After last night's storm, walking into work I can't help but notice the smell in the air. Some may describe it as a spring smell, but what I notice is the smell of worms. The big plump, juicy ones that wind their way around the granulated dirt in a white styrofoam cup. The kind made for fishing.
My dad is a fisherman. Just to clarify, though, I don't mean like the record holding, line wrestling, competitive, stuffed carcasses on the wall kind of fisherman; much less than all that. Really, he's kind of an awful fisherman, and I can say that without hurting his feelings because he is a self-proclaimed awful fisherman. All my life I can remember spending summers on a piece-of-junk rented boat going 10 miles an hour full throttle, or swinging my legs at the end of the dock with a pole in the water practicing my patience.
More times than not, when one of my siblings, my dad, or I "caught" something it was actually a tree. I couldn't even begin to count the number of hooks we would lose. Nonetheless, day after day, we would head to the dock at our favorite fishing resort on Bull Shoals Lake and sit in silence waiting for the big bite.
Now as time has gone on, the opportunities for these fishing trips have become fewer and fewer and those silent, albeit fish-less, moments have become more rare. Sitting in a boat with my sunburned, patient-as-a-saint dad, wearing his wicker fishing hat, pursing his lips in concentration, finding just the right spacing for my hook, weight, and bobber, and (the best part) shrugging, as if to say, "Heck, I don't know, try it!" just doesn't happen each summer after school lets out. And I miss it.
However, this brings me to the conflicted vegetarian. The whole concept of fishing for fun has begun to cause moral conflict for me. In my adult life I have become a vegetarian. Through my journey to find my reasoning and my comfort level with my daily diet I have eliminated all animals, including fish, and have become much more active in animal rights as well.
So when my sister asked me to go fishing last summer, embarrassed about my own feelings, but wanting to share these moments with her, I halfheartedly agreed. How could I participate in the torture of innocent pond-scum dwellers? Even thinking of the worms, how could I knowingly sacrifice my wiggly little nightcrawler friends, all in my quest for a bonding experience with my sister? Selfishly, I did just that.
Luckily, as they say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, (thanks, dad!) and we caught absolutely nothing. Conflicted and embarrassed again, my inner voice cheered thinking of the fishies we had spared.
Going forward, I'm not so sure I will fish again in an effort to enjoy a bonding experience with my family. Though I feel a little sad about this, like because of my moral beliefs, and my care for animals I'm throwing away the opportunity at nostalgia, at seeing that shrug from my dad as he helps me set up my line. I don't want to miss these experiences with my dad, and I don't want to regret not continuing to participate in something he enjoys so much. But you know what else my dad enjoys? Ice cream. And I have to admit that not even the smell of worms can stand up to ice cream in my book.