I have received some comments regarding the fish in uniform picture taken back in 1967. There is a story there and I will explain. I took my military training and my time in the Missouri National Guard seriously. I look back on the experiences I had and my fellow Guardsmen with great fondness. . . One time I was criticized by a journalism professor, perhaps humorously for backing into a story. So I will get on with it. . .
That year I did not bring civilian clothes with me to the annual two week training at Camp Ripley, Minnesota. I usually always drew weekend duty anyhow. Would you believe I ended up with the weekend free and no civies. That limited me to the post.
I had heard of a lake way back on the north end of the post called Engineer Lake. It was supposed to be excellent fishing. One guy that had drawn weekend duty had brought his fishing rod and he offered to lend it to me. He did not have any lures, so I went to a small convenience store just outside the main entrance and bought a few jigs with walleye in mind. On a last minute impulse I bought an ugly looking spinner with garish orange colored feathers attached. Those, if I remember correctly, were the only spinners they had. There were just a few of them on a dusty shelf-worn display board, but I bought one anyway.
I then went to the motor pool and asked to check out a jeep. The Motor Sgt. said, “Nope. Can’t check out a vehicle for just one guy to go fishing.” I went back to the barracks and asked how many guys wanted to go fishing. Five more off-duty guys jumped at the chance. I went back to the motor pool and the Sergeant let me check out a ¾ ton truck. We headed north. The road followed the headwaters of the Mississippi River for some distance before turning west into the pines. I found Engineer Lake and there were tell-tale signs that it had been used for Baily Bridge exercises. Two rowboats lay upside down on the shore. It was a fair-sized body of water. We decided to use the boats.
Everybody had fishing rods and a few lures. We turned the boats over and discovered that there were no oars. So we did a Sgt. Highway and improvised with boards scrounged from a ramshackle dock and launched. No luck, not a strike, not even a nudge. Everybody tried everything they had. No luck. Finally I put the ugly orange feathered spinner on. Wham, the Northern Pike in the picture hit. The other two guys in the boat said they were afraid I was going turn the boat over fighting it. I caught several more fish to the background of groans and catcalls from the gallery. I took the spinner off and each guy would catch a few fish and pass it on to the next guy. Everybody caught fish. Some kept them and some threw them back. It turned into a real fun day.
I brought my fish back to the company area mess hall and proceeded to clean them at the outside sink. That is when someone produced the camera. I am holding the first fish I caught. We estimated it to weigh in the neighborhood of eight pounds. Not a real large one as Northern Pike go, but a fun fish for sure. By the end of the day, the feathers on the lure were almost completely worn off. I think I still have it in my tackle box.
A cook stuck his head out the back door of the mess hall to see what was going on. When he found out what I was doing he said to bring the fish in. He was an outdoors guy and knew just how to fix them. He cut them up in Twinkie size hunks, battered and deep fried them. The guys left in Headquarters Company that Saturday evening had a fish fry with dinner.
That is the story. One of the nicer memories from along my Sundown Trail.