I’d met Jimmy Reynolds when we were in fifth grade and his parents were the new owners of one of the two grocery stores in Maysville, my hometown of 900 or so, on the banks of the Little Wabash River in southern Illinois. I even went to his house once after school. His dad supervised while we shot off Jimmy’s model rockets, then later his mom cooked hamburgers and homemade fries for us and his younger brothers Jason and Jonah. The Reynolds kids spent that summer with their grandparents back up in Michigan but then with just a few weeks to go before the 1978-79 school year started Jimmy called and asked if I could come over again.
When I’m there I never think about Mr. Sam O. Dale, an eight term state representative for whom this site was named. Actually, I’ve never heard anyone call this 194 acre lake anything other than Johnsonville Lake, that being the nearest town. I’m not sure if this is because in southern Illinois there seems to be a common disdain for politicians or if it’s just that Johnsonville Lake seems like a more fitting moniker. All I know is this Sam Dale guy never crosses my mind. Usually I’m trying to stay focused on the subject at hand, be that catfishing, building a campfire, or trying to land a nice rainbow at the trout pond. Regardless, when my mind does wander, and it often does, especially while I’m waiting for a fish to bite, I often find myself thinking about my grandpa Dutch Hale who drove down from Clay County to fish here.