I guess I’m getting old enough that I need to expect things like this to happen. I was in the newspaper business for about 30 years before I joined South Carolina Sportsman in 2007. During that time, I covered about every sporting event possible, from NASCAR races to pro golf, minor-league baseball and hockey and college and high-school sports of all kinds.
About 10 years ago, I noticed something in a high-school football program. Playing for one of the teams that night were sons of players I had covered in the late 1970s and early 1980s. To tell you the truth, it made me feel dog-gone old. Then, kids started showing up in the Sunday School class I teach whose parents I had taught in Sunday School 20 years ago. I think I’ve had about 10 of those “second-generation” kids so far. I could almost hear my bones start to creak.
I never thought it might spill over into the outdoors, but it has.
To set the stage, in 1985, I started writing an outdoors column for a newspaper. In 1991, I was introduced to a man from Warner Robins, Ga., N.G. Sisson, who was an official for one of those crappie tournaments that were so popular back then. You know the ones; you paid $5 to enter at the tackle shop, and for a month, if you caught a tagged crappie at that lake, you turned it in, and they sent you anywhere from $25 to $1,000.
Mr. Sisson took me fishing one morning — it was the first time I’d ever seen a multiple-rod trolling set-up — and we caught about 120 fish that he tagged and released into the lake.
This past July, I had to write a crappie-fishing story for a sister magazine, North Carolina Sportsman, because a writer had a health issue and couldn’t finish a story he’d been assigned. My wife volunteered that one of her school-teaching buddies had a husband who fished crappie tournaments. A couple of phone calls got us on the lake in time for me to do research, take photos, write the story and get it in the magazine.
On the water that day, I found out my guide for the day was originally from Warner Robins, Ga. I mentioned the trip I’d taken way back yonder with the man from Warner Robins, said I couldn’t remember his name, and wondered if my host knew who it might have been. He said his father had worked for companies that ran those tournaments on one or two occasions, then he named some of the hometown guys who were pro fishermen, but their names didn’t sound familiar.
I told him, “You know, I don’t remember his last name, but this guy I fished with went by his initials.”
And my host, Danny Sisson, said, “My dad’s name is Nathaniel, but he went by his initials, N.G.”
I had this strange feeling, like the sun breaking through the clouds. I looked up the old story when I got home that night. Yep, I’ve now written about another father and son, two decades apart. Danny is around my age; his dad, who remembered our trip, is now 82. I feel old, again.