Back when I was just 4 years old I got up early one morning to see what was so great about the doggone sunrise thing that everybody was always talking about. However, it turned out to be a cloudy day, and all I got to see, other than plenty of clouds, was some ants, which came out of a nest, and — I could hardly believe my eyes! — flew away.
Naturally, when I tried telling the kids in the neighborhood that some ants had wings, they told me I was nuts; and I couldn’t ask Mom about it because I had sneaked out of the house and crossed the street, which I wasn’t supposed to do.
Three years later, after having been ribbed by the kids for years about “Garrett’s flying ant circus,” my second grade teacher at PS-16 took us to the library one day and got us library cards. And when she showed us how to use the encyclopedia I looked up ants, found out why some ants have wings, and had the last laugh on the kids.
From that day to this one, books have meant a lot to me. Whenever I run across something I don’t know I go to the library, find the right book, bring it home, and dig into it that night in bed.
Doing that has become a lifetime habit. Which brings us to today’s subject. I have read a lot of introductions in a lot of books, but there is one I will never forget.
In 1967, Lolly, the kids, and I were transferred to an Air Force base in Missouri, which had a small lake. Lolly found out that there were fish in the lake; and being a great seafood fan, she asked me to go catch her some fish.
Unfortunately, I knew about as much about fishing as I did about Greek and Latin. I didn’t even own a fishing pole, and never had. Freshwater fishing was not something kids learned about in New York City; and even in New London, where I grew from a pre-teen to an adult, I had had no chance to learn anything about fishing because the lakes and streams in that part of Connecticut were fished out.
So? Step one when Lolly asked me to catch her some fish? Off to the base library.
However the only fishing book on the shelves of our library was a sad looking thing just a half-inch thick. I picked it up, eyed it doubtfully, and turned to the introduction, thinking, “Shoot! What can I learn about fishing from a book that’s only a half-inch thick?”
And you know how that introduction began?
“I know what you’re thinking,” it said. “You’re asking yourself what you can learn about fishing from a book that’s only half an inch thick. Well, if you go fishing today and you don’t catch any fish, it won’t be because of something you don’t know, it’ll be because of all the things you do know that just ain’t so!”
Hey! That got me reading that book. In fact, I read it from cover to cover twice. And what I learned from that thin little book made more sense than anything I have ever read in any other book on freshwater fishing.
Wait till I tell you what the author did to get down to the nitty-gritty when it came to catching fish!