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Walsh: We can feed those we teach to fish

4b2052b664_Rapid Creek Green Zone.jpg
One of the dozens of people who frequent the green zone along Rapid Creek

This interview is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment, hosted by Lori Walsh.

From Lori Walsh:

I've only watched Kevin Woster fish once, but I'll remember it forever.

We had been on a boat together (my first official fishing expedition), but Woster had mostly been working during the journey, taking photos and notes for his blog. We were with Larry and Terry Mayes. The brothers had generously offered to show me the ropes. Woster was capturing the story of a South Dakotan on her first fishing journey, and I was mugging for his camera, pretending I knew how to hold a walleye in my hands.

I remember at one point he snagged a branch on his line. I remember hauling in more than one fish myself and having the Mayes brothers hoot in delight that I was doing so well, even though it was clear they were doing most of the work for me.

Either way, I loved every moment of that day.

When we reached the shore, the Mayes men hauled in the boat and cleaned our catch. I'm not sure, but I suspect I was being protected from the more delicate task of transforming a living, thrashing creature into chunks of tender flesh that would become my dinner. It was yet another kindness in an already abundant day.

Meanwhile, Woster wasn't quite done fishing.

He hopped lightly across rock after rock, flicking his wrist and casting his line in geometric arcs again and again. He tried a dip here, a dip there. He didn't catch anything from the shore that day, but it was clear this was his favorite way to fish — leaving room for serendipity. He was like a little boy who didn't want to come inside for dinner or hand washing or, heaven forbid, bedtime.

One more cast. One more conversation with one more eddy, one more ripple, one more swimming creature I could not see. I could have sat on the shoreline and watched Woster fish long into the evening.

That night, I ended up in the emergency room in Custer. I thought I was having a stroke. After weeks of tests and not knowing, doctors never found evidence of even a mild stroke, so we eventually crossed it off the list. Perhaps it was an intense aural migraine. Maybe it was a panic attack that mirrored stroke symptoms in uncanny ways.

Personally I think it was my brain reacting to the jarring difference between a day fishing and a day at the office, smashing into deadlines. My body felt so calm and right-with-the-world that day, it couldn't handle the transition back to everyday pressures after leaping out of the waters and being tossed back in.

Yes, I know that's not scientific. But Woster helped me connect, once again, with the child I once was — the one who never wanted to come inside for dinner or, heaven forbid, for bedtime. My mother would whistle for me when it was time to head back to the house at dusk. I would stall, drag my feet, check out one more flower, one more stone.

I'm a better journalist because of Woster. And not just because he's a mentor. Because he's a guy with a fishing rod and a better sense of wonder than sense of time on a summer day.

Click here for Kevin Woster's full blog: "When killing a trout means sharing your bounty with someone who doesn’t ask much"