Vantage Point

Snips and Snails/Sugar and Spice

Far be it from me to take sides in the gender issue. I'm fully aware that if there weren't two genders we would have no issue.

But I was raised during a time when your gender determined how you were raised. Our family--one sister, no brothers, a mother and a father--provides a good example of how the world worked back then. We were a small family, but we were gender balanced: two of one, two of the other--not a bit out of kilter, at least statistically.

Because I was a young boy, I became the forward fixture in my dad's small fishing boat. He put me up there when I was too young to cast or even hold a pole, and he kept me there through years of two-to-three-a-week expeditions for bass, walleye, perch or bluegill. I remember him untangling my backlashes, tying on new lures, putting the hideous leeches on my hook and telling me where to cast.

I probably wasn't the best company. Prone to fidget, I didn't quietly put up with long waits between bites and was not at all stoic about freezing toes and fingers or an empty stomach. My lures constantly hung up, I once dropped his fishing pole overboard, and I remember his disappointment when I pulled too hard on a really big fish next to the boat so that it snapped the line. It's tough for me to admit, even now, that I might have been considered an aggravation.

I got better, of course. After a few years, it was as likely to be my idea to go fishing as my dad's, and we really filled up some stringers. When I finally obtained a driver's license, the first places I drove to were fishing holes. My dad's biggest complaint then was how the car smelled when I brought it home.

We lived near a lake and fished all year, even through the ice, but we took advantage of whatever else the seasons offered. We chased pheasant in the fall, rabbits in the winter. When we weren't actively harvesting something, we spent hours shooting at cardboard deer silhouettes on our backyard archery range. I received my first bow, a recurve, before I was strong enough to draw it.

In a backyard pen, we kept a springer spaniel to help us hunt birds, and it was my year-round job to keep Freckles in food and water. After dinner every night, I'd go out to take care of the dog, while my sister cleaned the table.

My sister grew up in the same family with the same parents and we weren't far apart in age, but she sure had a different life. Granted, she was much more obnoxious than I was, but my dad never took her on any fishing or hunting trips. She never received BB guns, fishing reels or hunting vests for birthdays or Christmas. I can't recall many details of how she spent her childhood. I remember she always earned better grades than I did, and she learned to play the piano and speak Polish. I learned neither. On the other hand, I'm absolutely sure she never caught a bass or a walleye--poor thing!

My dad was as good as they get, and I won't question whether he could or should have done more to include my sister in our outings. He lived two generations ago and was a product of his time and of his own upbringing. He was a darned sensible man, though, and I would bet that if he was 25 years old today and had a young son and daughter, he would make sure that both of them had a seat in his boat.

As a kind of epilogue, I might add that my sister married, but her marriage didn't last and she had to raise three sons on her own. They're good kids with a lot of potential. The three boys live in different cities, and two of them are starting their own families. You could scour all three of their houses from top to bottom--garages, basements, attics included-- and never come across a single fishing pole.

Tom Cwynar, Editor