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A Special Outing with the Boys  by Terry Madewell

   Some who know me may be surprised to read this next statement - I participated in something on the the last Saturday of turkey hunting season which I enjoyed far more than a day of turkey hunting.  Actually, it wasn't me, I played a minor role as part of a big effort of a lot of men who organized a special fishing trip for some kids who really enjoyed a day on Lake Marion.

   The event re-emphasized one of the things which is so special about the sport of fishing that we enjoy so much - it's a sport which can literally be shared with others.  Those you share it with do not have to be wizards of the water to find and catch fish, as long as they have others willing to share time, equipment, knowledge, and a  sincere desire to simply go fishing with someone else.

   The event was the brainchild of Ed Clowney from Union Presbyterian Church, who saw the opportunity to share the great outdoors adventure with some youth who not only would enjoy and benefit from such a unique experience, but who may generate a love of the outdoors which may last a lifetime.  Ed, along with Gene Gallagher from New Covenant Presbyterian Church, did the bulk of the work organizing the event.  (Many others helped, too many to mention, but these were the leaders.)

   The kids who participated in this particular adventure were boys from the Brookland Plantation Home for Boys.  Some local church men's groups organized and conducted the event.  With the gracious assistance of numerous sponsors, which we'll name later, these groups literally put months of planning and organizing into a day-long fishing trip for these youth as part of yet another event, a fishing tournament with the proceeds going to Brookland.

   But the day really belonged to the boys.

   They were awakened at about 4 a.m. - those who needed any awakening that is.  Most had spent the better part of the night discussing the next day's events.  Not only were the boys going fishing, but they were also competing among themselves in a fishing tournament, plenty of substance for an all-night discussion if you ask me.

   By 5 a.m. the boys had been transported to Randolph's Landing, where their breakfast was donated by the landing owner at the restaurant.  At the same time, two big, fully-rigged pontoon fishing boats, which were donated for the day's fishing by J&J Marina, were enroute down Wyboo Creek in the pre-dawn darkness.

   Not long after the boats were docked, the boys were loaded onto the pontoons and found rods, reels, and bait donated by a host of sponsors for the day's fishing.  Santee Bait Farm, Lane's Shopping Center, and Doc's Catfish Getter Dip Bait had all generously donated products to the cause.

   In fact, it was the Doc's Catfish Bait which helped create such a good time for me that day.  I've never denied that the brown gooey stuff has a peculiar odor - but it's an odor which draws blue and channel catfish like crazy.  When I opened the first plastic tubs of the bait, the boys backed off just a bit.  First Mate Charlie Tyler and Captain Billy Rowe (on the other boat) did an excellent job of baiting and chunking out the rods the first time around.  The boys were skeptical that even a catfish would bite this stuff.  They soon discovered that the stuff works!

   As soon as the boys began to see that this stuff produced catfish bites en masse, they instantly forgot about the smell and began to bait their own rods and cast them out - with little regard of whether or not they spilled the goo on their own clothes or anyone else's.  At least it didn't seem to matter at the time.

   When the fish began to be hauled over the sides of the boats, the good-natured ribbing between the competitors began, not just on each boat, but from boat to boat as the boys tried to keep tabs on one another.  The more fish that were caught, the faster the boys went through the Doc's Bait and the more serious the competition became - for them.

   The adults were able to sit in the background and watch the boys have a great day on the lake.  There was a definite feeling that more than catching fish was taking place, although I suspect that's all that really mattered to the boys on that day.  It may take months or even years for the seed of enjoying the sport of fishing - and the outdoors - to become firmly rooted in their minds, but I suspect it will happen to several of them.

   Although it doesn't really matter in the overall scheme of things who won the tournament because all of the boys caught fish and most caught several fish, one of the boys on Captain Rowe's boat won the individual tournament - but only by "one skinny catfish" as the number two finisher quickly added.  We're still not sure who won the overall tournament between the two boats because before we could weigh in the fish, there was considerable trading of stringers amongst the groups.

   After the weigh-in, the boys participated in the fish-cleaning chores and then were taken back to the church for a fish-eating feast, which would have done anyone proud.  The men from Union Church had the craft of cooking fish and hushpuppies down to a fine art.  However, the men from New Covenant take a back-seat to no-one when it comes to the task of actually eating the catch.  But, then again, neither did anyone who sat down to this feast. 

   The point of all this is not to single out any specific group, place, or person, but to demonstrate what's really important in the great outdoors - the enjoyment of these outdoor gifts and the ability to share outdoor experiences with others.  That's what made the day so special to me and one which re-emphasized what's really important about fishing or anything concerning our great outdoors.

   The boys had a great time, and the men had a great time being part of the event.  My hope is that some of these boys may someday take a real active role in the sport of fishing - for whatever species of fish they prefer.  They'll be the next generation of defenders of the sport as the anti's continue to hack away at the fishing and hunting sports.

   And just maybe, they'll pass the gift of the great outdoors along to someone else who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to embrace the sport at its finest.  Perhaps they'll allow some of these giving and sharing attributes to affect other areas of their lives as well.

   Do all outdoorsmen - and yourself - a favor.  Take a kid fishing.


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