Brian J., The Gods of Copybook Headings, and Smelt Fishing

So my wife showed me this meme on her Facebook feed:

And it reminded me of smelt fishing with my dad.

As I said:

Although I’ve never bitten the head off of one, so I’m not properly initiated.

I remember going one night with my father, where he and his buddies waded out into Lake Michigan with what seemed like a finer meshed tennis net, dragging a bunch of the small fish onto the beach. I mean, they were tiny, enough that my brother and I could easily wrap our elementary school fists around them.

My father tried to convince us that you weren’t a real smelt fisherman unless you bit the head off of one. I don’t know if that’s an actual smelt fishing tradition, or if my father was joking with us, but my brother actually did bite the head off of one. So in our family, he’s that one kid. Or maybe my father was.

Of course, I also remember from that trip putting my finger on the top of a lantern and burning it until it blistered. So I cannot make it out like I’m the smart brother.

As a matter of fact, as Kipling noted:

That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

Years later, at my grandfather’s cabin in northern Michigan, I remember holding a completed sparkler and watching its metal turn from red to carbon color and touching it to see if it was cool. Which is was not.

Definitely not the smart brother.

(But, yes, I eventually learned the meaning of “hot,” thanks.)

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