Poison Sumac

There's plenty of hazards when fishing. Slipping on rocks and twisting an ankle, getting a hook in your hand, getting shot at during deer hunting season or getting a nasty case of poison sumac. Every decade or so, I get some bout of poison ivy. The last time was in Salmon River, New York back in 2005. I'm surprised that I don't get it more often as I recklessly charge through the woods. Leaves of three, leave them be? Good luck spotting that in the dark. Now add posion sumac to the list.
blisters from poison sumac

Innocent looking, nothing to worry about right? Just a few blisters, it should go away eventually.

rash from poison sumac

Uh oh, this is getting worse. I had to go to the drugstore to stock up on calamine lotion, cotton balls, Benadryl and gauze wrapping. It started to itch like a mother.

rash from poison sumac

Holy shit, this is getting nasty. Now I'm googling for remedies and any ideas on how to stop it from spreading. Luckily I had some apple cider vinegar in the cupboard. My bedroom reeks of it. The vinegar does the trick in relieving the itching and drying out the blisters. As for the rash only time will heal it.

rash from poison sumac

You would think that I poured acid on my skin. This is just my forearm. I also had it on my chest as I didn't wash after fishing and napped when I got home. I probably tucked my forearm under my chest. I was lucky that it was a rash and not a festering mess of blisters. Then throw in my histamine attack and right side of my chest is blotchy red. My poor girlfriend won't touch me.
poison sumac bush

Here's my antagonist - Toxicodendron vernix. This rotten plant that gave me over two weeks of lousy sleep, endless applications of apple cider vinegar, nightly doses of Benadryl, and the nastiest blisters that I've ever had. Three week later my wrist is almost back to normal as there a small hint of red. My chest is getting better as the blotches are barely noticeable. Just this past weekend I was on Conneaut Creek and was shocked see that it grows all along it. For years I've walked right through it, thinking it was just sumac. While not everyone is allergic as I am, just be careful out there. 

Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer

My lasting image of Urban Meyer was late in the 4th quarter against Michigan. The Buckeyes had pulled off the huge upset of the Wolverines. The score was 62-39 with a little over a minute left to play. They were 1st and goal and fans were egging Urban to score again. The camera pans at Meyer and you can clearly see him thinking about it. Fox analyst Joe Klatt comments

"Does he go the Woody Hayes route?"

I, the ghost of Woody, and many fans were hoping he would score and go for the two point conversion that would have made the score 70-39. Much to the fans chagrin, Urban showed some mercy against his arch-rival and instead instructed his quarterback Dwayne Haskins to take a knee and run the clock out. The game ended and he was a perfect 7-0 against Michigan and winning another Big Ten East title. Jim Harbaugh runs off the field cursing under his breath that Urban once again got the better of him. The fans stormed the field and little did they know it would be his last game at the Shoe. 

After winning the Big Ten Championship, Urban announced that he was retiring after the Rose Bowl. The cyst inside his brain was causing too much pain as a result of the stress he endured over the years. This past season was one of the worst during his time at Ohio State. The suspension for the first three games because of his handling of the Zach Smith domestic abuse allegations and his team playing like shit all season long. He once retired from Florida because health related stress, but this time he said it would be for good. 

When Meyer was hired in 2012, Ohio State was in a dark place. Jim Tressel had resigned in disgrace and the program had its first losing season since 1988. They were hit with sanctions and banned from postseason play. Urban took a team that had nothing to play for and went 12-0. He turned the Buckeyes into a juggernaut that the Big Ten had never seen before. He brought respectability back to the conference that was once seen as inferior. He recruited nationally and started to mold his team into the one that won two national championships at Florida. Gone was "Tressel Ball" and in its place was an SEC team built for speed and offensive firepower. All that fruition came together in 2014 when he won his 3rd national title. 

Meyer was a driven coach who obsessed over the finest details. I lost count the number of times he blew a gasket over a penalty or a missed assignment. Over time it started to take a toll on him. The cyst inside his brain would cause severe headaches whenever he was stressed out. It had been going on for several years, but a lot people didn't know about it. I never knew about the condition until this season. I just remember watching him hunched over, grabbing his head, and looking anguished. He old and worn out. There was something not quite right about him. 

His last game would be in Pasadena as they were playing Washington in the Rose Bowl. It was fitting because Meyer had never been to the Rose Bowl. They favored to win, but they didn't make it easy as they almost blew the game winning 28-23. He walked into the sunset with an 82-9 record at Ohio State. He left huge shoes to fill for new head coach Ryan Day. 

The big black cloud hanging over him is the Zach Smith scandal. During his time at Florida mny of his players ran afoul with the police. I thought he handled the Smith affair poorly and it was more ammo for his critics who often called him Urban Liar. Was he perfect? Absolutely not. He had his moments as there were times when I groused and bitched that he was far too loyal to JT Barrett. He also picked the worst time to lay an egg against a team he should have thrashed soundly. That cost him a chance of making it to the playoffs. There were times I thought he was too conservative in play calling and also cost another chance of making it to the playoffs. Then there were questionable coaching hires such as Tim Beck, promoting Ed Warriner to offensive coordinator, Greg Studrawa, and worst of all Bill Davis. 

But it was masterful coaching job in 2014 that will leave a lasting impression on Buckeye fans. He took a team that went through a lot at the beginning of the season and had its share of highs and lows. They were underdogs in the playoffs and they pulled off two of the biggest victories in Ohio State history. How he didn't win coach of the year is mind boggling. 

His retirement don't come as a surprise to me. Urban was a very intense coach. He demanded perfection from his players and coaches. Coaches like him often have a short life expectancy as they're prone to burning out. As expected many are saying this just another short term retirement as Meyer will begin to feel better and the competitive urge will be too strong for him ignore. Some think he'll wait when a big time program is looking for new coach. Personally, I think he's done. The cyst can't be removed, his extended family is too important, and his age is a factor now. He's made his mark in college football as one of the greatest. He has nothing left to prove and Harbaugh's chance for beating him is gone forever. 

50


October 3rd and I'm looking in the mirror.

"I'm 50 years old today"

I look at my reflection and I see the same guy from 10 years ago just with a little more grey but nicely textured with my brown hair. I still fool a lot of people when it comes to guessing my age. Physically, I'm probably in the best shape in my life. Long gone is the overweight couch potato of 20 years ago. I haven't smoked since 1994 and I rarely drink anymore. I'm 195 pounds and I could use some more chiseling in the gym. I guess I consider myself lucky for someone that is now a half century old.

When it comes to fishing, I still possess that youthful eagerness that I had in my teens. Leaping out of bed at five in the morning. My face lights up whenever I see the river. I fish the pools and runs hard. At the end of the day, I'm one of the last guys off the river. But, there's those signs that I'm getting older. I have to use bigger floats to see them better. At the end of the day my back is sore and I'll hit the sack quickly much to my girlfriend's chagrin. 

More and more of my fishing trips are often by myself now. The older guys I fish with wouldn't be able to keep up. Father time has taken a toll on them whether it's bad knees, failing eyesight or being out of shape. They're content fishing the closest spot to the parking lot. My passion is just too strong. As long as I'm physically able to do it, I can't see myself stopping. 

But over the years, I seen the older anglers gradually disappear on my home waters. I know some by name and others by face. Some have passed away and others can no longer physically do it. It makes you take stock that we can't stop time. That's why I take my health so seriously now. 

We all deal differently when it comes to age. Some bemoan getting older, others embrace it, and others see it was just a number and go about their business. The unexpected death of my father a couple years ago has made me realize that time is precious and be taken away at a moments notice. There's plenty I want to do, but at times I do feel a sense of urgency. Back in my 20s I had no thought of the future. I had no responsibility or worries. Turning 50 was so far away as it was an after thought. 

Like most people, I have a lot of good, bad, and really bad experiences in my life. The worst ones were the most trying and I wondered if I could recover from them. I weathered them and I came out stronger. In fact, each event has given me renewed appreciation for my life and the inspiration to keep exploring, learning, and growing. I feel it's a never ending process.

There's plenty I want to do and I'm going to do it. Next year, my girlfriend and I are planning a trip to Italy, I want to write a book, and run in a marathon. Turning 50 was just another milestone and I'm ready for another decade of adventures.