Friday, January 20, 2006

Goin' Fishin'

When I was three, or four, or five, long before I ever heard of Disneyland or amusement parks, we would go to carnivals and church bazaars, and town homecomings. Each offered things to do. They had games to make little girls’ eyes light up and to make daddies smile and spend more quarters.

Sometimes there were carousels with wild horses that offered a friendly face each time I made it round to where my mom was. Sometimes there were cars—just my size—that I could pretend to drive around a circle. Once my dad even arranged for me to ride on a real elephant when we were at the circus. Gosh it was high up there, really high up there and swaying.

At carnivals and such I could usually find floating ducks to pull out of the water to get a prize. My brothers would try to knock down bottles stacked at the back of some tent and fail miserably. They’d always laugh at each other. There used to be a game where I could watch. A white mouse would run around a spinning circle to find a colored hole to hide inside. The ones who picked that color won a prize. I didn’t see who won. I was watching where the mouse went. I always wondered where he hid underneath that spinning circle.

The big kids games were too amazing and confusing for me. I didn’t think the mouse liked them either.
There was one game, though, that I could count on being there at almost every event, even at the grade school Turkey dinner—Goin’ Fishin’

This ubiquitous little tradition was easy for everyone. All it took was a long stick, a clothespin, some string, mixed prizes that you could buy 100 for next to nothing, and a hanging curtain that you borrowed from the people down the street, who had one laying around in their attic.

Boyhowdy, it was so easy to set up a Goin’ Fishin’ Game that my best friend, Craig, and I did it when we were seven in my basement one time for our whole neighborhood. We were Jr. Entrepreneurs. I think we made $7. 25 from it. It’s a wonder that some kid’s parents didn’t complain about the prizes we gave. It’s a wonder that my younger, older brother didn’t complain about the prizes either. I bet most of them came from his junk drawer—that’s where the family treasures were. At least they were the family treasures to me.

The game was simple. That’s why I liked it. A person would sit behind the curtain with the prizes, and another would stand in front with the fishing line—the string attached to the stick, the clothespin attached to the string.. The child, that’s me, who played the game, would hand over the cost to go fishing, and the game would begin.

The person in front would hand the stick to the me and throw the string over the curtain. The one in back would attach a prize to the clothespin on the string. A tug would pull on the line, like a fish might do. Then I would hear, “You’ve caught a fish!” With a smile, I’d very carefully pull back the string to find out what my surprise might be. It was always small, but it was always good.

That’s why I liked Goin’ Fishin’.

There was always a surprise. It was always small, but it was always good.

Wouldn’t it be nice, if life could work like that?

I might just put out a sign that says, “If you need me tomorrow, I’m sorry. I’m goin’ fishin’.”
—me strauss Letting me be


Jennifer said...

Morning Liz

What a wonderful story. Can you believe I've never played 'Gone Fishin'. What a deprived life I've lead.

I think I might join you in taking a day off to just go fishing :)

ME Strauss said...

Hi Jennifer,
Here's some juice. Old fashioned orange today, I think. I think you'll have to come over. I get some cheesy carnival prizes and we'll have a Fishing Booth right here. :)

Jennifer said...

I'm in! I'll bring some pastries to go along with that good old-fashin orange juice and we'll have ourselves a little fishin' party.

ME Strauss said...

Yeah, maybe we'll get some of those Chinese finger puzzles as prizes. They're so cool.

Sassy said...

I wish life was like that. Im the mouse trying to find a hole to hide in. I'd love to play gone fishin. Never have. Great story.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Sassy,
I had a funny feeling that most people younger than me had never played "Goin' Fishin'" It's really silly, but romantic in it's homey kind of way.
Thank you, Sassy. I'm so glad you came.