As I write this, my wife Marilyn is traveling on a plane to Italy on an educational tour with nursing students, some parents and faculty, and I get to spend 12 days without supervision. Oh boy, I can do what I want! Fun.
Although I love and respect Marilyn very much, I like these opportunities to be on my own. I actually accomplish more when no one is around to tell me what to do.
I would be a mess if Marilyn were gone permanently and I would have a difficult time adjusting to being alone. It’s a hard job managing me and I need help.
I don’t usually do anything illegal when Marilyn is gone. But now I can go fishing when I want, eat what I want, work at my computer and sing any time of the day or night or do anything I choose, without someone asking if I am alright (it’s a valid question).
I have gotten into some questionable circumstances. Like the time I had to call Marilyn at the border crossing back into the U.S. on a return trip from a Canada fishing excursion.
A few years ago, my son Jon, Leon, and I went on a June fishing trip to Ontario. Leon had told me earlier he had a goal to catch all the walleyes he could eat at least once in his life.
“Let’s go to Canada next summer,” I said. “Jon and I can show you where we can catch walleyes and other fish until our arms tire out.”
Leon couldn’t resist the offer, even though he had a heart attack and another stent implanted two weeks before we left for Canada. Leon helped me manage crisis counseling programs in response to floods and tornadoes in Iowa. He is one of the best counselors I know and has helped many farm and non-farm families.
We caught and ate walleyes every meal for a week and a grand pike Leon roasted over a camp fire with onions, peppers, cilantro and potatoes. We didn’t keep too many fish or try to take too many back to the U.S.
When we arrived at the border crossing with 10 walleyes that I had filleted into 20 halves (four fish apiece was the limit), we were surprised when two U.S. agents asked us to park our truck in their locked garage. They demanded to know where we had been, how many fish we were transporting and what we had been doing.
They placed us in a locked holding cell, took our phones and said they would get back to us. We could ask on the intercom if we needed assistance. No one came when we asked to use a rest room.
The agents went through every item in our truck. We learned later they used drug-sniffing dogs and long-handled mirrors (to scout the undercarriage of the truck) searching for drugs.
They accused us of hiding evidence when they found a barbequed walleye we saved to eat as a snack. They asked how Leon, Jon and I knew each other.
After a couple hours the two agents returned and told us we were in violation of federal statutes. They had called a federal game warden. Thankfully, we were allowed to empty our bladders, under surveillance.
The federal game warden told us he could charge us with either of two statutes: we had too many fish, because each filet was assumed to be an entire fish (a $2,000 fine), or because we had not left enough skin on each filet (i.e., $100 per person). I had left skin samples for inspection, but less than the required 1 by 1 inch piece of intact skin on some filets. We could take our choice of violations.
The federal warden–he was named Wally Hornpecker or something similar–said he knew we did not knowingly bring back too many fish and he knew from the pieces of skin on the filets they were walleyes, but he had to charge us. We chose the cheaper option; we wrote out our checks payable to the U.S. District Court.
We aren’t sure, but we think the border officials were racially profiling us, for Leon is African American, and because of the nature of their questions. They were probably disappointed when they figured out we weren’t drug runners.
Perhaps Wally and the border guards enjoyed our walleyes for supper and felt good about “earning their keep” that day.
Oh well, I have done worse things in my life. But this is the kind of thing that happens when I don’t have someone around to help supervise me.
Dr. Rosmann is a Harlan Iowa psychologist and farmer. Readers can contact Dr. Rosmann at the website www.agbehavioralhealth.com.
By Mike Rosmann, Ph.D.