How To Avoid Splits
Once there were a couple of fishermen, one elderly and
the other middle-aged, standing on a bridge peering into
river 50 feet below. Suddenly a young man rushed out
onto the bridge, took off his coat and climbed up onto
the railing. "What's going on, bub?" asked the elderly
By Ed Zern
"I'll tell you what's going on," said the young man bitterly.
"I'm about to jump into the river and end it all, that's
what's going on."
"My goodness," said the elderly angler, "why would you want to
"I'll tell you why, pop," said the young man. "For years
my girl used to go fishing with me, and she was crazy about
it. She even put her own worms on the hook. So last winter
we got married - and now the season's open, and she says
she hates fishing and can't stand worms. She says I got
to give up fishing entirely and take up bowling, so we
can have fun together. So stand aside, gents - I'm going
"Hold it just a minute, son," said the elderly angler.
"Let's not be hasty. I think your bride has a valid
point. After all, fishing is pretty much a waste
of time and a constant source of frustration and irritation.
It's a wrecker of hopes and dreams. When I was your age I
was on the verge of a brilliant career as a paleontologist,
but I frittered away so much time and energy on trout streams
and bass ponds that I never got anywhere. My good, sweet wife,
may she rest in peace, tried to warn me, but I wouldn't listen.
All I could think of was fishing, and after years of shameful
neglect she died of a broken heart. Today my children shun
and despise me, and I can't say I blame them."
While the elderly angler was wiping a tear from his eye,
the young man got down off the railing and said, "Gosh,
pop, maybe you've got a point. But doggonit, I enjoy
fishing. What could be as great a thrill as catching a
whopping big smallmouth bass or a grandaddy walleyed pike?"
"Son," said the elderly angler. "I'll tell you what can
be an even greater thrill! It's seeing that trusty
old bowling ball take a nifty hook right into the 1-3 pocket,
and watching all ten of those maples go flying! It's seeing
delight in your lovely wife's eyes when she scores a spare,
God bless her! It's being together with her every Tuesday
night and Saturday afternoon, sharing the splits and strikes
alike as you go through life hand in hand!
"Also," said the elderly angler, "it's seeing your score
improve every time you visit the alleys, and knowing you're
the master of your own destiny, and not at the mercy of some
stupid fish or inconsiderate weatherman. It's feeling your
body grow stronger with the healthful exercise of rolling
that splendid sphere down those gleaming boards, and knowing
you won't ever be crippled up with rheumatism and arthritis
and God knows what at all from years of falling into cold,
damp trout streams. It's not having to worry about leaky
waders and knotty leaders and sand in your reel. It's
thumbing your nose at the population explosion - after all,
there'll still be room to build more bowling alleys even
when the last rivers and lakes are clogged with silt and
waterskiers. Believe me, son, your wife knows best, and
you should thank her and bless her for steering you away
from a dismal, dead-end existence."
"Well," said the young man, "maybe I was being hasty.
You really think I should give bowling a try?"
"Of course you should!" cried the elderly angler. "You'll
love it! Now hurry on home and give that little woman a
great big smooch and tell her you're on your way to get
fitted for a pair of bowling shoes. Toodle-oo!"
When the young man had hurried off, the middle-aged angler
said, "Okay, Harry, what's the big idea? You know you never
had a career as a paleontologist. Hell, you just barely
scraped through eighth grade. And what's this about a wife
and children - you've never even looked at a woman unless
she was wearing some kind of fur you figured you might pinch
for fly-tying. And the only thing you despise more than
bowling is toe-dancing. Right?"
"Right, stupid," said the elderly angler, "but there's a brown
trout as long as your leg lying right below us, alongside that
old wagon wheel. If that poor schnook had jumped he'd have
scared it into the next county, and I figure to try for it
"Oh," said said the middle-aged angler. "Well, there's no
trout there now - that goof standing there on the rail must
have scared it."
"By George, you're right," said the elderly angler, peering
into the water. "And to think I told that poor kid a pack
of lies - what a sinful, cynical, selfish thing to do! But
it's not too late to make amends. Let's go!"
"Yes indeed," said the middle-aged angler, and so they ran
after the young man, dragged him back to the bridge, and
flung him into the river. ~ Ed Zern
Credits: From The Best of Ed Zern published by
The Lyons Press.
Lighter Side Archive