By Paul Lebowitz
In the distant past when my son didn't much outstretch a yardstick (he's 6'-6" now), I took the youngster to the Fred Hall Show to lasso trout in the kids' pond. That was just one of the attractions. There were dock dogs dialing long distance, a lithe archer who plunked bulls eyes while standing in outlandish poses (she gathered the crowds when she bent over backwards), and of course, tackle deals to be had. You probably have an annual fishing, hunting and boating extravaganza much like the Hall Show in your town. I love 'em.
With so much happening around him, my boy was a dynamo, a creature of eight arms and eight legs. At least it seemed so. He had no pause button either; it was go, go, go. He ran down the crowded aisles and picked up any fishing rod in reach. Nothing interested him more than the fancy power yachts on the main show floor. He wanted to climb into every expensive hull, particularly the ones with the nervous salespeople standing by with shoe covers for the gawkers—they didn't want any scuff marks, least of all from a curious youngster and his father of obvious modest means. I dragged the boy away from their glares.
That's when we came upon Allen Peugh and his booth full of plastic kayaks. Allen's smile was bright and inviting; his boats were right at kid level, flat on the ground. "Come on over," he said, as much to my son as to me. He invited the energetic youngster to sit on every kayak, to climb and clamber all over, to stick his head down the hatches and (awkwardly) swing a paddle. "You can't hurt them," he said, slapping a plastic hull. Allen's smile never wavered, not even when young eight-arms smacked him on the shin.
When Allen asked "What color would you like?" skipping everything in between, I smiled right back. "I'll take the blue one with room for two." As I walked out of the show, my drowsing son on my shoulders, I remembered what I'd told my wife that morning. "No impulse purchases and nothing over $100."
Now that kid is headed off to college, eager to move out from under my roof. Old Blue is long gone, but four more 'yaks are ready to go in the garage. One belongs to the young man. I hope he'll be back for it soon, for a paddle and to wet a line. He doesn't know it, but he's changed the course of my life in more ways than I could have expected. Thanks son.
Paul Lebowitz is editor of Kayak Fish magazine. This story originally appeared as the Editor’s Letter in the Fall 2014 issue.