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Dads should rate at the top tomorrow

There's something about the way a son or daughter looks up to their dad. To see that admiration while teaching five and six-year-olds in my kindergarten classroom brings back memories of the way I used to, and still do, look up to my dad.

When I first started teaching I used to use fishing to make a connection with the students. Since so many of them, due to the high interest in angling in the north country, had an intrinsic motivation themselves to fish, I would tell fish tales from the weekend and they would share their angling successes with me.

One Monday morning I asked the kids who had been fishing the previous weekend and a half-dozen hands sprung skyward. So I began to inquire about their big fish stories.

One girl, especially anxious to share her tale, told me that she and her dad had caught 65 crappies on Sunday. So I asked where she caught all those fish, to which she replied, "My dad made me promise that I wouldn't tell you we were fishing on Fish Hook Lake."

Actually, I changed the name of that lake to help her keep her promise.

My dad, on the other hand, didn't make me promise anything, and wasn't full of promises. He was, and still is, full of surprises.

There was the year when my father took me out on to the ice to fish and persuaded me to enter a shanty with smoke billowing from the external stove pipe. I truly thought he had lost his mind, entering someone else's property without permission. But in reality, my father had bought the fish house and it was ours. He put it on the ice without my knowledge and I was the luckiest kid in the world.

Throughout the summer we'd fish out of a fourteen-foot Crestliner rowboat that sometimes wielded a small outboard on the back that occasionally felt like running. I used to pore over the Bass Pro Shops catalog looking at the fancy boats that had a live well, trolling motor, depth finder and a carpeted floor and would calculate how many lawns I'd have to mow to amass those funds. By age 53 I would be able to afford one.

Yet one Sunday I walked home from church and there in the front yard was a 14-foot boat with all those amenities. It wasn't new by any means, but it was perfect. In fact I sat in it for almost the entire day, even though ice still covered the lakes.

Yet it wasn't these material items my father "gave" me that got me interested in fishing. It was the days he spent in the front yard helping me learn how to cast and the patience he had when I'd get a tangle. And years later, I don't remember all the fish we caught, but I'd go back to that moment of having him untangle my line while sitting on the wooden bench seats of a rowboat in a heartbeat. Thanks Pops.