Pawlenty to Talk About


Who’s the bonehead that put the Minnesota fishing opener on Mother’s Day? My guess is it had to be someone who did not get along well with his or her mother. Even the cheeseheads in Wisconsin were afraid of offending their mothers. They schedule their opener on the first weekend in May … smart move. With the advent of cell phones and better service coverage, at least we can call our mothers from the boat (or you could conveniently write a column … Happy Mother’s Day, mom).
The opener has been a rite of passage in my family for as long as I can remember. There were only two big events you wanted to be invited to each year … the opening of fishing and deer hunting. My dad came from a family of 10 (seven boys and three girls) in the little suburb of South St. Paul. The homestead on Concord Street was about two blocks off the mighty Mississippi. He would often tell stories of different fishing trips with his dad or some of his brothers. On the river, there were fish “larger than the boat” that could eat you whole if they wanted … or at least that is what we were led to believe. I think it was just my dad’s way of telling a good story to get us kids excited about fishing. 
My dad loved fishing and that led to buying a cabin. It was a little place on Shamineau Lake by Motley. I was 11 at the time and maybe it is the short summers, but I thought this cabin was the greatest place in the world … still do. With 11 kids in my family (five boys and six girls), it was like going to summer camp … tons of kids and tons of fun. We would swim all day, chase frogs and turtles and, best of all, fish ‘til we dropped. 
After most dinners, my dad would say “Boys, let’s go see what’s biting.” I think fishing fit his contemplative personality and spending time with his oldest boys was just a bonus. As we aged, we boys (the oldest three) figured out it was just his way of holding a captive audience for all of his “wisdom”… and there was plenty of wisdom. 
Several years later, one of my uncles purchased the cabin next door and the very next opener was based out of those two cabins. On the invite list were many family and friends. My uncles were the most memorable characters that were larger than life. They worked hard (as most folks did) and played harder. When they came up on opener, they would take full advantage of the short time with family. I have never laughed that much as when they were around. Part of their fun was picking on all of us younger guys. From taking all our money in a poker game to bumping us off the dock into the freezing water, we rookies had to go through the initiation. 
Those guys are all gone now and, somehow, that fishing tradition disappeared with them. We, now older guys, have fragmented into smaller groups, all doing our own thing in different places. One of my goals over the next few years will be to bring back that tradition of the big group … and all the fun that goes with it. I can’t wait! 
Oh, yeah … and happy Mother’s Day to all our moms!