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Perspective: What I found lurking in the great writer's tacklebox

Fishing lures, it’s said, are sold to hook fishermen, not fish. Ever since I was a short kid I’ve been hooked on fishing, and my grandpa’s tackle box of fishing lures is one reason why.

If you had a chance to flip the lid of that old man’s metal cabinet of wonder, you’d be hooked too. Pork frogs, beetle spins, creek chubs and lazy Ikes; bass-orenos, jitterbugs, lindy rigs, and hula poppers. Spoon plugs, bucktails, salmon eggs, and daredevils. Behind every plug, jig, jerk, or crank, there was an ad man dreaming of linguistic hooks to lure fishermen. In Grandpa’s tackle box, each lure lived in its original carton, tucked snugly into its own tight compartment. That was Grandpa’s style, a signature distinguishing him from other fishermen. I loved to slide my fingers under those plastic lids, loosening the lures and good oily aromas, and checking for tooth marks.

This summer I had a chance to peek into the tackle box of Sigurd Olson, the legendary writer from Ely, Minnesota. I found that Old Sig succumbed to the same baits that hooked my grandpa! The craquelured Heddons, Shakespeares, and Pfluegers waited there to be cast again. Some surprises lurked in the dark corners of Sig Olson’s tackle box, however. One logic defying “floating sinker,” claimed to be “the greatest fish catcher of them all.” A thin blue tin touted “Carter’s Midnight Typewriter Ribbon.” What could this be? Twisting the lid, I found the tin held no spool of ribbon, but rather a palmful of dry flies. Of course the great writer mixed his passions, writing and fishing, and here was his homespun signature, written in his tackle box for the future to read.

Chris Fink is a professor of English and Environmental Studies at Beloit College. He is the author of Farmer's Almanac, A Work of Fiction.