Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Found: New Young Writer

Anthony Doerr, age 28, writes short stories. Has lived many interesting places. Has published in prestigious publications. Likes fishing. Check out his collection, The Shell Collector. Many thanks to Terri Windling for bringing Doerr to my attention when she published his story "The Hunter's Wife" in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Fifteenth Annual Collection. He also has a very good story, The Snake Handler," in the Fall 2002 issue of Zoetrope.

Speaking of Fishing...
I started fishing as a small child off the dock at my parent's cabin in Wisconsin. We had these small orange ice fishing rods that were the perfect size for us and catching little sunnies and perch. I remember my grandpa bending down to get a new worm for me after he'd just taken a little sunny off my hook. While he was digging in the dirt, my hook slipped in and I'd already caught another one. They were that easy to catch. It didn't take long before our parents made us start taking off our own fish. I don't know why getting the fish off the hook for the first time was so traumatic. I think we were worried about cutting ourselves on the fins and hurting the fish. That first time took forever. We stood crying on the dock holding the rod and towing the fish around in the water, while our parent's sat looking down on us from the deck. They showed no mercy. In and out of the water, the fish would go until we finally were desperate enough to wrap our hand over the fin and guide the hook out its gasping mouth.

We moved on to casting rods and bigger fish as we got older. I was ten or eleven years old when I caught my first northern pike. I was in the motor boat with my dad, and he held the fish up in the air proclaiming it was a keeper. I told him to release the fish back into the lake. He refused and said we'd be eating it that weekend. I told him that I'd never fish again if he didn't put it back. He wouldn't, and I haven't. It wasn't a hard vow to keep because I only really fished to keep my dad company. We still went out in the boat together after that, but I sat reading a book and suntanning while he trolled.

Sand Lake isn't a huge lake but it does get pretty deep, about 60 feet deep. Sometimes, after a water skiing wipe out in the middle of the lake, I'd float waiting for the boat to come around and think about how much water was around me and what that water could be hiding. There is a lake legend of a huge muskie (muskellunge). All the fisherman have a story about hooking it only to lose it when someone was slow with the net or the line broke. A neighbor had a nice sized walleye on the line when a much larger muskie came up and grabbed it. One time, my grandpa had a muskie hooked that he knew he'd have trouble landing. He brought it up along side the boat and called my grandma over with the net. She took one look at the monster and said, "Don't you dare bring that in the boat."

The best source of muskie stories was the late Gearhard Heineke, or as we knew him, the Muskie Fisherman. He was so good that he had Muskie skulls covering his barn and the fence posts that lined his property the way some people have antlers. When he came by in the boat, he'd sometimes stop in to have a beer with my dad. He had a net in his boat for muskies that could have held any of us kids. He told us that on top of dining on biggest fish in the lake, muskies also ate duckings, muskrats and daydreaming children. I'm pretty sure he was right about the first two. I'm not going to venture a guess on the last one.

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