older than I. Therefore, I felt it my duty to follow him around when I could. One day, when I was 9 years old, he headed out with some of his friends and I was allowed to tag along. I followed them down the RR tracks, staying a respectable distance behind so as to not get tormented by his friends who didn't want a 9 year old around. I noticed they were carrying sticks with strings attached & was told that they were "fishing poles". About a mile away, they stopped at a creek that ran under the RR tracks. I watched in awe as they masterfully turned over rocks to reach the worms they were to use for "bait".
Many "perch" (Not a real perch, but rather any common sunfish, called brim in the south) fell to their tactics that day. At one point, I was allowed to throw a baited hook and line out. Sure enough, I felt for the first time, the thrill of a rod tugging toward the waters surface in a "tap-tap" motion. My brother may have fished again, but I am not aware of him doing so. For myself, that day was a turning point in my life. Yes, I had caught the fever which to this day has never waned. However, at that time, I had no idea what it was that I needed to do or how to do it. I ached to learn so as I could again feel the "tug" of a fish. Still, 9 year old's were not allowed to go down to the creek alone, might get snakebit I was told. There was no one to take me and I pined away the whole summer, satisfied only by the dreams at night of such things as bass, bluegill & catfish. Having nothing to feed my thirst over the year, my passion slowly wilted.
The following spring, I was informed by my parents that an old man from church had approached them about wanting me for a job he needed done. He had no money to pay me and of course my parents wouldn't have allowed him to if he had. He said it wasn't hard work, just a few little things that he could no longer do himself, what with his failing eyesight. I didn't know where he lived, so he drove to my house and picked me up. Not sure what kind of car it was, as my family never having owned a vehicle of any kind, I wasn't privy to such things. What caught my attention were these long sticks ties to the top of the car. They stretched from bumper to bumper and were of no type of wood I had ever seen before. Straight as an arrow the whole length an smooth to the touch, cept for the occasional ring around the main stem. The old man told me they were "bamboo" and that they were his prized possessions. Each one had a woven Dacron thread attached to one end and were wrapped all along the length of the pole. Not far from a hook at the end, was a strange red & white ball attached. He called them "bobbers".
Having seen "fishing poles" once before, I knew what these things were and told him so. It was about that time that I was told what my job was to entail. It seems this old man loved to fish, but with his eyes failing, he could no longer tie the hooks on an such. He said he was even having trouble seeing the line to watch for "bites". I was informed that these things were to be my job. I was tickled, but a bit worried. I had no idea how to tie a knot much less tie a hook onto that thread he was using. He told me that he was well aware that I was an "apprentice" and not a seasoned fisherman, so he would teach me as we went. Hour after hour he would have me tie the hook on with one kind of knot or another. I was instructed in all aspects of using a "pole".
One day, he showed up with something he called a "reel". It was paired up with a metal rod with "eyes" along the side, or at least that's what he called them. He told me it must be a goodun, cause it took them Zepco folks 33 try's to get it right. We went over that thing till we both knew it inside & out. There wasn't a way to cast that we didn't figure out that day. After all that, the old man told me he actually didn't care for it and he would stick with his old "poles". He didn't want it to go to waste so he asked me if I would mind taking it over.
He even rented a rowboat at the lake, so I could row him out to where the "big fish" were. Many, many days that summer were spent at my new job. I found out early on that I was not to call this fishing. Both of us were quite sure my parents would not have agreed to let me "fish" all summer. However, who could tun down an old man who needed help. I am sure his eyes never got any better, as to my knowledge, he never fished alone again. Long after I had "moved on" in my life, he still had young kids "being his eyes".