Jeff Manes: ‘Fly Rod Jimmy’ hooked on great outdoors
August 24, 2012 4:38PM
James Manes, 81, of Lake Village is an avid outdoorsman whose nickname is “Fly Rod Jimmy.” Clearly, he also has had success hunting deer. | Photo provided
Updated: September 27, 2012 10:51AM
“... Tell them to be patient and ask death for speed; for they are all there but one — I, Chingachgook — last of the Mohicans ... .”
— James Fenimore Cooper
James Anthony Manes, 81, lives in Lake Village with his companion of nearly 30 years, Nadia D’Apice.
During the Korean War, Manes was a gunner in the 58th Field Artillery, 3rd Division. He also is a retired steel worker and a lifelong outdoorsman who spends his winters fly fishing and playing Texas Hold ’em in Florida.
And, “Jimmy” Manes is my dad.
“When I was 5, we moved from Chicago to Lake Village,” Manes began. “It was hard times; we lost our home in Chicago. My father gathered up what money he had and bought 38 acres for $19 per acre. He built a house out of whatever he could get a hold of so we’d have something to live in.”
You always said Grandpa Vito could do anything with his hands. How old was he when he emigrated from Italy?
Where in Chicago did the family live?
“Around 87th (Street) and Cottage Grove (Avenue). It was a neighborhood known as Burnside, which was filled with nice little brick bungalows. My maternal grandfather, Genaro DeBartolo, resided in the Grand Crossing neighborhood of Chicago. Grandpa ‘Jim’ outlived three wives.”
Growing up during the Great Depression?
“Your grandfather didn’t believe in welfare; he was too proud. I remember when a school lunch was a dime. It was 4 cents for the main dish, 3 cents for dessert, and 3 cents for the drink. There were times when Ma could only dole out the 4 cents each for all us kids.
“It wasn’t so much being a little hungry; it was the embarrassment of not having the full meal like the kids whose parents had money or were on relief.”
That had to be tough; living on the outskirts of Lake Village, near the state line?
“We didn’t know what a chain saw was. Believe me, your Uncle Mike and I spent our weekends wearing out crosscut saws and double-bit axes. My poor mother did all the cooking on a wood stove — no coal.”
Lake Village, post-World War II?
“Our town was really prosperous; we had three grocery stores, three or four gas stations ... . Old U.S. 41 went right through the middle of Lake Village. When they moved the highway, all the small towns like Lake Village and Schneider went dead. Right now, we’re lucky to have one grocery store.”
Let’s switch gears. You remember seeing prairie chickens while hunting as a young man.
“There were two places that still had prairie chickens back in the 1940s — Jarvis’ farm near the Raff Ranch, and Iry Porter’s place, about five or six miles southeast of here. You couldn’t shoot them; they were almost completely extirpated by then. They looked like a hen pheasant with a short tail.”
You befriended one of the last of the market hunters.
“Carl Maddox from Roselawn; he was in his late 60s when I was a teenager. Some of those guys killed ducks by the wagon loads. Carl told me they’d get a quarter for large ducks and 15 cents for small ones.
“Carl once took me duck hunting at his brother’s place on the Wabash River. We were setting out decoys when a big flock of mallards flew by and landed in the water, not too far from us. Carl said, ‘Jimmy, you get on the far side of those ducks and maybe you’ll be able to sneak in and get a shot off.’ ”
“I must have spooked them (while) trying to walk through the tall weeds and brush. The ducks flew toward Carl.”
“Well, Carl always carried his duck plug in the front pocket of his vest, in case a game warden showed up.”
A duck plug prevents a hunter from loading more than three shells.
“That’s right. Old Carl ‘spoke’ five times with that Remington automatic and put five ducks on the water.”
“I’ve been fly fishing for more than 60 years. I like to fish top-water for bass and bluegill. Bluegill just taste better when you catch ’em on the fly rod; that’s why they call me ‘Fly Rod Jimmy.’ ”
How long have you been deer hunting with the bow and arrow?
“This will be my 53rd year. I’d have more years bow hunting, but we didn’t have deer in this area at that time.
“In 1959, we all laughed at my friend, Don Stone, when he said he was going to deer hunt using a bow and arrow. Well, wouldn’t you know it, Stone killed a 190-pound, eight-point buck at Willow Slough with the bow. That started it. In 1960, we all bought bows and arrows.”
Inland Steel Co.?
“I hired in at No. 2 Open Hearth in April 1950. It was something else — hot, dirty, shift work. I started out in the labor gang, then worked third helper, second helper and eventually first helper.
“Second helping was hell; I did that for 12 or 13 years. A shovel and a wheelbarrow were the tools of the trade — digging out tap holes. Because of the heat, we had to wear long underwear year-round.”
How much did you make in the ’50s?
“I remember when we got up to $15 per day, we really thought we were in the money. About the time I was working first helper steadily, automation came in. When they built No. 3 Open Hearth, that hurt us. When they built No. 4 (Basic Oxygen Furnace), that paralyzed us. With 24 furnaces, No. 2 Open Hearth was the longest open hearth in the world. We went from 24 furnaces to sometimes nine furnaces. I was bumped down to third helper.”
“I saw the handwriting on the wall; they asked me if I’d like to try my hand at melting.”
“I took the job; in 18 years as a melter foreman, I made that company a lot of steel.”
You had firsthand experience because you worked your way up through the ranks.
“Tapped steel runs anywhere from 2,850 degrees to 3,050 degrees. Just by looking into the furnace, I could tell you the temperature within 20 degrees.”
“By the color of the steel and the slag on top of the furnace.”
When I hired into the labor gang, I used to ride with you and Uncle Junior. After a 3-to-11 shift, the three of us stopped at John’s Place in Griffith for cold quarts of beer. Uncle Junior was in the passenger seat, reminiscing about the best year of his life. Remember that classic?”
“Sure do — 1959, best year of my life. My only son was born, the White Sox won the pennant, and I didn’t have to go out to that (expletive) mill for 116 days.’”
You are referring to the big strike.
“That’s right. For more than 30 years, us guys from Newton County car-pooled to the open hearth. Smitty, Orville Geesa, Gordon ‘Flash’ Gervais, Todd Smart, Bud Cool, your Uncle Junior ... . They’re all dead now; I’m the last one left.”
In 37 years, my father can count on one hand the days he called off work. As a salaried employee the last half of his career, he would have been paid whether or not he showed up.
I was a little kid during the steel strike of ’59, but I’ve been told Dad baled hay that summer for a buck an hour so I could have some milk with my corn flakes.
I guess he wanted to make sure I got the full meal.