I am sure I am not alone when I say that every so often I think about my time left on this earthly plane.
Sure, it could end at any moment -- it could even end as I am writing this. I don't dwell on these thoughts, but when you get to that last third or so of your life cycle, these thoughts creep in there more often.
These thoughts started when I was offshore the other day and I began thinking about a good friend of mine, Warren Matthews, who died in my arms as we were fishing about 40 miles out. He wasn't just a friend; he was probably the best friend I ever had. We were Mutt and Jeff, and every time we got together to fish or hunt or anything, I would always come home with a smile on my face.
It was a massive heart attack that took him away in 2005, but I still think about him just about every time I go fishing. He is like a my patron saint and, like his boat's name, The Reel Lucky, every time I have my private conversations with him before fishing, I always seem to have ridiculous luck catching fishing.
The part of this story that is somewhat embarrassing is I think about him more than I think about other close friends I have lost, even family members. I try and figure out why this is and hope that is more of a defense mechanism than anything else. I will admit that I seem to shut down my feelings after losing someone near and dear to me -- such as my parents, my brother, Tim, and my sister, Alice.
So what will be my legacy, if any, after I am gone? Will anyone think about me like I think about my buddy Warren? These thoughts don't keep me up at night but I think I might have my answer.
I was extremely lucky to have a father who introduced me to fishing and the outdoors when I was barely able to walk. The youngest of five children, I was by far the only one in the brood who fell in love with fishing -- almost to a fault. It interfered with my schooling (or maybe it was the other way around), it took precedent over girlfriends during my teen years, and it even dominated my dreams at night. Then, when I had kids of my own, I knew they were going to fish -- whether they liked it or not. Luckily, they both learned to love the outdoors and though now grown, they still hop at every chance to get outside.
Even during my child-rearing days, I adopted other kids who wanted to try fishing. Some didn't have fathers and others simply had fathers who didn't fish, so I was asked to take them out. Almost to a person, each of these kids now fishes whenever possible or has gone on to fish professionally. Hopefully, these are going to be the few who think about me after I am long gone.
My ego isn't such that I feel the need to be remembered, but one thing my folks instilled in each one of their kids was the importance of getting out there to help people. Of all the things my folks taught each of us, that one thing seemed to stick. I love teaching kids to fish. I have mentored a number of kids since they were knee high to a grasshopper, and today they are grown-ups, but you know what? They are all still fanatical fisher people.
Just the other day I was standing in front of my house when Joe Fraser Jr. pulled up with his dad, whom I have known pretty much all my life. Joe Sr. and I had fished together many times and just before they departed Joe Jr. said, "Collins, you just never found the need to grow up, did you?" At the time I didn't know what to think of that question but as I thought about it later, I was flattered.
Nope, I never did grow up and I attribute this to all the kids I have spent time with while I taught them to fish.
Even with so many of my students now grown, I have taken on a new crop of kids who call me regularly to ask me the same question: "When will take me fishing again?"
Yep, this will be my legacy and if I dropped dead today, the coroner will have a heck of time wiping the smile off my face.
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.