It was an old song from the 1960’s. I don’t remember who sang it. I was a little boy listening to bedroom racket as older siblings played the old rock and roll. But I still remember some lines; “No rainbow on my shoulder. No horseshoe on my door. But I’ve got you to hold me tight, who could ask for more? Oh I got lucky. Yes I got lucky when I found you, when I found you.”
I think, from listening to the banter here in central Wisconsin and reading the tributes after the passing of Don Cashmore that many, even rough and tumble outdoor boys from New London felt that way about the owner of Cash’s Little Shoppe of Bait. Well, “Cash” didn’t literally hold these burly boys tight. But you can say he embraced the interests of the outdoor community. And Cash and his bait shop kept the anglers from Oshkosh to Point informed on the attitude of the Wolf River that winds through New London and he was armed with minnows and crawlers and other necessities when the river was friendly.
Some of those boys asked me to write this past winter about Cashmore’s unique method of catching fish called long-lining for this column, to basically give credit where credit was due for out-of-the box thinking. The guy could catch fish like few others according to the locals. I came, met and interviewed Cash in March and watched and reported on the hard water as the method was put to the test successfully by John Faucher… one of those “rough and tumble outdoor boys”. John is a long-time friend of Cashmore’s who is now running the bait shop out of love for the man, until his family can make the transition to wherever they want to go with Cash’s business on the Wolf.
“He was a friend for 17 years,” Faucher said last week as he prepared to take on the Wolf again with Gordy Pagel and I. “He took young people under his wing. He was a father figure. He had severe diabetes. He was a Vietnam Vet and because of Agent Orange had many complications in his later years that affected what he could do. He had to live vicariously through some of us.”
Faucher said that after several heart attacks, Cashmore underwent successful triple bypass surgery this summer before suffering a severe hemorrhage. Although virtually without brain activity and given last rites in the hospital, Cashmore squeezed the hand of close friend Julie Blohm just before passing. “He squeezed her hand hard,” Faucher said. “It gave us all comfort.”
This is where we bring rainbows back into the story and introduce smiley faces. Smiley faces were to be seen, as Faucher promised, in, out and about the bait shop as we prepared to ship off in search of pike, walleye and smallmouth on the river…in Cashmore’s boat.
Julie Blohm, Faucher said, was one of the first to speak at Cash’s funeral, and told the community that she wasn’t a big fan of smiley faces. “I don’t know why but I just can’t stand them (smiley faces),” Blohm said. “Perhaps it’s the perpetual smile that seems to be mocking you when you know life isn’t always that good and you’re having a particularly bad day. Well, Cash caught on to my distain for them and so our yearly exchange of smiley-faced things began.”
An hour after Blohm and others had spoken of Cash, final military rights with full honors were held next to the casket on the bank of the Wolf in front of Cash’s Little Shoppe of Bait. Above the shop, a rare upside down rainbow, a smiley face, appeared in the sky, much to the amazement of Cash’s friends. Google “Upside Down Rainbow”. It told this reporter “it’s no fantasy or trick of light. Known as a circumzenithal arc, it’s often mistaken for a rainbow hanging upside down.” The photo of the phenomenon from a perspective in front of the casket appeared that week in the New London newspaper.
“Full military rights were going on,” Faucher said. “The casket was on the river bank and they were folding the flag. This smiley face, rare for the human eye to see, appeared. It’s called a smile in the sky. It was amazing. It gave us all such peace.”
Since that day, Faucher said, rainbows over New London have been unusually prevalent. Fishing on the Wolf has been unlike anything Faucher, a lifelong resident and skilled angler, has ever seen. “It’s like Canada,” he said. “I don’t have that much time to fish because I’m running Cash’s shop. But I get out enough, in his boat. Every time I’m out, I get a limit of walleyes in a hurry. Fishing is better than at any time in my life.”
We launched in Cash’s boat last week, hoping for some of those walleyes to cooperate and some of the smallmouth action that the In-Fisherman had written about in the 1970s as among the top smallie waters in the United Sates in fall. Pike action would also be welcome, but the odds of a hefty northern on the Wolf, Faucher said, at least here in the heart of New London, were not good.
We cruised up the Wolf, shut down the motor, and prepared for a first drift. Instead, we took in the beautiful rainbow over New London. Over us. Faucher smiled. I took photos. Gordy Pagel began the search for cooperative fish. In three minutes, he was tangling with one of the most aggressive and stubborn 35-inch pike I had ever had the pleasure of meeting. Although our time was extremely limited by Faucher’s bait shop commitments, more pike and walleye followed.
“It’s just been the best summer and fall for fishing,” Faucher said. “And it’s only going to get better for the next 45 days all the way through October and into November when the leaves are floating. I’m not kidding; it’s been so good you would think you could catch fish with a bare hook.”
Well, maybe if you have a rainbow on your shoulder. Or Don Cashmore in his own boat.
Now there’s a reason to smile.
Connect with the Little Shoppe of Bait at 920-982-4802 or www.thelittleshoppeofbait.com.