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There's Steel in the Grand

The chest-deep water compresses these waders tightly around my legs and waist. I hold my elbows out at head-level and cautiously make way towards fishier water. On this cold December day, getting wet would promptly sour the outing. It’s a bit of a gamble but making the transition improves my odds of hooking a steelhead as they migrate up river, all the way from Lake Michigan. Today’s time is especially meaningful, and a fish to take home would be a cherry-on-top. I’m getting married next week to a girl who’s go me all wrapped up and tangled in love. She’s the reason for the homecoming. After a spending the previous year out-of-state, I’m home so we can be with friends & family in the days leading up to our wedding. The two of us will be heading back out to Denver in a couple weeks to start our married life there. This afternoon I’m fishing 6th street below the dam, in downtown Grand Rapids. Today’s more about reflection than anything, so what a better place to visit than to check-in at the old stomping grounds?

When I was a little kid growing up in Jenison MI, my dad was often out of town on business. At the time I didn’t know any better, but he was doing something important. In the early 80’s, telecom giant AT&T was forced by the courts to open up it’s monopoly to new competition. Michigan Bell was still the biggest long-distance provider, but this old sheriff-in-town had a rival spawning in the form of a new startup called TeleDial America. My dad was one of the original four men involved, which would later grow to become a much larger company, operating under the name US Signal. He worked 70+ hour weeks when he was home, and that wasn’t very often.

When he was home however, we did a lot of playing outside. I can remember playing catch in the front yard with him and either one of my sisters or friends. “Pickle” was our favorite, when we’d simulate a runner over-stepping second and getting caught up between the bases, forced to outrun or outwit the second & third basemen. In our case, the runner would have to cross the imaginary plane past the thrower or tagger on either side of the huge blue spruce or the driveway. It was a yellow, 4 bedroom ranch on Greenridge. I can still smell the fresh cut grass in that front yard. On the milder fall days where tee shirts could be worn comfortably, or “indian summer” days as we called them, the high school marching band would be practicing down the road. If I close my eyes, I can still hear the the brass playing over snare drums while running and laughing with my pops. I also remember him taking me fishing a few times.

Two of these memories stand out from the others. The time he took me to Mapl