On the twisty two lane road leading to Wheeler Dam this abandoned bait shop always catches my eye. While not being a fisher person myself, the ambiance of the sport is comforting. Humans have fished for ages as a source of pleasure, relaxation and sustenance. One cannot compare soft, still mornings at dawn drifting with the current, casting one's lure into a silent lake with anything else. Fishermen have told me tales of eagles landing in trees above their head, ospreys catching their own fish oblivious to the boat's presence, and raccoons and skunks slinking to the water's edge to drink in their presence.
Wheeler Lake is known for its bass fishing, but we've observed men with nets and racks setting up for catfish, and heard stories of alligator gar, and kids love to catch the bream and sunfish. Catfish at the dam reach tremendous weight - up to 300 lbs. With all this activity going on, why then did this "one-stop bait shop" close? It's not been in service for quite some time, by all appearances.
However, at one time fishermen crowded these aisles to get minnows and crickets, tackle and night crawlers, shad guts and fiddleworms. Oh, and don't forget the ice. Laughter and fish tales and back-slapping and friendship. And secrecy...don't let your other buddies know where you'll be fishin.' The sound of ice poured into coolers. Who remembers huge ice chests filled with ice and water within which all the bottled soft drinks could be found? You had to reach into the chilly depths to snag the drink of your choice. Coca Cola, RC Cola, Dr. Pepper, Orange Crush, Root Beer. Coca Cola's bottle shape was designed specifically for this process - it was the only one with fluted sides and was easily distinguishable from the top.
The fishermen would fish all day and meet back here the next morning to brag about what they caught the day before, and so it would begin all over again. Traditions of men make me nostalgic for the past. True's Food Store after school where we'd get a snow cone, a Dr. Pepper, a Moon Pie, and those tiny waxed bottles filled with colored sugar water, or Pixie Stix before walking to my mom's dress shop to do our homework. I took for granted the innocence of that time when we could walk from home to downtown, about 2 miles, through the woods without fear. When we could walk all over the hills and valleys in our small town without checking in every 5 minutes, as long as we were home by the time the streetlights came on. Backyard cookouts and catching lightning bugs. Simple pleasures. Simpler times.