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John Eggers: Have you made your last cast?

When I made my last cast into the waters of majestic Lake Julia this past week, it was the official ending to my summer. I returned my fishing rod to the rack and there it will hang until the ice leaves the shore to begin a new summer in 2014.

I am beginning to think more about the time when I will make my very, very last cast. As you get older, you begin to use the word “last” more often. You become more prophetic, which can be something good. It kind of goes with becoming wiser. Perhaps a better word is “worried” or even “nervous”.

My friend gave me a sweatshirt awhile ago that reads, “so many lures, so little time.” That kind of says it all, doesn’t it? It makes me worry even more because I have several tackle boxes overflowing with lures. I still need to make many more casts. Yes, I am getting a bit nervous because time does not wait for you.

My father, at 96, has already made many of his last casts. He no longer fishes. His many fishing rods have been quietly hanging in the same place for about five years.

He gave up duck hunting about four years ago. He doesn’t make the church dinner gatherings like he used to. He no longer does income tax for other people. I guess that was about eight years ago when he made that last cast.

I know he feels he still has some last casts to make. He will deer hunt, so he has that last cast to look forward to. What will really hurt is when he no longer can mow his lawn.

Making a cast and having goals are kind of the same. As I look at my summer goals, I didn’t do very well. I should have included having a float in the Deb’s parade as one. I could have checked that off. I also should have included making grape jelly from my own grapes.

One of my summer goals in my early years was to go with the guys to swipe watermelons. There was an old guy in town by the name of Mr. Rimmer. He was a veteran of WWI and we used to venture over to his house at night in the fall to raid his watermelon patch. He had one of the biggest patches in town and it was located along the railroad tracks.

Stealing or swiping watermelons was something kids just did in my town. It was one of those casts each kid had to make. It was a rite of passage. If you didn’t steal melons other kids would think you were not cool. Not being cool was like not knowing who Bill Haley and the Comets were.

As I think back on those days of raiding watermelon patches, I have come to the conclusion that people like Mr. Rimmer must have been paid by the city to grow melons so kids had something to do in the fall. City fathers would say, “If we want to keep the kids off the streets, we need more watermelon patches.”

Oh, sure, there were rumors about Mr. Rimmer having a gun loaded with birdshot. Kids said he waited by his backdoor listening to any sounds coming from his garden. I never heard of anyone getting stung in the butt with birdshot but when we were in his garden, we tried not to make a peep.

We would plan the raid days in advance. There would be about eight to 10 kids who would meet at the railroad tracks about 8:30 at night. Some might bring a cigarette to pass around. We were told by the older kids not to bring a flashlight.

The thrill was sneaking up the tracks and crawling through a fence and into Mr. Rimmer’s garden in total darkness. Just any little noise would get us running like rabbits, carrying a melon or two.

I made that last cast of swiping melons long, long ago. I appreciate people like Mr. Rimmer who recognized that kids needed a little excitement in their lives.

I have lots of last casts yet to make. I want to take my kids to Guatemala. I still want to write a bestseller. I hope to help more kids graduate from high school and college. My wife and I started a very small peace foundation and I want to do more with that. Of course, then there are all of those lures in my tackle box and I am running out of time.

I did make my last cast for this summer and it is time to roll up the dock; put the pontoon boat in storage; drag my fishing boat up on the shore and flip it over so it can go into hibernation.

How do you know when it is time for the last cast? Well, as I said, I made my last cast and I pulled in a 27-inch walleye weighing over 7 pounds. (Yes, I returned it to its Lake Julia home.) I figured it couldn’t get much better than this so I said, “Well, that was my last cast.”

JOHN R. EGGERS of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.