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Give a Big Mack for Christmas

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POSTED December 10, 2012 12:01 a.m.

I’d like to share with you a gift idea for someone that you hold very dear. It’s best suited for kids, but it also it suitable for spouses, best friends, or anyone you really care for.  I began to fish when I was quite young. In fact I was so young that I don’t remember when I caught my first fish, nor when I got my first fishing rod. But I do remember Big Mack.

Big Mack was not a hamburger, but rather, an incredible trout that lived in a tremendous pool in a crystal clear trout stream. I remember how Dad would teach my Brother and I to be extremely careful as we approached his pool. We’d begin our stalk over a hundred yards away and stay low and far back from the water so he couldn’t see us. Ever so carefully, we’d inch our way out onto a boulder the size of a house and peer cautiously over the edge and down into the water. Seeing Big Mack was almost like seeing a ghost. At first, there was nothing but clear water and a rocky bottom. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, he would materialize in the current. “Careful now!”  Dad would whisper, “If we make just one sudden move, he’ll vanish as quickly as he appeared”.

I remember watching Dad as he’d strip line off the reel and make a false cast with his fly rod, then another, and another, until he had just the right amount of line out. Then came the cast and the fly would drift gently down and land near the head of the pool and drift along the edge of the current toward the base of the boulder. Watching Big Mack rise to the fly was like watching an instant replay in slow motion. He came up out of the depths, and up, and up, until you could see the white of his mouth as he engulfed the fly. Then, he’d leisurely head back down until he felt the pull of the line. Back up he’d race and make a tremendous leap out of the water so that his body would fall on the tight line and break it.

If you were quick enough to lower your rod tip and put some slack in the line, you might keep him on long enough to see three or four of those incredible leaps. Sooner or later, though, the leader would break, or he’d throw the hook. Then he’d vanish down into the depths from which he came. Every time we lost Big Mack, Dad would say something like “Oh well, he puts up such a great fight, and he’s such a magnificent fish, that I’d probably release him anyway, so that I could come back and fish for him again”. We learned that Big Mack didn’t belong on someone’s wall gathering dust, but rather swimming free as the master of his domain.

As we got older, my brother and I would try our luck on Big Mack. The story was always the same, the cautious stalk, the cast, the slow-motion rise, the incredible leaps, and then an empty line and a vanished ghost. Although we never caught Big Mack, we learned techniques, like a careful stalk or dropping your rod tip to create slack. We learned about fish behavior, and trout habitat. Most importantly, we learned values like sportsmanship, and reverence and appreciation of God’s creatures and the natural world they lived in. Decades later, both Dad and my Brother have gone on to that big trout stream in the sky. But in my mind’s eye, Big Mack still swims as always in his pool. I can close my eyes and see him now, suspended in a halo of water droplets above a beautiful stream that flows forever.

This year you may want to consider giving your child or other loved one a fishing rod, rifle, camera, or paints and brushes that they can use in the outdoors. Use these gifts as a catalyst to set aside the time to be with your children and instruct them in their proper use, their history, and the values that they should represent. The material gifts will rust and wear out, but the intangible gifts such as the time you spent with your loved ones, the values you taught them, and the love you gave them, are gifts that will never die. McDonald’s makes a fine hamburger, but my Big Mack will last forever.

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