Through the decades I’ve shared time outdoors with billionaires, Hollywood heavies, true television stars, All-American athletes, beauty pageant winners and world-class anglers and hunters.
I just found out one of my all-time favorites died about two weeks ago. Dorothy Jacobs was from Wichita and seldom ventured beyond the city limits for her beloved fishing. She was the mother of 11 and once joked she almost had more grandkids than she could count.
I could say the same for the times she made me smile during a few phone conversations, and a few hours fishing the north lake at Chisholm Creek Park. She had me smiling, she had me laughing and she had me thinking “wow,” so many times.
We’d met through Paul White. One day at his multi-purpose store I’d mentioned I’d wanted to do an article on someone who really fished the urban lakes a lot. Preferably, I was hoping to fish with a female to add even more uniqueness to the story. He mentioned Dorothy, but mentioned she could be pretty private. I called her that afternoon and the talk was a bit hesitant for a few minutes, and then it flowed and flowed.
I learned that she fished almost daily when the weather was decent, but also that catching fish was only part of the reason why she went to the water so often. To Dorothy, fishing and all it entails, was better therapy and medicine than could have been administered by the best of hospitals, and the woman had plenty to heal.
At the time she was 68, had survived cancer as well as a broken back. She’d buried two beloved husbands and nine family members, including a daughter and grandson, had died the year previous to when we met in 2008. She was also caring for a very ill granddaughter at the time. Her family, unfortunately, has had more than their share of sickle-cell anemia.
“I always do my best praying when I’m by that water,” is one great quote she gave me.
“Old age doesn’t mean you have got to act old. I’m going to get all the joy I can out of my life. All I need is my poles and a lake,” was another gem.
That morning at the park hardly anyone was catching fish, but Dorothy caught about 20. She had this beat-up old car, from which she pulled-out a beat-up old shopping cart that she packed with aged equipment. I found out later her loving family had offered, several times, to buy her better gear. She laughed as she told me that, and said newer stuff wouldn’t help her catch more fish or make her any happier at the lake.
As I watched, it was obvious Dorothy caught more fish from experience and intelligence than most people with fancy gear. She kept her baited hooks close to shore, and said, “I don’t know why people think they should cast way out to the middle of the lake. Most of the fish are feeding by shore.”
Time after time she’d watch her bobber start to dance, and accurately predict the species of creature below by the way it was taking the bait. She was right 100 percent of the time on a day of bluegill, green sunfish, bass, small channel catfish and a turtle.
“Just to see my line tighten up, or that bobber moving, it’s something I love to do,” she said. I don’t see how people can’t.”
According to her daughter, Janet Radig, Dorothy enjoyed a lot of both the day before she passed when she caught, cleaned and ate some of the 60 fish from that morning.
I’m glad her last trip was a great one.