Tribute to my fatherJune 1, 2021
By LARRY LAGRANGE
This Father’s Day month, I often call to mind the good times my dad, Clyde, and I had together. I just hope I’m doing something similar with my boys, now men, and my grandchildren. I have this nagging guilt feeling that I’m not doing enough to connect with them. They don’t live locally, but that’s no excuse. If you have kids or grandkids, I hope you’re exposing them to the wonders of the outdoors in whatever ways work for you. You have to take the lead to get it done though.
Dad loved to bass fish. Playing guitar and composing music would be next on his favorites list. With his elementary teaching job and teaming with Mom to run our grocery store/gas station in St. Croix, he always found time to promote progress for rural northern Perry County. He was on boards that created water access, electric and telephone lines, and he thought it was time that Perry Central built a modern school complex complete with indoor plumbing.
In 1965 when I graduated from the old Oil Township/PC (the name changed in 1962 after consolidation with Bristow), we had outdoor toilets and very limited educational facilities. The new school was started in 1967. Surprisingly, I don’t recall us students complaining that much about the stinky johns. The boys were more aggravated that we didn’t have a home venue for basketball. We practiced in the St. Augustine Church gym in Leopold, and some Oil Township games were played there in the 1950s, but not by my time in the early 1960s. In hoop season, we hit the road every Friday night, heading east to Blue River Conference members Lanesville, Milltown, Marengo, Leavenworth, English, North and South Central and others. Mom and Dad attended most of my games, which took quite a bit of effort with their store work schedule.
Dad never got into bluegill, crappie or any other species. He got hooked on bass fishing, and eventually I followed suit. Our after-school May/June trips to Kentucky Lake in the 1960s and 1970s are fond memories. Dad had started fishing the big lake back in the 1950s with some of his cousins. They mostly worked at General Electric in Tell City and got vacation time around the first of June. Another worker at GE had put them onto a lake location near Paris Tenn., which provided shallow cover and narrowed down the giant lake to a more manageable size.
This area had six or seven 100-yard-long willow tree islands within motoring distance of Whitie’s Resort, which had comfortable cabins right on the water. If the season was favorable and the spring had been cool, in late May the shad spawn would occur in the island weed beds. At first inkling of light, one could hear the little flips of the shad working in the weeds, and often the bass would follow them and provide close quarters action. Other years, if the season was warm, the shad would have spawned and the bass would have moved out on the deeper ledges where they were inaccessible to us. This was before the depth finder days. After about 8 a.m., the bite was over. But up till then, it could be fast action. I do recall after one non-productive trip asking Dad if we could go fishing at a farm pond after we got home. I hadn’t caught anything at all. I think Dad took me a day or two later.
In the years following, he and I had many fishing adventures together. Dad and Mom also made trips to Florida where he connected with some fellows who took him out on Kissimmee and Okeechobee. I have some photos of him proudly holding up his southern catches. Mom would accompany him at times, and she was able to catch something now and then. They enjoyed fishing Patoka together in their later years. In the 1990s, Turtle Creek Reservoir near Sullivan was a favorite spot of ours. Even into his mid-eighties, he was still able to catch fish at a private lake one of my former students graciously allowed us to use. It had a good population of fish, and he could usually land a bass or two. It was soothing for his ego to think that he still had the touch.
Especially this time of year I miss my dad. But then I try to redirect my thinking to how much outdoor time I’m spending with my family. I’m blessed to have two of three sons who enjoy fishing and hunting, and the third is a golfing buddy. Of my six grandkids, three of the four boys are into guns or hunting, and one of the two girls is nutty about fishing. On the other hand, my wife says I keep her out in the boat too long and she’s hesitant to trust me. I’m working on that.
Thanks, Dad, for all you did for our family and Perry County. Your legacy lives on. Well done.
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