An Outdoor View: Everything is about fishing

Author’s note: My favorite outdoor writer/humorist, Ed Zern (1910-1994), left a legacy of ridiculous and hilarious stories. His ghost sometimes visits me, causing me to write something like what follows. — LP


At a recent meeting of the Greater South Sterling Rod and Gun Club, a friend who I’ll call “Bob” — he likes Bob more than his real name, Cosmo — asked why I never write or talk about anything but fishing. I replied that it wasn’t because I couldn’t write at some length about hide-and-seek, kick-the-can, Alaskan badminton (mosquito zapping) or countless other outdoor pursuits, but why write about anything else when everything is about fishing? The next thing I knew, he was betting me a round of drinks that I couldn’t tell a story that wasn’t about fishing.

“You’re on,” I said. “I do other things besides fish, I’ll have you know.

“I once gave golfing a try,” I told the assemblage. “Even took a few lessons. One day I invited a lady friend along. Despite it being the first time she had played, we made steady, albeit slow, progress through the course. The trouble was her putting. I figured it was her grip. Reaching around her from behind, I moved her hands to the proper position and told her to go ahead. She did, and — would you believe it? — her ball rolled a good 15 feet and dropped right into the cup.

“In her excitement, she hopped up and down a couple of times, and that must’ve been when the draw string on my sweat pants became caught in the zipper on the back of her skirt. If there hadn’t been such a nice day, if a lot of other people hadn’t been on the course, and if I had known her better, it would’ve been no big deal. But it was embarrassing, being attached to each other the way we were, while other golfers played through.

“I have an idea,” I told her. Pointing at some nearby bushes, I said. “Let’s just practice-putt our way over there, where we can untangle ourselves in privacy.”

“She readily agreed, and we started out, practice-putting toward the bushes. We were making good progress, too, until a shaggy dog jumped out of the bushes and threw a bucket of cold water on us.”

The groans of my fellow club members, instead of discouraging me, had the opposite effect. I carried on.

“You may have heard about Twiggy, the famous squirrel that waterskis behind a little electric-motor- powered boat in a pond at boat shows, but have you heard about Willie and Jimbo, the squirrels who run the ski boat? No? I thought not. While Twiggy got all the applause and attention, Willie and Jimbo were like the drivers who have to drive Beyoncé and Taylor Swift around. Those unappreciated squirrels ran that boat for years, and no one ever noticed them.

“Then one day at the Milwaukee boat show, Willie and Jimbo were pulling Twiggy around the usual tight circles, and Twiggy was getting all the usual applause, when something must’ve snapped. Willie spun the wheel, causing Twiggy to lose her grip and fall into the pond.

Jamming the throttle lever forward, Willie sent the boat flying over a low barrier and into Lake Michigan.

“A funny thing happened then. No one even noticed that Twiggy was floundering, waiting to be rescued. Instead, the spectators were watching and cheering wildly as the little ski boat headed for open water and freedom.

“No one knows for certain what ever became of Willie and Jimbo. For a while, a rumor was circulating that they had rigged the boat with downriggers and outriggers and were chartering it out to sporting squirrels who wanted to go out on Lake Michigan for cohos and chinook. More recently, it was rumored that they had passed the Coast Guard exam, and were fitting out the boat for guiding on the Kenai River.”

“That does it!” Bob said. “Set ‘em up, barkeep, and put ‘em on his tab!”

Moral: Never wager a round of drinks when there are 17 members present.


Les Palmer can be reached at

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