Towl Park is teeming with fishermen and women. Young men and old men, mostly. Few in betweens. I plant my chair in between a twenty something guy decked out in camouflage gear and a much older guy who looks to be in his mid seventies. These dudes are true fishermen, it is obvious. They have the well weathered gear and gear boxes to prove it. The younger man sits on a rock close to the water. The older guy has his own chair. It is decked out with cushions on the seat and arms. They are trading quips and ideas.
The older man uses gum for bait. Yes. Gum. He has a bag of Bazooka gum. I didn't even know you could buy those anymore. I speak up and ask him if the gum wrappers still have Archie cartoons on them.
He shrugs. "I dunno," he says. "I never once looked." He reaches into his bag, grabs a Bazooka gum square and tosses it to me. I unwrap it and look. No. The gum wrapper paper says: CHEW ON THIS: There are 104 people in the U.S. who are named Harry Potter. Do you know anyone with a famous name?
I read it out loud. Neither the men nor I know anyone with a famous name. "Wait!" the old man says, holding up his hand. "I used to know a Jack Ripper when I was a kid. Does that count?" We all decide that no, that doesn't really count.
"I can't believe you use gum for bait," the young guy says, shaking his head.
"It works! Just chew it good first," the older man insists.
I have a piece of Bazooka gum in my mouth and am nearly going into diabetic shock. It is almost unbearably sweet. I can practically feel the cavities blooming right now. I find a piece of paper in my purse and spit it out, shuddering. The old man laughs.
"It's sweet, ain't that so!" he says. He then pops out his upper teeth and shows them to us.
"This is what happens when you eat too many sweets," he tells us. I burst out laughing but the younger guy says in a disgusted voice, "That is what I call none of our business!" The old guy pops his teeth back into his mouth and grins. He picks up his fishing line, baits it with more gum and drops it back into the water. I ask them if either one has had a bite yet. Both say no.
"I've only been here an hour, though," says the young guy. "Well, I've been here since seven," the old man admits. We are interrupted when a camouflaged jeep pulls up. The young man smiles. "That's my wife with lunch," he tells us. I start to make a remark about camouflage but stop. No need to be rude.
A small woman gets out of the jeep. I am surprised to see that she is not dressed in camouflage attire. but black stretch pants and red sneakers. She has on a Cornhusker jacket and white earmuffs. She carries two sacks from Wendy's and a drink. She plops down next to her husband and hands him the drink cup. He takes a long pull through the straw. She takes out burgers and chili soup.
"I would've brought more if I had known you'd made friends," she says to the younger man.
"No need," says the old man. "My Bess...I call her the boss, packed me a lunch." He pulls out a brown lunch sack and retrieves a beer can that he'd tucked into the water to stay cold. He opens the bag and laughs. "Just what she always packed our boys for school lunch," he says. "A bologna and cheese sandwich. WAIT! There's TWO. A bag of cheetos, a Hostess cupcake, and carrot sticks." He holds out the extra sandwich to me. I shake my head no, tell him that I ate before I came here.
The men and woman eat their lunches and we comment on the mild weather. The old man points up at the trees.
"Lookee there," he says. "They're budding. In mid-February. Pretty soon with all this global warming, none of the new babies will know what snow looks like. We'll be like Mexico," he says.
I look up at the trees, dismayed. I say that I hope this isn't a trick up Mother Nature's sleeve. "It'd be a shame for us to have March come in like a lion and go out like one, too," I comment.
"We live in a mixed up, goofball world now," the older man says.
"No shit, Sherlock," the younger man adds to the conversation. His wife sighs and takes a sip from their drink. I sigh, too. Time to go.