Sometimes, we who chase bass or crappies several times a week underestimate the power of simply reeling in a single fish.
I got a reminder Saturday when I attended a fishing clinic during the Kansas Wildlife Federation conference at Milford Lake.
Paul Bartram, a special-needs young adult, had caught only one fish in his lifetime before this weekend. But at age 29, he still has the excitement of a child when it comes to the outdoors.
Over the weekend, he went camping with his adopted father and mother, Ray and Janet Bartram of Bonner Springs, Kan., at Acorns Resort. Then he was part of the gang that took part in the clinic.
When Rick Dykstra, manager of the Acorns Resort conference center, heard that Paul was excited about the possibility of catching a fish, he took him to his secret spot.
Paul dropped a jig into the brush pile, moved it slightly, then felt a tap. He set the hook and broke into a big grin when he pulled a nice-sized crappie to the surface as his mentor for the day, Mark Jackson, looked on.
He tentatively clamped down on the fish’s jaw with his thumb, then rushed off to show his mom.
“You caught that?” Janet said. “Wow, what a great fish!”
Others rushed around, and Paul was in the spotlight.
For mom and dad, that was just one more step in what they said was an unlikely story.
“When he was born, the doctors said they Paul would never be a functioning person. They doubted that he would ever walk or talk,” Ray Bartram said. “But look at him now.”
Though he has mental disabilities, Paul has definitely defied the odds. He can function, understanding others, conversing, and showing emotion.
He now lives in an independent living center with a roommate, and he volunteers for a YMCA and a food pantry.
And on Saturday, he proved that can catch fish.
“He is our miracle child,” Ray said. “He wasn’t supposed to have come this far.
“He has done so much. He’s just a fine young man.”
Credit much of that to the Bartrams. They adopted Paul when he 4 years old after the court removed him from his parents.
The Bartrams have been active in the foster-care system, taking in many struggling and needy children over the years. They didn’t hesitate to come to the aid of Paul.
They viewed Paul catching a big crappie as one more step in his development.
“He’s like anyone else,” Ray said. “He wants to enjoy the outdoors and do things on his own.
“I’d say this has been a good weekend for him.”