The Call of the Mild
Being the manly and masculine sort,
No stranger to sport, to the thrill of adventure
Like any man ought,
How could I pass up
The utter and immense joy of fishing,
Another macho pastime to prove to the world
My overwhelming and definite straightness?
The trees were evergreen and I was seventeen,
And I don't think Northern Ontario had ever seen
A gayer guy than I.
If I had been any camper
I'd have been a Winnebago.
Tight t-shirt and the shortest shorts
And the kind of walk
That had been described by the man in the bait shop
As looking like I had a roll of lino under my arm.
I may have appeared,
Amid all this wincing
And uncoordinated mincing,
And the man in the bait shop who
Kept on winking,
My Uncle and Dad were adventurers,
Doyens of blokey pursuits who
Were not at all put off by bears, wolves,
Physical discomfort, the pungent lake,
The biggest mosquitoes I'd ever seen and
The fact that it was one hundred miles from the
Nearest shopping centre fashion outlet.
Tell me, my Uncle asked, as we
Clambered aboard our steel-bottomed boat,
You ever win any medals at sport?
Before my Dad could change the subject
I explained, somewhat joyfully,
How at the village fete,
I'd got a bronze for my embroidery.
And for some reason,
My Uncle didn't ask any further questions.
Amid the gurgle of our Evinrude,
We pressed on into the wild northern solitude,
Past ominous woods whose evergreen heart
Has claimed many a mad soul and torn apart
Dreams of life in wilderness sublime,
Winter's icy fingers and the march of time
Leading humanity to a state of perpetual regret.
My Uncle said I couldn't play my ABBA cassette.
Apparently it would scare the fishes.
In the shade of a coniferous bank we stop,
Kill the prop and set up shop,
Put hooks in our bait, and wait, and wait,
And my Dad and my Uncle can only nod
When I say that I like holding the shaft
Of a very sturdy rod.
And then for the next two or three hours,
Absolutely nothing happens.
This is what it is, to be a man,
Embrace the outdoors,
To use your hands,
Become a hunter gatherer,
Pride of the tribe,
And go back to a cabin
And heavily imbibe
Living as a winner,
As if life were the lotto,
Fishing by day
And spending the night blotto,
Can there be a more natural and blokey quest?
(Apart from the Eurovision Song Contest).
And then I feel a tug, my float goes under,
At the same time a rolling rumble of thunder,
A fish! I say, it's pulling the line!
Thank God, my Dad says, about bloody time!
You've got to reel it in, boy, that's the deal,
How do I reel?, I ask, he says, with the reel!
Wind it and pull it, don't give up the fight!
Show it who's boss, use all your might!
I tell you it was a fighter, this accursed fish,
With a demonic spirit and a sordid death wish,
It teased as it fought and I thought I would faint,
Yet I was ever so brave and my only complaint
As I thrashed and I yanked and struggled and tussled,
My perfectly coiffured hair was now ruffled,
Until at last with a mighty great yank
Did it yield to my power, nothing left in its tank.
I gazed eye to eye with this devilish beast,
And knew that for years I would regularly feast
On the story of how I had conquered a foe,
In this land of forest and wintery snow
Where a man is a man and cheeks are aglow,
With a tear in my eye as we at last let it go,
Knew I'd never see how it looked cooked on a plate,
Apparently it was in danger of being eaten by the bait.
Two men and a boy set out that day.
And actually, two men and a boy came back.
In the evening cool in deckchairs outside
Our lakefront cabin surrounded by woods,
Eaten alive by mosquitoes,
My Dad and Uncle drank whisky and pondered
On the meaning of life,
While I was in my bedroom,
Dreaming of shirtless glistening lumberjacks.