Mondays Column – Role Modelling 7.9.09

Printed under the title: Role Modelling is a Cunning and Deft Art

The weather has been so magnificent lately that I’ve been spending a bit of time out on the water, pootling about in the tinny.  As usual, I’m not catching any fish so I’ve had plenty of time to sit and think, and ponder the great questions of life, such as, “Why did God create pimples?” and, “What on earth am I doing sitting in an uncomfortable boat in the blazing sun wasting my precious time?”      

Well, it’s all thanks to my father and his mate.  I’ll call him ‘The Gent’ to protect the innocent, i.e., me, because he was a good scrapper in his day, and probably still is.  When I was a lad, The Gent would often join my father for a day of fishing, and seemed to have the worst luck when it came to catching fish.  He’d hand his line to either me or my brother, while he rummaged through the esky for another beer, and without fail, a fish would take his bait and we’d reel it in for him.  He’d shake his head, curse his rotten luck, ruffle our hair with one hand, then have a consoling swig of beer.    

Time and again, The Gent would nudge one of us, “Here,” he’d drawl, handing over his line, “I’ve gotta roll a smoke.” As soon as one of us took his line, a fish would hit the hook and we’d gleefully drag it into the boat.  The Gent, spilling tobacco everywhere, would cheer us on.  Geez, it made you feel good.  Little wonder my brother and I would beat each other up for the honour of holding The Gents’ line! 

Well, obviously you have guessed by now what was happening all along; The Gent was setting us up.  He’s sitting in a boat with two bored boys, the fish are avoiding their hooks like they’re baited with rabid killer whales, and they’re obviously thinking that they’d rather be at home watching tele, or setting fire to something.  He ponders the situation; how can he convince us that we’ll eventually come to enjoy all the aspects of fishing, from the thrill of the hunt, a little exploring, mateship, and overcoming the odd sticky problem, such as sinking boats, over zealous fisheries officers and talking the Missus into letting you buy a bigger boat?  How can he get us to hang in long enough to learn the important lessons that will last us a lifetime?       

Now, he’s smart enough to know that he can’t ‘tell’ us anything, because we’re at an age where anything old people say is an outright, blatant lie, so he resorts to a bit of cunning.

And it worked.  Thanks to The Gents trickery, we kept going fishing, and learned how to catch a variety of sea creatures.  We also learned patience (of sorts), how to work together in a confined space without punching into each other every two minutes, what catastrophes unfold when you don’t plan properly, how to endure hot and cold, wind and rain, how to handle a boat in all sorts of conditions, and how to cope in an environment smelling of manky old bait, tobacco smoke and beer farts, surrounded by swarms of sandflies and mosquitoes while dolphins and turtles scare away all the fish. 

Eventually I even learned that old people, including your father, aren’t necessarily the dribbling drongos you think they are.  And, do you know it only took me 34 years and countless hours in my boat not catching fish to work it out?  Honestly, there are fish out in the harbour swimming around right now that are less gullible than I am.  On the bright side, had I been busy catching those fish, I wouldn’t have had time to remember The Gent and his little ploy, and that’s a good thing… I think.

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