The Old Man Said So by Mark Usyk

Posted: Oct 03 2015

When I was a cell tower climber 95 percent of the time we were out somewhere on the countryside, in the hills, up on mountains, our days full of long drives, great views, and I usually ended them fishing somewhere far from home. But there was always that 5 percent when the drive wasn’t far, and the view was nothing more than looking at other rooftops from the rooftop our job was on. Nothing to write home about, and no fishing to be had at the end of the day.

On one such job, myself and one other guy, my buddy Mike who I spent equally as much time on the towers with and on the water with afterwards were doing a small antenna job on a roof top in Syracuse. Below us were 5 floors of antique shop, which to me means old pocket knives and fishing gear. Getting our tools and equipment to the roof required a ride in the buildings old freight elevator, operated by an older gentleman that reminded me of the late George Burns. He had the mannerisms, the style, and the charisma of a generation on it’s way out of the world, one being replaced by a bunch of rude and entitlement expecting lazy people. At one point while Mike was out in the truck going over paperwork on the phone with someone back at the shop I seized the moment to search the first floor for the antique fishing booty I knew could be found if I looked, and sure enough my hunt turned up one shelf with a couple old sailing ship models, and scattered about them were several old reels, one of them being one of those old quirky automatic fly reels. A dark green trimmed in white, Horrocks-Ibbotson. Not only was it cool, and made in the city in which I was born, but it was only 14 bucks. I had to have it.

As the elevator climbed, I asked the old man what time they closed up, so that we could be sure to be done with the job and packed up with a few minutes to spare so that I could make my purchase. I then laughed and said “My wife is going to kill me. We just had the discussion that I’ve got more than enough old fishing stuff on my walls and that I should stop bringing stuff home. Maybe I should leave it where I found it.” Mike chuckled, but George Burns stood with his hand on the sliding elevator door frame and looked me in the eyes. He looked at the harness over my shoulder and the lineman’s bags full of tools at our feet and then he spoke.

“Do you work hard?” I nodded and answered “Yep.” “Do you pay your bills?” Again I answered “Yep.” Do you run around on your wife?” “No sir.” He looked at Mike and then back to me, “So you work hard and you don’t cheat on your wife?” “That’s right.” He nodded in approval and then told me “Buy the damn reel. It’s only 14 dollars.” Mike laughed and I grinned. He was right, or a really good salesman. Or both.

A week later my father was over to the house and we were out in my room filled with fishing paraphernalia, Holly doing something on the computer for him as we talked about where the hot fishing spot was for the week. He spotted the auto reel on the wall and pointed to it and said “Hey, I just bought one of these from an antique shop a few weeks ago, just a different color!” I told him I’d found it at the shop in Syracuse and Holly looked up at me with that “Oh really, I thought we had an understanding” look on her face.  I had to come up with something to legitimize the purchase fast so I relayed the old man’s wisdom as fast and to the point as I could. “Listen. This old guy that looked like George Burns told me to buy the reel or cheat on you! I think I made the right decision!” That was 2 years ago. I’m still adding old gear to the wall whenever I find it.

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