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One of those days


June 14, 2001|By AL KALIN, Special to this newspaper

At 18 the Vietnam War was top news of the day and a lottery was held to determine the order of the draft.

I was picked 13th. It was one of those days, but a student deferment kept the draft board at bay for a few years as I continued with school.

The draft board suspected I had enough credits to graduate because I'd taken almost all the courses the college offered, including game bird management, general blacksmithing, cheese- making, small engine repair and meat wrapping. But when the board discovered I was teaching a fly-tying course at a nearby junior college I found myself in Louisiana complements of Uncle Sam.

Because of him, I missed opening day of duck season that year. On the morning of the opener I was standing in formation for roll call. It was foggy and water dripped softly from the pine trees. The bare bulbs outside the barracks looked fuzzy as they glowed faintly in those few minutes before darkness turns into a shimmer of daylight. The fog was thick enough to blank out all noise and most of the light. It was like we were on an island, separated from the rest of the world.


I didn't realize how lonely and homesick I was until a flight of snow geese, calling in desperation for guidance, appeared out of the fog and then just as quickly was absorbed into the swirling mist and disappeared from view. When the drill sergeant called my name, I was so choked up I could barely speak.

"Kalin, what in the hell is wrong with you?" he bellowed.

"It's one of those days, drill sergeant," I mumbled.

"Well get on down and give me 25 push-ups. We'll see if the day gets better," he replied.

Next they sent me to Fort Sill, Okla., to learn a trade. You remember those ads? The ones that said, "Join the Army, learn a trade"? My certificates proclaimed me to be a top Army tank fixer. If your Army tank ever breaks down, I'm the one to call.

During my training at Fort Sill there was a three-day weekend marked on the calendar. I had a fishing trip planned to Grand Lake, where relatives lived, but a tornado alert developed and nobody could leave the base, so I ended up at the base sporting goods store looking over the fishing tackle.

An old Apache ran the store. The store was deserted and we talked fishing for awhile and I commented about missing out on the fishing trip and how it was just one of those days. He nodded his understanding and said, "Some days you get the buffalo, and some days the buffalo gets you."

Saturday the buffalo got me. It was 7 a.m. when Gerry and I arrived at Red Hill. Tunney Williams and his young protégé, Jackie, had already limited out and were loading their boat on the trailer. Jackie said Tunney looked 10 years younger after catching a 20-pounder.

We launched and ran to Tunney's spot but I couldn't get a bite. Gerry caught one. Then we went to Black Rock, but still no bite. Motoring to deeper water, Gerry caught a nice keeper and I lost two. Running to Jack's Hole, I hooked a whopper but after battling it back to the boat twice it came up and spit out the croaker I had used for bait. Gerry baited up a croaker and caught another double-digit fish. Then the bite died.

It was past noon, but we refused to quit and went back to Tunney's spot. I hooked another big fish on a Swimbait but as I guided the fish to the boat, my line hit Gerry's line and somehow the fish came loose as my lure slid up his line.

Moving to deeper water, I rigged up a croaker and cast it out. A corvina took it but after setting the hook I was cut off by barnacles, so I rigged up another croaker and almost instantly another corvina was well hooked but my line broke. When I retrieved my line it had a curly-Q on the end, a sign I had tied a poor knot. Gerry caught two more and he started kidding me about being the net-boy and wondering out loud if I would invite him to go fishing again.

As 3 p.m. approached, drinking water was short and we moved to the old jetty at Red Hill. Gerry caught another nice corvina and I lost another big one. Slowly drifting back toward Black Rock, it began to really get hot as the breeze died. We were both sunburned and I had yet to land a corvina. Gerry caught another one and at 5 p.m. I hooked a croaker on a silver spoon and a big corvina inhaled the croaker. I landed my first fish of the day, 10 hours after we had started fishing.

We quit after that. It had been one of those days. Sometimes you get the buffalo and sometimes the buffalo gets you!

Outdoor Tales writer Al Kalin can be reached on the Internet at

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