Becoming an Outdoors Woman
Over our heads there was only the clear blue sky and some puffy clouds, as our fishing instructor, Annette Sanders, explained the mysteries that govern an angler's luck.
"How many times have you heard someone wish you good luck before a fishing trip?" Sanders asked a small group of women who had gathered on wooden benches at the lakeside.
We laughed and most of us raised our hands.
"Luck," she told us, "has little to do with successful fishing. It is good thinking that catches fish. If you learn to think like the fish, instead of saying 'good luck,' you can say 'good thinking' from now on."
Good thinking and sharpened skills are at the core of every Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) workshop, whether the setting is the beautiful YMCA of the Ozarks near Potosi or Conception Abbey, a Benedictine monastery 40 miles northeast of St. Joseph.
Both outdoor skills workshops, sponsored by the Conservation Department, take place annually and provide a range of excursions for women to try, from jug fishing, muzzleloading and outdoor photography to quail hunts, animal sign reading and fly fishing.
"There is something at this workshop for every woman, no matter what the experience level," said Jackie Mitchell of Bland. "You're going to learn something new. The instructors are experts, and the camaraderie is just great."
At BOW workshops, it is easy to find camaraderie. There are grandmothers, such as Myra Albrecht who wants to share the outdoors with her grandchildren; women who want to go hunting with their husbands and women who love to fish, but can't get their husbands to go, much less teach them how.
There are mother-daughter teams, soon-to-be Boy and Girl Scout leaders and one 68-years-young woman named Jackie Cook, who annually celebrates her birthday with a special adventure.
Last year, she dove among the coral reefs of Belize, and the year before that she "had to do Athens alone" because her friend was ill.
She laughs and says that coming back for more BOW experiences is high on the list of possibilities.
Like many women attending BOW workshops, I have loved the outdoors since childhood. Fishing is my particular addiction, but I have significant gaps in my knowledge.
As a child, fishing the lakes and rivers of Missouri with my grandfather, I didn't need to know much more than how to bait my hook and cast it into the water. Put me in the right spot and I would catch fish,