It was the spring of 1971 at Green Island on the Caney River. I sat under a mulberry tree on a steep muddy riverbank with my trusty Zebco rod and reel, waiting for a bite. My dad and grandpa thought it a good place to catch a few catfish. Especially with the ripe mulberries periodically dropping into the water below where we sat together. I was a 5 year old on safari. Of course that's how I always felt when I was wearing my grandpa's old oil man hard hat. It was the closest thing to a pith helmet I had ever worn. Grandpa was in my mind no different than H.M. Stanley himself, a true adventurer. To don his headgear was the ultimate way to measure up. The leather suspension bands inside the old hat had a real man's smell to them. A mixture of the oil that was used to keep the leather supple and the perspiration left there by a hard working man. My mind drifted off to the wilds of Africa. I imagined myself deep in the Congo on some unexplored tributary. Suddenly I was bolted back to reality by the doubling over of my rod and the whiz of rapidly stretching monofiliment. "it's a monster!" I cried, not so much in anticipation but in absolute fear of being dragged over the bank and into the river by the freshly hooked behemoth. I was quite useless as a swimmer at that age. The bank upon which we sat was likely only 10 feet or so from the water's surface but it seemed a great deal farther than that to me. The fear of being the drowning victim of the whale at the end of my line multiplied when the beast broke the water's surface and rolled over, exposing his girth before plunging back to the depths. I remember trying to scoot backwards to save myself while still trying to sneak a peek over the edge of the bank to see more of the monster that was making such a wild commotion below. I don't remember if dad helped me with the fish or not. Everthing happened so fast. It wasn't his habit to assist in the reeling but somehow the fish was landed and I'm sure he was responsible for that happening. Despite the fact that my monster turned out to be a common carp, a "trash fish" by the standards of my fishing companions, a great deal seemed to be made of the catch. The beast was packed home and I was allowed to stand on the bed of the old hay truck while a photo was taken with the polaroid. Dad always liked cameras and seemed to enjoy the novelty of an instant photo of me with a big ole' carp. Over time as I endeavored to become an expert fisherman, my quest for big fish moved on to more desirable species. Decades later I was sharing a shoebox full of fishing photos with some British anglers who zeroed right in on the photo of that old carp. It was their favorite and of course they wanted to know all about my choice of hats. Carp fishing is a very legitmate sport in England and they were all ears to hear the story behind the photo of me wearing an old hard hat and posing with a nice carp. My love of hats has continued to this day and I am rarely without one. Hats still remind me of the important men in my life. On occasion I'll put on a new hat, grab a spinning outfit spooled with light line and find a quiet place on the river where I can wrestle some carp. Even though I've caught some much larger than that old monster of Green Island, not a single one has measured up to the excitement and outright fear that old fish instilled in me that day. It truly has been the fish by which all others have been measured.