When I was little, my dad used to take me fishing at the Paris Sportsmen Club. I actually hated the whole process of fishing, but felt I should be there to talk my dad and brother into releasing the poor little fish after catching them. It was bad enough they had a hook in their mouth. I just didn’t get it. I guess if you liked the taste of fish and your mom fried them up upon arrival, that is one thing. But, to catch fish for sport? I thought that was stupid.
I worried about the hooked fish. It had to hurt them. If I was hooked in the mouth, I would be screaming. I would still be screaming about it, forty some years later. I just knew that fish had feelings and shouldn’t be hooked in the mouth, dragged to shore, and then shoved into a bag like thingy until they died from being out of the water too long. Where is PETA when you need them?
But, after I realized that my dad was a real fisherman, there was no talking to him. He went fishing all the way up to Canada. North Bay, and more specifically, Lake Nipissing. That name cracked me up when I was little. I still laugh at how I laughed. But, if there was a place to throw a pole in the water, he was there. He went fishing under the Freedom Way bridge that led from our Weirton to Steubenville, Ohio, home of Dean Martin. I would go fishing there with him a lot. He caught a lot of fish there and would put them on a chain like thingy and let them flop around in the water while he caught more. One time I pulled the rod out of the muck and they all floated down the river. Oops. Fish on a chain.
Now, the Paris Sportsmen Club was just a little bit creepy for me. Creepy in that there were high weeds here and there surrounding the pond. Someone needed to pull on some rubbery wading pants and go pull some weeds. Cattails were immense. But, among the weeds and cattails were unseen creatures, I feared. Bullfrogs used to scare me to death. And I saw a snake swim by one time. Of course, I told my mom he crawled beside me while I sat on the bank. I was such a little story teller.
But, above every thing else, I was the most wary of the flying machines. You know, dragonflies.
Dragonflies at the Paris Sportsmen Club were evil. I swear one chased me on purpose. I would run one way and it would fly across the pond and head me off at the path. Ok, well, maybe there were more than one and they were just flitting around, but I didn’t see it that way. Their intent was to sting the shit out of me. They approached me like helicopters hovering over the Viet Cong and the rice paddies. Ok, I’m using my imagination. Also, the club was on Devil’s Den Road. What’s that tell ya?
I never really understood their purpose, but I watched them enough to know that they seemed to rule the roost. Birds eat worms. Snakes went after baby frogs. Who the hell wants to mess with a dragonfly? Dragon fly. I liked the name, but it evoked fear. Could it spit fire at me while it chased across the moors? Yes, I’m in Great Expectations and I’m Pip. Run, Pip, Run. I realize I had not heard of Great Expectations when I was little, but you get my point. I would make scenarios up in my head as we traveled to the Paris Sportsmen Club each time we went.
I would stand by my dad for a while, because the dragonflies didn’t come near my dad. He had a hat full of fishing crap on his head. I always wondered why he put lures and hooks and little bobbers on his hat. Who knew that fisherman were stylish? But, anywho, the head dragonfly this particular day, aka winged monkey dragonfly was going to leave the great Oz with the fishing lure hat alone because he was oh so great and powerful. No, they were coming for me, aka Dorothy, from West Virginia. My house landed on my mom and I had to put on red tennis shoes and find Oz. Red pom poms on my shoes would have to do. So, I couldn’t be standing near Oz to begin with if I was going to play Wizard of Paris Sportsmen Club, now could I? I would have to head down the side of the pond and see what I could find to represent the scarecrow. My mom headed us off that morning before we left.
“Vickie, you can’t take Susie with you out there!” She grabbed my little terrier from my arms.
Damn, caught. I tried to take Susie the dog, aka Toto, to the Paris Sportsmen Club with me that morning. How the hell can you play Wizard of Oz without a damn dog? She just pissed me off. That’s why the house landed on her that day.
Just great. We were only there for about thirty minutes when it began to rain. I was just starting to make a scarecrow out of sticks and cattails when I heard Oz (I mean Dad) call for me. We ran to the car and drove home. Those damned winged monkey dragonflies would have to wait another day.
I did find out something interesting that day. My dad told me while we were driving home that dragonflies can’t bite or sting.
I just stared at him. The hell you say.
I had been going out to the Paris Sportsmen Club with him for as long as I could remember, and he just got around telling me this crucial piece of information when I was like eleven. Thanks, Dad. Although actually, I think he kept that to himself. He had to watch me talking to myself, making up role-playing games while he fished. The dreaded dragonfly would have become just a bug, and perhaps I would have become bored while waiting for him to hook yet another poor little fish. That was an interesting ride home in the rain.
So, when it would rain and we would be stuck in the house, I would sometimes draw pictures of dragonflies. I couldn’t draw worth a shit, but they were dragonflies nontheless. I admired them but feared them. I just knew that the next time we went to the Paris Sportsmen Club, a huge, dragonfly monster was going to rise up out of the cattails in the creepy part of the pond and pick me up with their wicked fly claws and carry me away. Or drop me over the middle of the pond, where another water creature would be waiting for me. Like the gigantic fish with the whiskers. Don’t let the name “catfish” fool you. Catfish were evil too.
Well, I guess I got a little older and I was just too cool to go with my dad to the Paris Sportsmen Club anymore. I never went fishing after sixth grade or so. But, the dragonflies weren’t done with me yet.
Several years ago, we had just finished dinner, when my son called me out onto our patio.
“Oh my God!” I could not believe my eyes.
Now, you have to understand that we had an in-ground pool and a pond. Several neighbors had ponds. We were used to an errant dragonfly or two, hanging around. By this time, they were beautiful to me and my favorite insect. Everyone has a favorite insect, right? I had a dragonfly shower curtain in our pool house and dragonfly hooks for the towels. I was all about dragonflies.
But, what I saw made me smile, nervously. There were thousands and thousands of dragonflies heading toward us. And they didn’t stay high up in the sky, like the Canadian geese do when they migrate. Was this a migration or was this a swarm? Like a swarm of Paris Sportsmen Club descendants finally coming for me.
I mean, that’s what had to be going on, right?
Ok, kidding. But, what a sight!
We stood on the patio and watched them fly through. It was remarkable, but eery at the same time. Was it the end of the earth? Would some of those flying beasts have the face of a lion? Revelations and all that scary stuff. A dragonfly apocalyse.
Some of them hung around for a day or two. Stragglers came for a few days afterwards. So, of course, I went right to the internet and found out that green darners, among other species of dragonflies, migrate in swarms through our area toward North and South Carolina. I had lived on that hilltop for sixteen years and never saw such a sight. I am thinking maybe they were a bit west of their normal path perhaps.
So, that brings me why I am writing this today. I am wondering again about dragonflies. It seems that there are dragonflies in the parking lot of our local Walmart. I’ve noticed them for a few years now, and they are back again today. Why a Walmart parking lot? Maybe there was a pond at one time where this stupid Walmart was built a while back and by instinct they come back here. Nothing else makes sense. A parking lot is a stupid place for dragonflies to hang out.
As I unlocked my door to put my groceries in the back of my car, a dragonfly flew right in front of my face.
And I smiled all the way home.
following me home