This life offers each an opportunity to paint their own portrait. Despite the definitions of culture –achievement and success are relative. So often, even the healthiest of folk are met with stress and strife toward an illusory purpose, thus creating a life of suffering, with moments of fleeting happiness sprinkled throughout. Bing Smith’s story reminds us that courage and friendship can inspire a consistency that can push the envelope in ways that favor an arguably truer currency—depth of soul.
“Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Bing Smith was born blind, though he did undergo surgery in 1993 to regain 20/200 vision in his right eye, he met challenges that most could never fathom. Bing met Andrew Hibbler, writer, and avid fly angler at Lock Haven University where both of them worked in the university kitchen.
As the months passed Bing and Andrew became good friends. Andrew was astounded, not only by Bing’s incredible ability to navigate the kitchen quickly and safely but more so by his sense of humor and light spirit.
Andrew says, “Spending time with Bing has made me take an honest look at how often sighted people take their eyesight for granted. We assume it will always be there and always perform correctly for us, but this is not guaranteed, and the mere thought of living without eyesight seems near impossible to those that possess it.”
Bing grew weary of the bars and video games that Andrew had for the most part abandoned to devote more time to exploring the Pennsylvania wild. Bing admitted that he hadn’t properly enjoyed the outdoors since he had been working at the university. Andrew jumped at the chance to invite Bing on his adventures.
Andrew says, “At first, what interested Bing most was the camping aspect of our outings. I enjoy ultralight backpacking and camping as well, particularly during the fall and winter months. I would fish and Bing would poke around the woods and enjoy a break from his apartment. Getting to one of my favorite locations requires a long hike and short wade through water that ranges from ankle-high to waist-deep. The first time I took Bing across, he followed close behind me, mirroring my steps in a cheap pair of nylon Hodgman’s. I was as impressed then at his wading ability as I am still. The visibility of the water has no bearing on his ability to wade. He relies solely on his sense of touch, which to my surprise, was unaffected by wool socks and heavy rubber wading boots.”
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order”. —John Burroughs
Initially, Bing was quite content organizing camp and mastering fire while Andrew would fish incessantly, climbing the rocks and braving deep pools with heavy nymphs and streamers. In the back of Andrew’s mind, he knew his goal was to get Bing into the water with a fishing rod.
Andrew says, “After months of day trips, overnight stays, and further and longer hikes into the state game lands, Bing bought his license and picked up a spinning rod I had pieced together from parts in my garage.”
What ensued was an effort to get Bing comfortable with knots and casting, followed by supporting Bing into spots that proved the best chance of landing his first fish.
Andrew recalls, “We fished for over an hour before I saw his rod tip bounce. There was something alive on the other end of that line and he knew it. He did not panic, and arched his rod tip up, pulling the fish in close to him.”
Bing landed that fish and released it back into the stream before catching a rare (for this stream) musky, which tested the limits of his 6 lb. test and was certainly a fish to be remembered. This fish led to even greater excitement, achievement, and joy than his first.
Bing’s experiences on this day have evolved into stories that he proudly shares with his mates. Needless to say, Bing was hooked. On current trips organizing the camp, gathering wood, and keeping fire take a back seat to Bing getting on the water to catch fish.
As I write this I am not sure who benefited more, Bing or Andrew, but that analysis would be beside the point of this beautiful story.