Sunday, May 10, 2009 By Aaron Brown
Mom vs. fish: Who will prevail?
By Aaron J. Brown
Mother’s Day is here and for many Northern Minnesotans this Hallmark holiday brings an unholy choice between honoring our mother – the giver of life, the guardian of childhood, the cooker of things we are too lazy to cook – and fishing. That’s right, it’s opening weekend of fishing in Minnesota. That is to say fishing for walleye, even though it’s been legal to angle for many other kinds of fish since, well, pretty much all year.
First, a disclaimer. I don’t fish so this isn’t really a problem for me. I eat fish. I watch captive fish. I have fished in the past. I live near fish. Yet somehow I avoided the desire to nab fish on my own. I am, however, a lifelong, multi-generation Iron Ranger which means I’ve watched people get drunk or divorced over this very problem.
On one hand the issue seems ridiculous. Who would choose catching and cleaning cold blooded water animals with dull, lifeless eyes and an anti-Darwinian attraction to food on hooks over dear old mom? Well, the answer in Minnesota is a bunch of guys. And probably some women. But mostly its guys and they love their moms but “Ah, man. People have special days all the time. The fishing opener only comes once a year, don’cha know.”
Seasoned urbanites don’t face conundrums like these. Sure, most recognize certain holidays, like Christmas (or WinterFest), Fourth of July and Super Bowl Sunday. But those holidays don’t create an unnatural competition between masculinity and femininity. People in trendy urban college neighborhoods don’t anxiously await Used CDs that Smell Like Pot Season. That’s not a season. That’s just how it is, man. We in northern Minnesota, however, like to break up our lifestyle into sharp, distinct seasons so as to magnify delayed gratification and resentment. That’s how we roll. In the fall, during the opening weekend of rifle hunting for deer, you see countless advertisements for lady events in town, sometimes even yarn festivals or Chippendales dancers at our finer casinos. And the menfolk are fine with this. Anything to draw the ladies off their beer trail in the woods. Yarn vs. Jagermeister. We didn’t start the fire. It just goes on and on and on.
My sister has a birthday during the opening weekend of deer season. Throughout our childhood she grew to accept that our dad would be in the woods on her birthday. Then she married a deer hunter and not much has changed. Birthdays come all the time. But the opening weekend of deer hunting comes just once a year, don’cha know. And what if the deer didn’t get shot one year? What then? Anarchy, I tell you.
Same for fish. If we let them escape opening weekend they might develop a heat-seeking hook defense system that would anger the Russians and prevent Uncle Joe from catching his prize muskie.
In case you think my irony is intended to shame fishermen into abandoning their lures for the pacification of their mothers, wives or other matronly figures, think again. Mother’s Day is, as I said, a Hallmark holiday designed to force consumers into a conscious choice between spending a few bucks on a Mother’s Day card and metaphorically kicking mom in the face with your metaphorical mom-hating jack boots. In other words it’s a false choice. Nevertheless, choose we must. Mom? Fish? Beer? Anxiety? DVRed episodes of our favorite TV show? It’s all on the table. You’ve got to pick. This weekend is the fishing opener. Sunday is Mother’s Day. What’s it going to be?
Fortunately, many northern Minnesota mothers have learned that it’s easiest to just take up fishing … at least for just this one weekend.
Aaron J. Brown is a columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. Contact him or read more at his blog, Minnesota Brown.com. His book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range” is out now.