Uncle Woody’s Fishing Method // Positively Speaking // Mark Wilson

Fishing“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Henry David Thoreau

When I was seven years old, Woodrow Wilson took me fishing.   Uncle Woody, born in 1913, was named after the great president who had been inaugurated a few months prior.  Whenever we vacationed in southern Indiana, I imagined it to be a White House visit.  It felt presidential, though I never could find the Lincoln bedroom.

One day, Uncle Woody, who reminded me somewhat of the rooster, Foghorn Leghorn, asked me if I liked to fish.  He was flabbergasted upon hearing that I had never cast a line.  “I declare, boy, that’s a tragedy.  Every kid needs to go fishing, and we’re going to take care of that today.”

So Uncle Woody dug up some worms in a soup can, rigged a couple of poles, stuffed my brother, Timmy, and I in his Ford pickup, and drove us to the Lost River.

Standing in soggy riverbank weeds, Uncle Woody, handed us poles with squiggly worms on the hook and said, “Push the button and cast it out there,”

Timmy did great, but I flubbed it.  After four or five miserable attempts, Uncle Woody impatiently snatched the pole from my hand.

“No!  No!  That’s not how it’s done.  Watch closely, boy, and I’ll show you exactly what to do.”

He drew back and let the line fly — straight up —  into the limbs of the oak towering above us, and let out a few choice Wesleyan Methodist expletives.

“Aw, Fiddlesticks!  Dagummit!  Criminy Christmas!”

The fishing line tangled around a branch, and dangled far above our heads. Befuddled Uncle Woody sputtered, and jerked the pole to no avail.

Eventually he boosted Timmy up into the tree for a climbing search and rescue mission, but the line was far beyond his reach.  I just watched forlornly in the hot August sun.

After a couple hours of futile efforts, Uncle Woody finally had enough.  He yanked hard, and snapped the line, leaving the bobber and worm swinging happily in the tree.  Stuffing us back into his pickup, a sullen Uncle Woody drove back to the White House in silence.  I wondered why his face was so red.

On that dusty drive, I decided fishing was not for me.  “After all,” I thought, “It’s no fun.  It’s hot and miserable,  a frustrating waste of time, and the pressure is almost unbearable.

That’s what I believed, and never cast another line for years — until I moved to Hayward,Wisconsin and discovered, to my delight, there’s much more to fishing than the Uncle Woody method.

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