Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fermilab Fishing: The Good Old Days

Fermilab Fishing: The Good Old Days

Not long after Close Encounters came out. My father woke up very excited one morning telling the family how he had a magnificent dream. I ate my Cocoa Pebbles as my father described a secret military base where aliens lived in colored houses and bred buffalo to eat. My father then drew a series of symbols and signs and a map with buffalo, strange lakes, scientists, and odds shaped buildings. My sisters and I just sat there an laughed at the crazy old fart.

I had forgotten about it the next week when he told us we were going out breakfast. We did not go out to eat often so all of us were in. After a nice meal at the Golden Bear Family Restaurant Dad decided that we were going for ride. As we drove he told us he kept having that dream and its was more and more vivid and he had to drive and find this place. My sisters and I teased him and my mother laughed nervously like the hillbilly had lost his mind. He had mom hold the map drawn on a worn piece of paper with pencil. The guy was a pretty good artist too and the map looked pretty freaking cool. We turn down a skinny road away from route 59 and my mother says “Marty I don’t think we are allowed to drive down here” as we went past a guard gate. When we hit a row of colored houses my family crapped their collective pants. Blue, Orange, Red, and Green houses! HOLY CRAP! Then a herd of buffalo! WTF! My sisters and I were now begging the old man to turn around and go home. Then we drove past weird shaped buildings and I saw guys in lab coats going to their cars. “Dad get us the hell out of here!” My mom “Daniel Patrick Byrne watch your mouth!” Then We came up to the Squished building and my father finally spilled the beans about what Fermilab really was.

A few years later dad told me to grab my best friend Ben and load up the wagon, we are going fishin! As we drove he told us that he found out that you could fish at Fermilab! We got there and all we had was worms. The place was pretty busy. There were bass fisherman and cat fishermen lining the shores. As we set up I asked the guy near us why the water was steaming he said it never freezes they use it to cool the accelerator. COOL! We had a bluegill contest that day. We filled or buckets that we sat on with water to act as live wells. The old man yelled 1,2,3 go! It was a whirlwind of bluegills and bobbers. The high score from my dad was over a hundred. (OF COURSE HE WON) Ben got 80 or so and myself only 76. We let them go as we counted.

A few years Later Ben pulls up to my house on a cold January day and asks if I have any cash. He says he has an idea.  I jump in his beater and we start driving. We stop at the local sports store. He tells me we are going open water fishing. I ask how and he says "Fermilab dude" in his California punker way. We buy two Daiwa micros (these were basically over grown ice rods not big enough to be ultra lights). We then stop by jewel and by beef liver. I asked him why beef liver and not chicken but he would not answer. So Ben’s plan was to use tiny cubes of beef liver to catch the baby channel cats the flourished at Fermilab. Man it was a blast! We caught dozens anywhere from 2-10 inches. We also got stung more times than I ever had. It was a GREAT time!

We fished there on and off after that but the older I got the less I liked the crowd. The last time I went as a young man I went to the weeds to mark my territory and when I got back both my ugly sticks were gone.

A few winter nights we sat freezing covered with snow soaking gills waiting for the giant flatheads that were mythic legends said to wonder the warm waters. I never did hook one.

Much later I took my niece there only to find out that they stopped pumping a long time ago and the water was now muddy and filled with carp. Some fisherman said if I worked for them there was still some nice bass. Broken hearted I never returned to fish.
The memories there however, are carved in my mind like a fine marble statue however and I am very happy my father scared the crap out of us that day.

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