My cousin, Wes Mabey, was the greatest fisherman I have ever known. He had such a wonderful enthusiasm for fishing. I had the honor, and I do mean honor, to go fishing with Wes several times. Wes had this incredible talent for sending out a hook and sinker, far across a wide lake, with just a simple flick of his wrist. He made it all look so easy. He simply took it all in stride.
From about 1976 till about 1980, Wes had a fishing supply store in Boonton, New Jersey. I used to work in his store, nights and on Saturdays. Wes built custom-made fishing rods of elegant style. They were superbly cool! When Wes built a fishing rod, it was made to fit that fisherman!
Wes firmly believed that the fisherman should never adopt his style to a factory manufactured fishing rod. Instead, Wes believed that a fishing rod should be made to reflect the style and personality of the fisherman. Believe me, the Prince of Wales would have been proud to go fishing with one of Wes’s custom-made fishing rods.
Wes also built custom-made fishing lures. Believe me, they were out of sight! Sadly, I don’t have any pix of any of Wes’s fishing rods nor of any of his fishing lures. But take it from me, you ain’t gonna find the quality of fishing gear that Wes custom made at your local Wal-Mart!
I remember times going fishing with Wes. He loved to make a game out of casting his hook out to the lake. He would say something like, “Richard see that rock sticking out of the water out there? Watch this! Three feet to the left.” And zippy-doo-dah, Wes’s hook, weight and bobber would land in the exact spot he had pointed out. He always had this slight grin when he hit the “bull’s eye” spot in the lake, that he had just pointed out only a few seconds ago.
I remember that, just a few years before the good Lord called Wes home, he had a tough time threading his fishing line into the eye of his fishing hook. Wes was on dialysis at this point in time and his close-up vision was failing. Also, he had a rather serious purpose tremor when he would try to do something like thread his line into the eye of a hook. It always made me so very sad to see him struggle to thread his fishing hook.
Sometimes, he would let me thread his hook for him. But there were other times when he would be as stubborn as a mule and be determined to thread his own hook. We, Mabey’s, can be bull headed at times.
One of Wes’s fave fishing holes was located off of an unpaved country lane, off of the Lincoln Highway, just west of Fort Loudon, Pennsylvania. The pond was owned by this dear, sweet elderly lady. She used to charge five dollars a day to fish in her pond. I forget her name now. But, she used to say to Wes, “now don’t catch all the fish in my pond.” Wes would smile and simply reply, “naw, I’d never do that to ya’.”
One time, when Wes and I were fishing at her pond, she walked down from her old farmhouse and talked to us. She told us that she had been a widow for 15 years. She told us that her nephew lived with her, but he was getting married soon, so she knew she’d have to get used to living alone again.
I remember one morning, Wes and I stopped at her driveway and rang her doorbell on the side door of her home to pay her our five dollars each. She came to the door and said good morning to Wes and I. As we said good morning to her, we began pulling out our wallets from our back pockets. It was such a sweet moment. This dear, enchanting elderly lady smiled and said, “no boys, this one’s on the house.” We insisted on paying, but she simply said in a stern voice, “no, today’s my gift to you boys.”
That was just about one of the last times Wes and I went fishing in that dear, sweet elderly lady’s backyard pond. Wes was getting weaker and weaker from the dialysis and he had lost his interest to go to the “fishin’ pond” any more.
Whenever I see a backyard pond on a farm, I think of those days when Wes and I would go fishing. Somehow, it brings a bit of joy to my heart. But, at the same time, tends to make me feel just a bit sad as well.
Peace and harmony, Richard