My family has a wonderful little tradition of going fishing after Mass on Easter Sunday. Out in the Flint Hills of Kansas, not too far from a wide spot in the road called Delevan, is my dad’s cattle pasture. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Flint Hills, let me draw you a picture.
Imagine grass. Miles and miles and miles of emerald green new spring grass laid like a carpet over gently rolling hills and loaf shaped bluffs that aren’t very tall but stretch as far as you can see.
Is it in your mind? Can you see it? Blue sky, green grass and nothing else but the wind whistling past your ears. That’s it. Oh, and herds of black and red sleek cattle.
What all that grass covers is rock. Not flint for which the hills are named, but limestone that juts out in big blocks and millions of white stones that defeated man’s attempt to plow every acre of my state and turn it into wheat fields. Gotta love those rocks. They saved a beautiful part of God’s lawn.
Now, if you are out in the Flint Hill and you see a tree, it will be down in a gully hugging the banks of a spring fed creek. It will most likely be a thorny wonder called an Osage orange or a tall shimmering cottonwood tree. There are lots of springs hidden out in the hills. The ones in our pasture come out of a rocky ledge in five big holes about three inches across. The water pours out like someone left the garden hose running and it’s cold.
Are there any fishermen or women reading this? Well, if there are you know that bass love the cold water, and my daddy loves to catch bass.
So each Easter Sunday, weather permitting, we gather up the family from all across the state and sometimes farther afield and head to the pasture and a deep section of the creek where the bass and catfish have waited all winter for our spinners and worms.
If the truth be told, it isn’t so much about the fishing. Oh, the rods and reels get a workout, but so do the lawn chairs. We all catch up with each other’s lives, we LAUGH and we eat. Hot dogs and marshmallows cooked over an open campfire taste better in the shade of those old Osage orange trees than they do anywhere else in the world.
At the end of the day we’ll leave the pasture to the cattle getting fat on the endless supply of grass and we’ll go home with a few pictures of someone’s big fish (this year it was mine) and one other things that’s essential to us all. A sense of renewal. A family brought closer together-reconnected by a powerful sense of belonging to the land.
It’s a wonderful Easter gift. One my father has given to his children and his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren. Thanks Daddy, for teaching me to bait my own hook all those years ago.