Last weekend, we laid to rest a great friend, Bill Anson. The visitation and funeral were filled with friends and well-wishers for the family.
I had known Bill for more than 40 years. I had gone fishing with him several times and got to know just how much he enjoyed wetting a line. We fished several ponds, the canal and Mautino’s. He brought a bucket half full of ice to put his bluegills and crappie in.
When we got home, he showed me how he cleaned them. They were cut perfectly, ready to be put in the freezer to wait for his next fish fry. When he got enough, he would get on the phone and set the date. People would bring baked beans, potato salad, and many other dishes to make a meal fit for a king. Sure enough, there was a big platter of sliced tomatoes from his garden.
Not only would he have fish fries at home, but he got in touch with Jim Rapp and arranged some fish fries in Jim’s big machine shed. He got Roger and Tony Kramer to bring their big cooker to fry the fish in. Lo and behold, there were also several cauldrons of mushrooms they fried up.
Jim walked out in his field and brought in a huge load of sweet corn, which was boiled up for all to consume. Bill would walk around the shed with a heaping tray a freshly fried fish encouraging his friends to “eat more.”
Bill’s longtime fishing partner and good friend, Bob Parker, and I bumped into each other the other day. I asked him if he enjoyed fishing with Bill. He replied, “Certainly!”
Bob told me that he never saw anyone enjoy being out wetting a line more than Bill. There were some times they didn’t catch a lot, but most of the time, they brought in many. He told me that Bill thoroughly enjoyed the fishing, no matter what they caught.
When friends were at one of his fish fries, someone might ask him, “Where did you catch those bluegills?” He’d smile and say, “In the lake.”
Or they would ask where he caught that crappie, and he would stick his finger in his mouth and pull it to the side and say, “Right in the lips.” He always had an answer for them.
Bill is gone now, but I know all of us will not forget him. Just by fishing with him would give his partner an attitude that had to make his partner love fishing more. Bill’s love of the sport rubbed off on anyone who went fishing with him.
Thanks, Bill, for passing on this great heritage. The next time I eat a bluegill filet, I will see Bill’s face smiling.
Not only was he a good fisherman, but he was a great gardener as well. He had a wide variety of veggies, but his source of pride was his tomatoes. He planted lots of tomatoes, way more than he needed, so he would have lots to give to his friends. They were beautiful tomatoes, as all his friends would attest to.
Lee Wahlgren is the BCR Outdoor Columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.