I admit that I haven't done a good job telling yall about the awesome opportunity in which I have taken part of this week. I was asked by Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association and Alabama Bass Trail to be one of 4 writers to take part in an awesome half week of sampling everything that several counties communities have to offer.
Now, calling me a "writer" is a very loose term. Especially considering the company that I have kept this week. I am in the company of writers such as David Ranier, John Felsher, and Dennis Sherer. I'm not really sure how the stars aligned so that I could be here. Honestly, it's been a struggle for me to answer WHY I am here. What do I mean? You ask...
Well, whenever we meet tourism representatives for each of the counties in the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, they all ask me: Are you a writer or are you a pro? Well, I don't make any money writing, and I don't consider blogging to be writing. I certainly am no fishing pro. Even my look is different than either of those two groups. I wear my PTL hoody and stained blue jeans like a pro, but I don't have those awesome tan lines. I certainly don't look like a writer and I don't have the talent.
Of course the answer is...neither. Not by a long shot. To which I have received some interesting looks from the fine ladies who represent many of your counties and its tourism. So, as they passed out buisness cards...I had nothing really to offer other than a shoulder shrug and a foroughed brough on why they cared to give me a card or want one from me.
So, I started just saying I was a writer....and because of the company I am keeping this week, they assume that I am a free lancer for one of the big outdoors magazines. You know. Like I am Accomplished.....
Wrong again. Nope. Just a kid who has a blog and some spare time. I bet they think I am joking.
I further admit that this has put a lot of pressure on me to deliver some grand type of writing, and the viewing traffic associated with that writing, for the people who are paying the bills for me to be here like they will get from the other writers.
Add to all of this that the week isn't JUST about fishing. I mean, I was told this was about ALL of the attractions and accommodations offered by the Top 16 Counties in the State of Alabama. But, we were fishing....so.....it's all about fishing? And if it's about fishing, I'm in good shape.
It must be a Generation X thing that we believe life is all about us and what life has to offer us. In this case, I thought this was all about fishing and what the communities had to offer me. Why else would they treat us to great accommodations at Doublehead Resort on Wilson Lake, fishing with Pro Guides like Jimmy Mason, Brent Crow from North Alabama Guide Service, Currey Holley from Always Gone Fishing, Brian Barton from Brian Barton Outdoors, and Johnathan Henry from Guntersville BassWhacker, or the absolutely terrific food from River Bottom Grill and Stanfields?
So, as we met the representatives from each of the 16 counties in Alabama Mountain Lakes, listened to what they offer tourists and sportsman, and listened to their struggles and plights, things became clearer to me. Was I there to gather information to share with readers about how great the fishing and associated accommodations are? Sure. But more importantly, to impress upon me the NEED for people like me to take ownership and responsibility for this terrific region of this wonderful state and to make sure that all Alabamians know WHO is fighting for them and WHY.
When I arrived, I thought I was just here to sample the goods and to report. I will still do that. But, in my simplistic world, that was it. Already I have learned that I am not just the consumer. I am part of this whole economical system that has to work together to ensure that our state is successful in bringing in these tourists so that we can raise the money to leave our children an opportunity to enjoy the things we had.....or even make them better.
It took about 30 minutes to realize all of this. Probably about the time that full-blown statistical analysis of the impact of spraying the grass in Roseberry creek on Guntersville to the total states tourism got into full swing.
This is about working together to provide income and jobs to Alabamians while protecting and restoring the State for our kids.
We are talking about the 14,000 jobs that fishing alone creates in Alabama. . Or the $8xx,xxx,xxx of economical impact that fishing has in this state. Jobs that have direct impacts on how well fishing does. Not just the Brent Crows and Brian Bartons who fish....but the workers here at Doublehead, the servers at River Bottom. Here is where it got REALLY interesting....what about all the OTHER stuff that we have here in Alabama like white tail, quail, and turkey hunts that people don't really know about? Or great attractions like the Coondog Cemetary? Terrific Festivals?
Suddenly, this trip that was all about me me me became very much about everyone else and how I was going to do my part to help.
The sad thing is, my part seemed pitifully small...especially when the name dropping for Representative So-and-So, the Governor, Congressman Whomever....who these writers and County Representatives all know by first name basis....and how they need them on their side to keep up the good work. Who do I know? No one. What pull do I have? Slim to none.
Here I was. I know no one. Outside of the 5PM news, I am not plugged in with all the politics that effect this state. I don't have the first understanding of how this bill or piece of legislation put forth by whomever that affects tourism will effect anyone else. But these people do.
It became imperative that a lot of work has to happen to keep this state's head above water. Specifically speaking of our State Parks and Wildlife Refuges...and the legislation that directly or indirectly affects our tourism.
I don't want to read too much into why I am here. Again, the cavern between the pedigree of the other writers...speaking of talent, experience, and footprint....is inescapably vast. Yet, as I thought about how I fit...or DO I fit...I thought....
Maybe they see the need for the next generation's help. People don't turn 50 and suddenly care AND have the ability to sway those votes....they have to build it up over DECADES. Which means you have to groom the talent at a young age.
Is that what I am? Maybe. Maybe not. I could be someone whom they see the energy and ability. But then again, maybe they just had a spot that they couldn't fill and someone suggested me. Hey. It was better than having no one, right?
Regardless, it's clear that the resources that I enjoy, from the fishing to the hunting, to all the great festivals our region has...ARE a depeletable resource. If everyone enjoys them but no one builds them...what do you think will happen? I came into this thinking how awesome all the free stuff was going to be for me. All the publicity. All the fun. Yet it took about 30 minutes for me to meet these WONDERFUL ladies from these different counties and see things from their point of view and to realize that this wasn't all fun and games for me....but to ensure that our Children and the rest of Our Nation can experience the Great State of Alabama while providing a jobs and lucrative income, by getting my support, however small it may be.
They have it. Do they have yours?