Life long friends are hard to come by.
It was the 24th of September. The phone rang. It was my buddy Frank Denallo from Cleveland on the phone. He usually calls me and jokes with me and asks how the fishing was. This phone call was different. His tone on the phone was different than usual. I could tell something was wrong from the get go.
Frank and his buddy Erik Springer use to be clients of mine when I guided. I did the guide thing with them a couple times and we became good friends. When I quit guiding, I still continued fishing with them each Fall and Spring when they drove up all the way from Cleveland to Southern Wisconsin to trout fish with me.
They always camped and lived life to the fullest. Their camp site was a fun place to hang out. Lots of camp fire stories/lies were told on the banks of the Kickapoo River. Many beers dank and many wild crazy stories were told. Frank and Erik loved to trout fish and it was evident in their zest for sport. There was friendly competition and a little rivalry. Frank and Erik were the best of friends and it was a joy to fish with them because it was obvious they loved fishing and really enjoyed each others company.
Frank and Erik had just been up fishing with me about 4 days prior and they had an excellent 10 days fishing the Driftless Area. They packed up their vehicle and head back to Cleveland. I got a call from Frank to tell me that they had arrived back home. They had five more days to fish and they were NOT going to waste a second of it. They decided to hit the stream around Cleveland before they went back to work.
I assumed Frank was calling me to give me a fish report. That was not the case. Frank and Erik had fished non-stop for 3 days and Frank needed to regroup and get some sleep. Frank and Erik made their battle plans and Frank needed to sleep a little because he was burnt out from all the fishing and driving in the last 2 weeks. Erik dropped off Frank and off he went after noon to hit another stream before work called and destroyed their wonderful vacation.
Erik did not make it to the stream. Frank was calling me from the hospital. Erik must have fallen asleep behind the wheel and hit a tree at 55 miles an hour. The impact was on the passenger side and the vehicle was basically wrapped around the tree. If Frank had been in the passenger seat he surely would have died.
Erik sustained many injuries and was on life support. He had a skull fracture and brain swelling and the doctors had him in a drug induced comma until his swelling came down. Erik was on ventilator and had a tracheotomy and breathing tube in place. He had many broken bones and was NOT expected to make it. Frank was going to stay there as long as he could and keep a watchful eye over his buddy Erik. They finally kicked him out of the hospital when visiting hours were closing.
Frank has called me once a week since the accident. Two months ago Frank called me and said out of the blue Erik woke up and wanted the breathing tubes removed. Erik could not talk because of the surgery he had to put the ventilator in place. Frank was so happy he called me right away. Erik has had about 5 surgeries since then and is now in physical therapy to try to be able to walk again. Erik does not remember the crash and lost lots of short term memory. He is already talking about going fishing this spring in Wisconsin with me.
Life is precious. Life long friends are hard to come by. What is even harder to come by is a good friend that enjoys your love of fishing and the outdoors. The next time you go fishing you should treat it like it could be Your Last Day Fishing.
Frank Denallo (Goat Boy)
Erik Springer (Springer)