The sport of fishing is rife with stories of monster walleye that got away, muskies that snapped lures and lines, and perhaps the occasional exaggeration or falsehood. But one recent Wisconsin fishing tale had truth to it, though it too was unbelievable.
Jason Duncan, of Tomah, Wis., planned to spend Dec. 22 ice fishing on Tomah Lake. He planned to take his two sons out along with his girlfriend's two sons in an effort to introduce them to the sport he loved.
On Dec. 21, Duncan setup a permanent shack on the ice. Knowing he'd be back first thing the following morning with his children, he left many of his supplies in the shack overnight. Upon arriving early the next morning, Duncan and his oldest son noticed the door swinging open. They had been robbed.
Poles, tackle boxes, tip-ups - all gone.
The assailant left Duncan and the four children without a single pole with which to fish. Determined to get the kids onto the ice to fish, Duncan travelled to his local bait shop, Rosco's, to see what he could replace, but he knew he didn't have hundreds of dollars to throw at new fishing equipment for five people just days before Christmas.
"I don't really have the money to even do this, but I was going to anyway," Duncan, who works at Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center in Mauston, Wis., recalled.
When he explained his story, the bait shop owner offered him a discount on anything he purchased and the opportunity to look through a box of pre-owned equipment someone had dropped off upon moving out of state.
Enter Greg Enerson, a master sergeant in the Wisconsin Air National Guard, and a member of the Guard's 54th Civil Support Team.
Enerson, also an avid outdoorsman, was stopping by the bait shop to say, "Merry Christmas," when he saw Duncan, a complete stranger, desperately rummaging through the old equipment. He could tell immediately that something was wrong, and when he saw the four children waiting to go fishing, Enerson was livid and heartbroken. After listening to the man's story and watching him repeatedly tell his children they couldn't afford the equipment they wanted to purchase, Enerson stepped in.
"He pulls out a $100 bill," Duncan explained. "He gave it to the owner and said, 'get these kids whatever they need to get back out fishing today, and you guys have a Merry Christmas.'"
"I was just extremely floored, because people just don't do that," he said. Not complete strangers anyway.
The money, coupled with the store's discount, and someone's discarded equipment saved the day for Duncan and the kids he hoped to introduce to ice fishing.
Despite losing all of his equipment - and initially, some faith in people - Duncan gained much more from the ordeal than he lost.
"I lost all this stuff, but I gained a different view of humanity again, and I feel like I gained a friend," he said.
After his random act of kindness, Master Sgt. Enerson returned to the bait shop a few minutes later to give Duncan his business card. His only request was that Duncan take him and his three-year-old son out fishing someday.
The two eventually made plans to go bow hunting together as well.
The $100 he handed over had been earmarked to buy a new hunting crossbow, but Enerson said he could save up again.
"It was a sad situation, so I just handed over the $100, and I said, 'I want this to contribute to re-stocking your fishing supplies, and hopefully you kids will have a Merry Christmas,'" Enerson said.
Like Duncan, Enerson knew he had gained from his own generosity as well.
"To be honest with you, I got a little choked up," he said, acknowledging that $100 is a lot of money for anyone. "I mean these were just little kids, and they really looked sad. They were ecstatic. I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't feel good about it."
It's safe to say that Enerson's big-hearted gesture turned what could have been a big disappointment into an almost unbelievable restoration of faith in humanity. Thanks to that, Duncan and his children got to spend the day making memories and creating their own fishing tales.