Traditions set the rhythm of our lives
Last week I was telling a friend who grew up in New Jersey about how important the ACC tournament is here in North Carolina. When I was a kid, everyone in the class would bring small transistor radios to school and we would prepare for the noon time game. By prepare I mean we would run our little earphones up our shirt and out our long sleeves. When it became game time, we would prop our heads up with our hands which would conceal the earphones located in our ears. I remember vividly a highly recruited freshman from Georgia Tech taking the ball and running in for an open layup in which a highly favored Carolina team just kind of cleared the way for him. Unfortunately for Mark Price, he scored on the wrong goal and after the game joked how he always wanted to score a basket for Carolina.
This became a tradition amongst us each year as March Madness approached.
Traditions are interesting, as they are basically a ritual that involves more than one person. One of my favorite traditions is opening day of dove season. It has become a tradition to be in the field on opening day whether rain or shine. Over the past few years the day has been very rewarding as far as numbers of birds and numbers of shots. Generation after generation share the field and you never see anyone without a smile on their face.
Also in my younger years, my dad used to convince me to go duck hunting with him on Thanksgiving morning. By convince I mean ‘made’ me go. I hated the cold unless there was a football and running around going on. But mixing the cold and the water and the biting wind was a little too much for me. It never became a tradition in our household. Probably because I dreaded it at the time (of course now, I look forward to those moments!) we just never did it on a consistent annual basis.
About five years ago I got involved in something that I never thought would have become a tradition. I was interested in learning more about bowfishing and had been told of a place where the longnose gar was plentiful. That March I drove down to the creek and started walking up and down the banks. There, in one of the shallow rapids, I saw a strange fish leaping, splashing, and flopping over the river rocks. It was as close to a scene of Alaskan Salmon spawning as I had ever seen in person. There were hundreds of them.
After some research, I came to find out these fish made the spawn on just about the same week every year. They would bottle up at this end of the creek due to a dam about a half mile upstream blocking further progression. I also found out they were legal to bowfish and gig for.
I carried my new bowfishing gear out and after dozens of shots I finally hit my first fish. Since then I have become much more proficient at bowfishing, and have hunted many species with the bow with an arrow attached by string.
I have also introduced many to the sport during this annual spawn run, including my son and daughter. Now, each year, as March comes in, I head down to the creek to look for signs of the redhorse sucker. Again, it has become a tradition.
The redhorse sucker can be found anywhere from 3 ½ pounds to 6 pounds. The current North Carolina state bowfishing record is 7 pounds. When you think of how big these fish are and the numbers of them in such a quick flowing low water stream it can be awe inspiring. The fish has a beautiful orange glow with a deeper orange tint on the ends of its fins and tail. First glance and it will remind you of a common carp or an oversized streamlined goldfish.
It is also very tasty considering it feeds off the bottom of the river bed.
As far as the tradition, my daughter is probably the most excited. She bounces with joy with the mention of the sucker run. In fact, we recently hit the banks of the water several times both during the day and at night. My youngest son can’t wait until he is old enough to draw back the bow.
Unlike carp, the suckers are not invasive nor or they detrimental to the river system. So we hunt them in moderation, only taking a few. Those few made for good meals. But we know not to overdo it so our tradition can continue.
• Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for The Enquirer-Journal. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org