The last time I saw Marvin Meredith was in a fish camp on the shore of Lake Erie. Soc Clay and I were having breakfast at a restaurant in Port Clinton and Marvin and some of the men he was with were at the next table. They were getting ready to, like us, hit the lake for walleye and smallmouth fishing.
It was 9 a.m. and the sun was shining brightly. But it was unusually dark inside the restaurant. It was caused by the big front windows overlooking the lake and the glass storm door being covered with insects.
It was the first time any of us had been to the lake for the hatch of the mayflies. We were amazed at their numbers.
Marvin, many of you will remember, was the iconic coach of the Russell High School boys’ varsity basketball team. In 31 years as coach of the Red Devils his teams racked up an astonishing 677 victories, including three 16th regional championships (1967, 1968 and 1972). He made it to the championship game five other times.
He graduated from Catlettsburg High and went on to play at Marshall. He also ran track there and set a record time of 10:20 in the 100-yard dash.
I remember him well in basketball because his team ended my high school career. We drew Russell in the first game of the district tournament. It was then like it is now, you lose that first game and your season was over.
I was a senior at South Portsmouth High School and we won more than 20 games that year, including two victories over Russell, on their floor and ours.
I think we Tigers were a little overconfident. Coach Meredith had us figured out by this time. They beat us 12 points.
I took that defeat hard. In the dressing room tears were streaming down my face.
I wrote a poem about it next day – About a “confused, downhearted boy.” I don’t remember how it all went now, but the last verse was:
“Will it be like this in life, thought he.
Will our hopes be all in vain?
And then he heard a small voice say,
If you lose, get up, get up and try again.”
That could have very well been Marvin Meredith’s theme in life.
He died at age 85 in 2013 or 2014, I don’t remember which.
Back to the mayflies and the Lake Erie fishing. It was fantastic that day as swarms of the insects floated on the surface of the lake. Both the walleye and the smallmouth evidently found them tasty. They swirled up from beneath to gulp them down, but also hit our inline spinners adorned with a live nightcrawler or a white crankbait with a red dot on the side.
The mayfly lives for only about 24 hours. Their only purpose is to mate. The female lays her eggs on the surface. They float to the bottom and may lie in the sediment for a year.
They hatch and the little insect swims to the surface, where they soon sprout wings and take to the air.
Fly fishermen have success by casting flies they tie to look like the mayfly. They call them a dun.
Love Of Nature
I close with a poem designed to lift our spirits through this time of frozen streets and highways and power outages. It’s titled “My Heart Leaps Up” and was written by William Wordsworth (1770-1850), who had a reverent regard for nature.
“My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky.
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man.
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The child is father of the man;
And I would wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.”
Reach G. SAM PIATT at email@example.com or (606) 932-3619.