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"Well looky there, John! It's a catfish!" said Tim as I hoisted the pole up out of the water, holding it as high as my little arms could reach. Slimy, smelly and madder than all get-out, this was nothing like the fishes I had seen in Dr. Seuss' "One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish."
"Watch out," he said while reaching for the line as the creature wriggled before me. "Catfish have barbs that'll sting you and make you cry and cry."
The fish dropped to the dirt and my next move, of course, was to grab it with both hands. Consequently, I did in fact cry and cry! That was the first lesson I learned under the guidance of my oldest brother. Tim was 16 years old when I was born.
Sometimes in a large family -- and I believe that with a total of four boys and four girls we'd qualify as such -- there is a split in the closeness of relationships between older siblings and younger siblings. My mom grew up in such a family. There was a bit of an age gap somewhere in her own string of seven siblings and consequently, the big kids hung with the big kids and the little ones with the little. That wasn't the case with our brood, owing, quite possibly to the fact that a new little Lorson seemed to arrive every couple of years. For a number of reasons, we all seemed to mix across the age range seamlessly. I love all my brothers and sisters equally, and I've learned things from each one of them that have made a huge difference in my life. If you asked any of us to choose one above the other you'd never get an answer. In many ways, Tim has set that tone.
My first encounter with a living fish was the beginning of Tim's tutelage, but there was another lesson to be learned on that day that has stuck with me for the long haul. I had been so giddy (once I was through bawling) about catching a real, live fish -- a lunker that barely eclipsed the length of my 4-year-old hand--that Tim put it, along with several of its similarly sized kin, into a bucket which I then held between my knees in the front seat of his '65 Mustang so we could take them home to show Mom and Dad.
I can still see those little whiskered devils dashing around in the shallow, white wash basin we dumped them into for the big show. Mom pulled out the Kodak and snapped a picture. Not only was I the hero of the day, I was convinced that I had gained a whole mess of new pets!
"OK, John, the fish are getting tired so it's time to take them back to the pond and let them go," Tim said.
I never saw that one coming. Consequently, once again, I cried and cried.
"If you try to keep them they'll only make it for a couple of days and then they'll die," he said. "But if you turn them loose, they'll grow up to be big fish! Plus they'll get to play with their brothers and sisters.'
That was the hook, the brothers and sisters, thing. I've been turning catfish loose ever since. Happy 70th Birthday, Big Brother. Thanks for everything!