It really would not matter if the sun fails to come out when the Neosho National Fish Hatchery holds its annual open house for elderly and physically challenged fishermen.

It really would not matter if the sun fails to come out when the Neosho National Fish Hatchery holds its annual open house for elderly and physically-challenged fishermen.

On that day, the smile on Dave Hendrix’s face is bright enough to light up every nook and cranny of the old hatchery.

“I just love having these people out here,” Hendrix said. “I know that many of these elderly people fished at some time in their lives, and now they get to do it again. It really doesn’t matter if they catch anything or not, just being out in nature gives them a chance to remember some good times from the past.”

Even though Tuesday's event, and the Kids Fishing Clinic and Derby, are ways for the hatchery to give back to the community, both events are about more important things.

“I like to do this to show support for a community that has been so good to me and my family, my staff and the hatchery,” Hendrix said. “But I also like to see the looks on the faces of these fishermen. There’s just a look of peace and contentment and reminiscences.”

But memories of fishing and being outdoors are not reserved for those who were trying to hook a big rainbow trout. Hendrix had a few memories of his own.

“When I see these people out here enjoying the outdoors, I know it would put a smile on my mother and dad’s faces,” he said. “I come from the country, and we enjoyed and depended on the resources of nature. Without fish and deer and other wild animals for food, our family would not have survived. This is what I think of and why this is so dear to me.”

The annual Kids Fishing Clinic and Derby went off as planned on June 6, but rain seemed determined to take away the clinic for the elderly and physically challenged.
But the day could not have been more perfect Tuesday, and Dave’s big smile was seriously challenged by those who were reeling in the trout.

“You sure know when someone gets a fish,” Dave said, laughing. “You can hear lots of noise as someone is shouting, and you can hear the fish flopping around in the water. This is such fun.”

Helping Dave put this big event together were members of his staff and several volunteers. One of the big events of the day came at noon when local businessman Bill Andrews fired up an outdoor grill and served up lunch for everyone who came to the hatchery.

As each fish was pulled ashore, it usually was accompanied by a story told by someone who “hadn’t fished in 40 years.”

One fisher woman, Nancy Middleson, came to the fishing event from an area nursing home. She was having great success, and her face just beamed when she said she hadn’t caught a fish in 40 years when she fished in Big Sugar Creek.

It was a cool and cloudy day, but there was sunshine all around, most coming from the happy face of a smiling Dave Hendrix.

Neosho Daily News