A nyone who has been reading my work for a long time knows that I have been fighting an ongoing battle with diabetic kidney disease. Three years ago, my nephrologist told me that it wasn’t a question of will I need dialysis, but when.
Well, the time finally arrived where I need to go in three days a week for four-hour sessions with the dialyzer to get my blood cleansed (or as one tech so cleverly puts it, get my oil changed).
Everyone who knows me has been upset for me. They hug me, or pat me on the shoulder, and treat me like I’m a terminal patient (and I guess I am, technically, because without this process I WILL die soon enough). They all say they’ll pray for me. I appreciate that, because a wretch like me can use all the kind words I can get.
The irony is that dialysis isn’t that bad. Sure, there are other things I’d rather do than sit for four hours at a stretch with my blood being pumped through a series of filters, but it’s a small tradeoff for the therapeutic effects. I really do feel better than I have in years. As I’ve adjusted to the procedure, I’ve found ways to while away the time. One way is by writing down notes about my experiences over the past 15 years as a writer for Texas Fish & Game. As I sit here and peruse the notes on my I-Pad (it is no small feat to write on one of these with your right hand while your left is pinned down), some things stand out more than others
Such as Top Gun, the fishing guide.
Around my third year with the magazine I got an e-mail from a reader. “Hey, Gonzales,” the e-mail started, “I have a great story idea for you. Can you give me a call at 956-xxx-xxxx?”
My curiosity peaked, and it being a local number, I called. The e-mail writer insisted that I refer to him not by Captain so-and-so, but as “Top Gun.” THAT should have been my first warning sign.
“I have a great story idea for you,” he said.
“Really? Tell me about it,” I said, with some genuine interest.
“I’m catching lots of trout and redfish.”
“Okay, how are you doing it?” I asked, expecting him to tell me about some novel technique.
“Shrimp and a popping cork,” said the excited captain.
My face dropped. “Is that it?”
He sounded genuinely confused. “Yeah. Why?”
“Well, that isn’t really special. Everyone does it that way.”
“Yeah, but I’m TOP GUN!”
I run into Top Gun once in a while. He doesn’t guide anymore, but he still has ideas how I can write about him in the magazine. One of these days, I’m certain he’s going to have a noteworthy story idea. Then, we’ll see.
Top Gun reminds me of another enthusiastic reader who approached me and friend David Rutledge while we had breakfast at White Sands Marina and Restaurant in Port Isabel. He had a huge story idea for me about the next world record speckled trout. When I asked to see the fish, he said he didn’t have it—yet, but he knew where and how to catch it.
“Baffin Bay in winter, using a Corkie.”
He asked me for a card so he could call me when he caught the fish, so I could go over and do the story.
That was nine years ago. I’m still waiting. I hope he catches it, if for no other reason than to see what an 18 pound trout looks like.
One of my notes simply says “Poison pen.” That serves as a reminder that I will always have some readers that are unhappy with me (every writer has one), some for reasons that are unique to them.
There was the time that I wrote my column about seeing a huge buck swimming across Laguna Madre and how I was tempted to grab a gaff and brain it and pull it aboard. Of course I was being facetious, but one reader didn’t see the humor in the quip. I got an e-mail taking me to task in not practicing fair chase and even thinking about running down that “beautiful buck” and beating it over the head. The writer closed the correspondence by hoping that the local game warden was aware of me and someday put me in my place.
Then there was the e-mail from a reader who took issue with my use of PhD-level words such as “poikilothermic” in my writing. He didn’t want to have to use a dictionary every time he came upon a new word. That e-mail made me flash back to a history teacher in high school who said the same thing about my writing to my dear mom, who happened to be the woman who taught me how to write and the importance of using proper terminology.
Before I leave you thinking that my experiences as a writer have been—challenging, let me stress that is not necessarily the truth. I’ve met some truly wonderful people, some of whom have become dear, dear friends. There is the Texas Fish & Game family itself, the finest kind of people you could ever meet. There are members of the industry, some with whom I keep in regular touch.
Then there are the readers. You guys are some of the greatest people, not just sportsmen and women, I could ever meet. I love meeting and visiting with you whether at the local HEB, or at an outdoor show. Every one of you is a new experience to enjoy, and I am blessed to meet all of you.
You make every oil change worth the time.
Email Cal Gonzales at [email protected]