“You catch ‘em, you clean ‘em”. He said it just like that: stern, firm, and exasperated. Of course we didn’t know that before “we” baited our hooks, (which we also did not do). “We” in this case means my Dad, as my sister and I shielded our eyes from the worm and its guts. We didn’t like worms, we didn’t like hooks, and we really did not like sitting in a 14-foot aluminum boat all day, with the suns rays beating down on us.
It is clear to me now that my Dad would have preferred boys. If there was any control over embryos, chromosomes, and genetic engineering in the 1970s, things would have turned out much differently, I’m sure.
My Dad Stanley is a man’s man. He’s not emotional. He’s not soft. He is from a family of five boys, and one girl that arrived much later to the male-centric party. My Dad likes camping, guns, beef jerky, trucks, woodworking, BBQs, lawnmowers, fishing rods, tools, chicken wings, restoring old cars, and ice hockey.
When my sister and I entered the picture Stanley didn’t really know what to do with us. My Dad tried to fit two square pegs (a good metaphor for my sister and I as we’re both fairly square and peg-ish) into two round holes (another good metaphor for what he wanted us to be, not an actual hole).
He took us hunting, fishing, and to the gun range for target practice on a regular basis. My sister and I each had our own .22 gauge rifle, which seems unnecessary… but my Dad was trying to prepare us for life (a life where we’d need to catch and clean the animals we killed).
My Dad didn’t treat us like delicate, defenseless, weak little girls from a Louisa May Alcott novel. He treated us like boys.
Saturdays were spent driving around the back roads of Quesnel looking for a moose; or, sailing around a lake with our fishing lines dipped in the water; or, skating across a frozen lake chasing after a puck.
My Dad didn’t really know how to be a “Dad” to two girls, so he was just a Dad, doing his thing. And in doing his thing, my sister and I learned a lot. We both know how to build a fire, put up Christmas lights, build furniture, fix appliances and leaky faucets, grow vegetables, tile a bathroom, carve a turkey, read a map, fling a snake (another story for another time), parallel park, skin a deer, shovel a driveway, ride a bike, and yes- we do know how to bait a hook.
As a 7-year-old I didn’t like it. I just wanted to cuddle my cat, jump on the trampoline, and play with My Little Ponies. I didn’t want to get dirty or exert too much energy, or spend any time in the garage.
As a 33-year-old adult, I appreciate that he spent so much time with us. I appreciate what he taught us. I appreciate that he didn’t treat us like Little Women.
But most of all, I appreciate that he cleaned those fish, because they were disgusting.