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An Agent's Calling

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Published on: Jul. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

as well as her husband.

Fishing was the theme of these vacations, with my uncle and father helping with the hook baiting and later, the "fish-storying." Though mom and dad did not hunt, they encouraged their children to enjoy nature.

About the time I turned 11 or 12, my friend Bob and I spent a lot of time at a cabin on the Meramec River near Cuba, Mo. We've been friends since first grade and "best man" in each other's wedding.

"The river" was our term for a cabin owned at the time by Bob's uncle. Bob's father would take us to the cabin on the Meramec River on summer weekends, where we would fish, swim, hunt squirrels, explore by day and build campfires at night. Bob's dad would paddle a well-worn john boat, with two eager young boys in front, each trying not to hook each other as they cast artificial baits for elusive smallmouth bass. Sometimes he would patiently paddle to the bank to retrieve one of our errant casts, usually casting a large bass lure as he went. More often than not, he caught a nice-sized smallmouth bass, despite the fact that he cast once to our 10 casts.

At the end of the hole, he'd crank up an old outboard motor, and we'd slowly ride back upstream. Along the way, we might see a mink sneak along the bank or a red-tailed hawk soar overhead or see the splash of a trophy smallmouth bass.

The smell of bacon frying would quickly lead us back to the cabin. As Bob's uncle served his famous peach pancakes, we'd regale him with a fish tale or two, and then he would tell stories of his days on the river when he was our age.

His father's original cabin was a mile or so upstream from the one we were in, and they would travel by train and wagon to arrive. Then he might remind us of how he and Bob's dad and several others built the current cabin in 1948. Bob's uncle enjoyed wildlife and respected it. I remember him showing us a black snake and reminding us the snake was welcome in and around the cabin to control mice.

Many "firsts" in my outdoor life occurred at the river. I saw my first deer on a trip to the cabin. I heard my first turkey gobble from just outside the cabin on a crisp spring

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