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Kevin Oldham photo for fishing column

Kevin Oldham, left, talks with Terry Brown during a Bassmasters event. Oldham's outlook on life while battling terminal cancer was life-changing for those around him.

The sport of fishing is my life. Most people I associate with also have the addiction. It’s not about the catches — well, maybe a little — but more about the smiles.

Anglers see their calling as one to help others. The mentoring, the development and the process of teaching others something that they can actually use for a lifetime is what trips my trigger.

I recently had a friend tell me tongue in cheek that I was the Zen Master of fishing. Not sure it was intended as a positive, but I took it that way. He asked when I changed ... when did I get so introspective and where did all this emotion come from?

I told him it’s always been in there, but as I have gotten older my emotions are closer to the surface and not buried deep like we were taught to do growing up.

A while back I got involved with a Waukegan fireman named Kevin Oldham, who saw life clearly. He was dying from pancreatic cancer, but had a zest for life that altered how I look at it, too.

Kevin was a family guy and a spiritual person who looked at his 32 years on the planet as a blessing even as he faced death head on. He told me at the Bassmaster Classic and later on the phone, “The funny part of where we each stand is only holding a place in line. None of us get out of this deal alive. We are all in line just in different places.”

To hear that was one thing, but to see his convictions for his family and God changed me. I went from seeing forests to seeing trees and the branches and leaves that make them up.

This past summer was one for the record books. It was not because of big catches or tournament wins, but because outdoors volunteerism was at an all-time high and folks were doing it to leave things better for others. Despite all the worldly negativism of left and right, fiscal issues and the other “stuff” we have to deal with on a daily basis that can have a way to sour even the sweetest attitudes, outdoors folks came together.

Kevin and I spoke often and sometimes just talked fishing, but most times we talked about life. We talked about seeing it for the deeper parts of it versus paychecks and bill paying. He said, “Where I sit it doesn’t matter how much money I have or how big my house is, what really matters is the friendships and the heart I see in them.”

I got that message loud and clear and each time we spoke the importance of a big fish or a tournament win waned. I still have the fire, but the important part was the fun, enjoying each day and the memories that made me along the way. I live for the future through my memories and those I meet along the way. Once you are a friend you are always one.

Most of us shy away from conflict. For me, as a competitor that has been a tough hurdle. When I see something I know was done inappropriately or under the cloak of darkness, the old Terry would be right in the middle of doing what it took to correct it. I still have that desire, but tempering that approach with balance focused my efforts for dealing with the big things and letting the little things slip.

Seeing a youngster smile catching a fish or visiting the office seems to be more important that tilting windmills. There are plenty of windmills that need tilting in the outdoors, but being selective to which ones get the effort has been the change.

At Wired2Fish I get to talk to the best of the best in fishing … manufacturers, industry leaders, professional and anglers and up-and-comers. They come from all walks of life and all are honestly just trying to make it. Some live in mansions while others live in their pickup trucks, but they all have the same zest for life I saw in Kevin’s eyes in his last days. Each breath, each day and each second does mean something and although you don’t get to heaven with good works, doing good things looks good on the list St. Peter has.

We are blessed in our area to have great crops, great deer hunting and some of the best people on the planet. They are neighbors and friends and for the most part seek to do the right thing. Of course there are those in it for their own betterment, but the chaff does get sorted out of the wheat in life, too.

People in bass clubs, bird clubs, kayak organizations, runners, bikers and groups such as the Friends of EverBloom make things go around here. Zen Master of fishing, maybe, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sunday Classic

The cold and blustery Bloomington Normal Sunday Classic was won by Jerry Martoglio with a two-day total of 9.85 pounds on Lake Vermilion in Danville. He also had big bass of 3.45 pounds. Second place was Scott Bree with 7 pounds even.

Terry Brown is President of Wired2Fish.com, an industry leading, daily website and social media fishing centered community that provides information on products, industry newsmakers and fishing techniques. You can read more by going to www.Wired2Fish.com.

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