Our friend Bob Salm loves a good joke, so I expected a real whopper when I asked him about the best fish he ever caught.
But, the jig was up (that one was for you Bob) when he answered that his best catch was his wife.
“The biggest fish and best I ever caught was Gail,” he said. “For a woman to stay with me and all my BS for 47 years was definitely my biggest catch.”
Turns out our favorite prankster has a sweetly sentimental side.
He and Gail raised six sons and a daughter on busy family farm, where they all learned quickly how to bank sweat equity.
“When I think back on that now, it’s like we did everything together,” Bob said. “The kids always knew that if we worked hard to get the work done, like taking a crop of hay off, we would get up early the next morning, get the cows fed and milked, and take off to a lake or park, with some of their friends, where they played football, baseball and lots of other games. I would light the grill and feed them all well.”
When the Salms retired from farming, they bought a cottage that, with some modifications, could host their growing family and even, for two days each summer, an entire high school football team. In the years since, two sons have also purchased places near the Salms, so the whole family has plenty of room to roam.
To date, that includes 22 grandchildren, six daughters in-law and a son in-law. Bob and Gail like nothing better than seeing them all together.
“I think I’m the luckiest dad around, and I say that with pride, because like most dads, I have the best bunch of kids, who respect people, and are always willing to help,” Bob said.
We ran into Bob, his son Rob and Rob’s son Bobby ice fishing last weekend. To be clear, they fished and we chatted and tried really hard not to slip on the ice.
I assumed they had all been lifelong fishermen, singularly focused on reeling in the day’s limit. But, farm life prioritizes things very quickly and, for Bob, who went three decades without fishing at all, that means family first, farm second, and fish a far distant third.
“My dad had a cottage in Stockbridge on Lake Winnebago,” he said. “I was number 10 out of 13 kids, so on weekends, some of us had to stay home and get the barns cleaned, which we always did on Saturdays. The lucky ones got to go ice fishing.”
“After I fished a couple of years after I took over the farm around 1969, but with all the work on the farm, I just didn’t have the time for fishing, so the next 30 years, I didn’t fish.We bought our place on Shawano Lake in 2000, and then the boys and I started fishing again. We don’t fish real hard, it’s more about being together and having fun, which may include a game of cards and a few beers.”
“With 22 grandkids, there are always a few on the ice when I’m out there. It’s always special. But, it is really cool when there are three Bobs out there together, just Bobbing around. HAHA!!”