Life is Heald: At the trout farm, my cane pole passed for the Statue of Liberty

The Heald boys and the three trout that they helped escape from drastic overcrowding in their homeland. Eventually, all three landed work in the oil business. 
  
 Submitted photo

The Heald boys and the three trout that they helped escape from drastic overcrowding in their homeland. Eventually, all three landed work in the oil business. Submitted photo

As far as I know, the wife is not related to Howard Hughes and she certainly saw no windfall when Howard passed away. Oddly, she did seem to inherit his legendary fear of germs. And nowhere was this more evident than when she quarantined us upon the birth of our first child. For six weeks, she said, "We have to stay home."For better or worse, in sickness and in health, all that crap made sense now.

Surely, the boy and I would've been excused had we taken to gallivanting naked through the hillside at six weeks and one day. And don't think it didn't cross my mind either, you know everybody always "oohs" and "ahhhs" over cute little naked baby pictures. It was the other pictures, the non-baby ones, that kind of soured me on the idea. It was gonna be a heckuva lot longer than six weeks if the blue lights and a badge crowd caught sight of me streaking with the stroller.

The wife let up a bit when Tyler's twin brothers arrived 22 months later, but only because she'd been confined to bedrest for the last three months of pregnancy. She'd even taken to carving the days in the wall, like prisoners do. I finally had to put her on plastic spoons after she got through the drywall. We've always told the twins their's was a most joyous pregnancy for their mother and why should they question us? What with the nuclear morning sickness compliments of their cloned conception and the constant calls from the Realtors wanting to advertise on the side of her stomach, good times were there for the taking.

As soon as the boys were old enough to travel, I called my parents at their place in the north Georgia mountains and told them to leave the light on for us.

My grand dreams of hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon with backpacked babies and snowmobiling with babysitter sidecars had been snuffed by the wife courtesy of a colorful and profane inquiry as to the existence of even microscopic evidence that my intelligence surpassed that of a mushroom.

The first couple of years, these trips were more for the wife and I, the boys spending the majority of their time being chaperoned by "Barney" the purple dinosaur. (In hindsight, we may have allowed them to get a bit dependent on Barney, seeing as how the twins came home one day from first grade nearly catatonic upon hearing that dinosaurs were extinct.) Eventually, the boys, of which I count myself, grew restless and we set out to discover the world beyond Barney. This triggered the wife's "Reverend Jim Jones" response, the immediate barking of the word "no" whenever the boys or I dared to contemplate life outside Jonestown. Us boys decided it was go time one afternoon when the wife made a pitcher of Kool-Aid and was adamant that we have a glass.

Every year on the way up the mountain, we'd see a sign for "Andy's Trout Farm." We quickly learned this was a place where you could go and catch trout, and if you weren't really up to it, they'd just catch themselves for you. If it wasn't the birthplace of "shooting fish in a barrel," it was definitely a franchise.

The best way to describe the fish scene in the pond is to imagine that famous picture of the last Americans being evacuated by helicopter from the embassy in Saigon at the end of the Vietnam war. Our cane pole was a Huey with room for one and the hook was a hand up to freedom.

Let's face it, most of us don't like to fish, we like to catch fish. Andy's does not discriminate based on skill, not between those who could catch Moby Dick with a coat hanger and those of us who couldn't get a nibble from Jaws in our swimming pool with Captain Quint dipped in steak sauce.

It wasn't so much that the trout had the itch to travel and see the world as it was an issue of overcrowding. The look in their eyes, and believe me, you could see their eyes, said, "get me outta here, buddy, please!" It was looking at 3-D fish wallpaper. There were so many fish, had this been biblical times, there would've been at least one plausible explanation as to how Jesus walked on water. You would assume the trout farm was "catch and release," but where would that leave Andy? As caretaker not to a school, but a whole college of trout, all in need of dental. Consequently, you keep what you catch at Andy's, and therein lies the rub. And dinner.

That night, safely back within the confines of the compound, Reverend Jim Jones, a.k.a. Mom, cooked the boys their very first trout, a deep-fried welcome to the wonderful world of "you eat what you kill." They weren't really buying what Daniel Boone was selling. To them, fish belonged in a plastic bag when you came home from the fair, not on your plate next to your macaroni and cheese. The boys, unlike the residents circling the barrel down at Andy's, weren't biting.

- - -

Regrettably, their trout farm training left the boys unprepared for the rigors of "real" fishing and they quit after 73 long seconds, claiming, "We should've caught a bunch by now." Kevin can be reached at LIFEisHEALD@yahoo.com.

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