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Halley's Comet Overtaken by a Rather Small Sunfish

December 28, 1985

I shall always remember the night of seeing Halley's Comet, as the day of the Big Fish.

Of course, it wasn't really a BIG FISH. It was only a sunfish--thin and perhaps three inches in diameter--but it was the first fish I had ever caught. Or been close to. To me, it represented something wondrous. It didn't matter that I skewed myself in taking the hook out of my fish's mouth, and I bled a lot, getting some on my pants.

But here I was, out in the middle of a pond in a rowboat with my father and an elderly relative, with my own rod and a can of wiggling worms wriggling through some mud.

My father showed me how to bait a hook and it didn't seem so cruel after the relative told me a worm had no feeling. But I wasn't so sure, trying to hold a worm at a strategic position while trying to bait the hook so it wouldn't hurt too much.

We had cold corned beef sandwiches, I remember, and I got sick, but I got over it, mostly, and we returned to our boat.

Then, it happened.

First, there was a feeble pull on the line . . . a slight yank . . . and before I knew it I had hooked a fish.

Eureka! I was a real fisherman!

It was getting late so we rowed to shore.

You know what? It was the only fish any of us caught all day, and my father told me he was so proud of me.

My mother thought so, too, as she helped me clean up. But it took me more than 20 years before I could look at corn beef.

As soon as it turned dark all of us went out into the back yard and suddenly my relative whom we had been visiting at his farm in Upper New York State shouted, "there it is."

It was wonderful, very large, and very bright.

My mother kissed me for some reason, and my father shook hands with all our relatives.

"Remember this night," my father told me, "it won't be here again for 75 years."

So I looked at something that wouldn't be here again, looked hard, so I would remember it was 75 years.

I hope when I see it again this time out it will be just as wonderful.

I'm sure it will, and I wish I had a son so I could tell him to watch for it 75 years from now.

But I mostly remember my fish. My mother wouldn't let me have it stuffed.


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