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I caught my first fish when I was five. Or so I was told. Uncle Jack took me to the Bloody Dick Creek in southwest Montana (not made up). It’s near the Montana-Idaho border and feeds the Clark Canyon Reservoir. Google it. Apparently, they also have a Bloody Dick Cabin, which I also have no memory of.

But I am no fisherman. Despite reeling in a 9-inch brook trout at age five that day with Uncle Jack (ok, maybe 6-inch), I did not develop the passion that I believe you need to be certified as a true fisherman. I know people who have that passion. I get it. I just don’t have it. Not your fault, Uncle Jack.

He also taught me how to clean the fish and pan fry the fish on the campfire. We did not have catch and release in my youth. We had catch and eat. If you failed, it was bologna and mayonnaise on Wonderbread, which at the time in my mind, was not a bad second place.

But allow me to propose that being a fisherman in the wild, wild west of trout streams named the Bloody Dick, though passionate, is not in this league. You can make the same case for big league fishermen who live and work the coastlines worldwide. In this case, on the Greek island of Mykonos.

This little adventure was during my post-college hitchhike days through Europe. Greece was an agenda no brainer. I was shooting with my trusty Nikon SLR F2A with 200 speed film. No worries.

It was not a beach day. It was a hangover day. Ouzo does that. I parted with my travel friends that morning and cautiously sauntered through the slim neighborhood alleyways and the Mykonos docks at the port. Sitting at the dock of the bay vibe. I sat there on the dock of the bay across from these two and watched them, well, fish.

I did not take many frames. I had limited film and remember, it was film. And I wasn’t after anything special. I just sat there waiting for the Tylenol to kick in.

When I returned to the States from the European party, this pic put a smile on my face. It brought everything back together about the dock, the day, fishing. These two were not really fishing; they were working. This was late August and very hot in the Mediterranean. Work pants, works shirts, work boots, sleeves rolled, cap. No gloves allowed.

I suppose this is a story about working. Really working. Working with your hands. Working at a job that you are good at and have been doing all your life. Maybe like his father and his father before. You don’t miss a day. You don’t call in sick or take a break. You don’t work from home.

I knew this type of work from my childhood, which is what draws me to this photo. That memory is not about fishing. It’s about sheepherding. Basque sheepherding. The Basque, French and Spanish, made several migrations to the United States and many made their way to Northern Nevada in the early- to mid-1850s. Research says they worked the mines initially, and according to the history books, they figured out the good money was earned feeding the miners, not digging holes as a minor. And there was land. Dry land, for sure, but it was free and if you worked it, you could claim it. That they did.

Fast forward to the sixties and seventies. I was growing up in Winnemucca, a must stop in Northern Nevada and a bastion of Basque shepherds and eventually masons, carpenters, plumbers, painters, and restaurateurs bar none. I grew up with names like Etchegoyen, Erquiaga, Echevarria, Dufurrena, Aranguena, and Mendiola to name a few. You get the picture. I don’t remember a friend named Smith or Jones or Adams for that matter.

As kids do, you finish the day at a friend’s house and you get to meet, be pampered by, and usually are fed by their parents. When you reach a certain age, all of that stops. At the time, the Basque names and unique Winnemucca culture had no bearing on me. I’m just growing up and it was just my friend’s house. Some of the parents were right off the boat, spoke little English. My friends were parent interpreters. Most were grandchildren of Basque immigrants, their grandparents pillars of the community for decades and holders of the Basque torch and in some ways the history of Northern Nevada.

And here is where I merge the Greek fisherman with the Basque sheepherder in this tale. The fisherman preparing his bait on that Mykonos dock could double as a Basque… anything. A sheepherder, rancher, mason. You don’t get that tough, strong, brown, and callused at the beach or at the gym. You go to work. That look is not by choice. It is a result.

It’s a good look. Hard. Unapologetic. Arms like anchor chains. It can be awe inspiring and far from most of us today. I buy my fish and lamb chops at the store. I use sun block. I wear boots when I’m hiking, not working. I sit on a bike, not on a dock, or in a boat or on a horse. I remember taking this photo and wanting to talk with this fisherman. Sometimes I do that. Chatty, chat, chat.

“How’s the fishin”.

“Any bites today.”

I thought better of it. I walked away around my dock to his dock, but I paused. Nope. Dude’s working. Speaks Greek. What would I add to his day? Walked away.

I kept walking and went to look for my wandering travelers. Headache was gone. Good fisherman vibes and the hope that my pic of the working Greek fisherman was worth it. I think it is.

I would like to go to Basque country someday. Try to get that same feeling from the Basque homeland. Never been.

Yet again, maybe I have.

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