Bob Menzies – Springfield, MO
Family and fishing are inextricably linked in my mind. Many of my fondest memories of great family times together are connected to fishing. I grew up in the 1960s and 70s of Southwest Missouri. Our Saturdays were often spent on Lake Taneycomo (the name stems from Taney County, Missouri) near Branson fishing for trout. Our family operated on a limited budget, but it didn’t take a lot of cash to rent a small, aluminum boat. Our little Envinrude motor fit easily into the trunk of our car. It was back breaking work hauling that motor to the boat, but this momentary inconvenience paled into insignificance when compared to the thrill of motoring out onto the lake.
My parents had two kids, they said it only seemed like more. My older brother and I were quite a handful, but we loved to be out on the water and fish. The lake somehow had the power to tame two rambunctious boys. So the Menzies family – all four of us with the excitement that only those who fish can know – launched our boat and drifted out into the cool water of Lake Taneycomo in search of trout. Our common purpose formed a unique bond that was enhanced by the exquisite beauty of our surroundings. We were a family united by blood and focused on a single objective. These were great times which we would later celebrate and sing about around camp fires and dinner tables.
My mother always seemed to catch the most and the largest fish. She had a way with animals as well as fish. I think they all must have intuitively sensed her kind and compassionate heart. She loved God’s creation and was endowed, it seemed to me, with some extraordinary power when a rod was placed in her hands. She surely could catch trout, better than any of the men in our family. She knew how to cook them too. Our family was blessed.
I was always a little too impatient to be a good fisherman. But my brother’s insatiable curiosity led him to utilize every method conceived by man or beast to catch fish. His quest ultimately led him to fly-fishing. I still remember the bright, sunny afternoon when he hooked his head casting a fly. He was fearlessly learning to cast and one backswing took the fly out of its natural orbit. When he swung the rod forward the fly lodged squarely in the back of his head. We ended up rushing my brother to a nearby medical clinic where nurses cut the hook, with its sharp barb, out of his head. This minor setback didn’t diminish my brother’s zeal for fly-fishing in the least. Quite the opposite, now he was all the more committed to honing his craft. My brother’s “hook in the head” adventure, however, was not so easily forgotten. The story has grown grander with each telling over the years and is now firmly entrenched in Menzies family lore.
My favorite fishing memory does not stem from Lake Taneycomo and it centers on my father. It is all the more special because it was one of the last times that I went fishing with Dad. My father planned the trip, perhaps knowing it would be one of our last together. The result surpassed anything that we could have imagined. My father, my brother, and I traveled to Alaska where we all caught monster king salmon on the Kenai River. This was the ultimate “trout” fishing experience. If my mother’s health had been better, no doubt she would have joined in on the fun and once again caught the largest and the most. I believe we all felt that through our fishing success we gave her homage. We certainly felt like kings when we reeled our 50-pound fish into the boat. Memories of our years struggling together to catch trout on Lake Taneycomo flooded back. As we reeled in those great fish, somehow we felt vindicated. And, in the process, we added a new and especially meaningful chapter to the Menzies family history. This is a chapter that I will never forget.