Wednesday, July 02, 2014

One That Got Far Away

We didn't have a separate outdoor page when I was sports editor of the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, but we had a lot of readers who were dedicated hunters and fishermen.  We tried to work in as many individual outdoors stories and photos as we could.

Early one afternoon a woman phoned to tell me about a big walleye her husband had caught.  It wasn't a record, but it was darn close.  She wondered if we could get a photo of the fish because her husband's birthday was two days away and a story in the paper would be a nice surprise.  I thought it would be an interesting feature item.

Our full-time photographer was busy.  He loaned me an old Speed Graphic, the kind of press camera now seen only in very old movies.  I'd learned to work one in a University of Wisconsin photography course, but had not used one of the ungainly boxes for nearly ten years. Nevertheless, it was the only camera available to me at the moment.

I went to the lady's house. We got the fish out of her freezer and I lined up a nice shot with one of the kids holding it.  I told the lady I couldn't say which day it would appear in the paper, because I never knew in advance how much space would be available.  She said that was OK.

Our photographer developed all film and made all the prints we used. Space for the fish scene was available two days later. I was just penciling a spot for it into a page layout when the photographer appeared with a blank negative.  I had goofed somehow; there was no big fish image.

No problem, I thought.  I phoned the lady that afternoon, explained the situation, and asked when we could schedule a reshoot.  She started crying.  "We can't do it over," she sobbed.  "We had Tom's birthday party last night, and I served the fish for dinner."

     (First published in 2008 in "Days With The Dads; Recollections of a Small-Time Journalist.")


Anonymous said...

That's probably the best fish story ever told. Not the one that got away, the one that got eaten. We spent a few summers vacations in Tomahawk fishing when I was a kid. I corresponded with the daughter of the establishment, a girl about my age, afterwards for years. I don't recall her name, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

I thought I'd heard all your stories...guess not. That was a good one!

Little bug