A fishing trip helps shake the rust off this grandpa

Asa work-in-progress grandparent, I would be the first to admit I can be a bit slow on the uptake.

That's why during my vacation that ended last week I kept looking around for a white-haired old geezer every time one of the visiting little people yelled, "Hey, grandpa!"

But it helped to be under the tutelage of three precocious grandchildren in Taylor, 12, Niki, 8, and Charlie the happy halfling, age 21/2.

Fortunately, they are old hands at handling old-growth humanoids. Hailing from Kansas, the young trio had just chaperoned their parents, Chad and Sara Fattig Jacobs, on a trip to Oregon to spend a week with the maternal grandfolks.

The grandchildren reported our daughter and son-in-law generally comported themselves well on the plane with very little whining or whimpering.

"Daddy was good but he didn't have his coffee," Niki offered.

When it came to grandparental comportment, I was the one needing to make technical adjustments. Maureen blossomed during the long-anticipated visit, breaking out into a smile every time "Hey, grandma!" rang out.

Although their rare visits make for a rusty grandfather, I would concur with Maureen that our grandchildren are smarter, more gifted and better looking than any other grandchildren on the West Coast.

After all, Taylor's an avid reader of books, Niki approaches the world like an inquisitive police detective on a case, and Charlie the halfling is well on his way to becoming computer savvy.

True, we could be a mite biased.

As grandparents without rocking chairs, we wanted to take them on a fishing excursion to a lake in the high Cascades. But the wind was kicking up too much to launch our canoe. Besides, it would have only held two of us at a time.

So we rented a pontoon boat that held eight, strapped life preservers on the youngsters and headed out across the lake.

Off to the northeast, snow-capped Mount McLoughlin rose to 9,500 feet above sea level, offering a nice contrast to the Gold Beach cabins we would be checking into the following day.

As I pointed the boat toward a likely spot a fishing friend had recommended, I couldn't help pondering the responsibilities of grandparentage. I recalled as a one-time grandchild thinking that grandparents must have all the knowledge in the world.

Now I know different. Certainly this grandfather has more questions than answers.

Coincidently, our grandchildren's visit came on the anniversary of my late father's birth 104 years ago in Ashland. No doubt their great grandfather had fished the same lake back in the day when he wore a young man's clothes.

And no doubt he had better luck than we did.

It wasn't until we were about to weigh anchor that Niki pulled in a 12-inch rainbow, our only fish of the day.

After a quick vote by the crew to free the fish, Chad unhooked it and released it back into the lake.

The fish floundered a bit near the surface, drawing the attention of a soaring bald eagle.

I was a little concerned the eagle may try to fly off with the halfling. But Charlie was safely nestled in his father's protective arms, fast asleep.

The regal eagle was looking for smaller prey. Our national symbol circled overhead until the fish was about 20 feet from our boat, then dropped into a dive and deftly grabbed it with its talons.

"Wow!" Chad said as he captured the event with his camera.

I was worried the grand kids would be horrified by nature's stark example of eat-or-be-eaten. But I needn't have been.

"That was cool," Taylor said. "Because of Niki's fish, that bald eagle is going to eat today."

"Yep, I fed an eagle," Niki added.

The eagle landed on a stump near the shore and begin feasting on his sushi, Cascade-lake style.

As we headed back in, I let Taylor pilot the boat for a few minutes. She grinned confidently into the wind as she pointed the bow toward the dock.

Somewhere our grandchildren's great grandfather must have been smiling. Their proud grandfather certainly was.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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