There’s probably no phrase that a rodmaker likes to hear less than this one, even when it’s thoroughly justified. It usually means that we’re behind schedule (which I guarantee you we’re well aware of already and probably a little touchy about) and asking about it just serves as an unpleasant reminder. Maybe a lathe broke down at the shop, or the drying room went up in flames, or maybe there was a really good hatch on and well, it just seemed like too good an opportunity to try out that new taper we’ve been experimenting with. You wouldn’t really hold that against us would you?
One of my favorite stories about the dreaded “Is-my-rod-ready-yet?” question was back during my early years as a rodmaker at T&T in the 1970’s. In those days I had a fishing buddy named Myron who had picked up an old montague rod at an estate sale somewhere and had asked me to straighten it for him. When he showed it to me I saw that it was in really terrible shape but he was a friend so I said okay I’d give it a shot. So I’d spend a few hours straightening the thing and when I was done I would then lean it up against the rail at the back of my bench. A few days later I’d look at it and realize that it had acquired a bend again just from leaning there. The bamboo had gone so soft that it was practically unfishable. I continued to try and straighten it for weeks and weeks but it kept drooping over the back of the bench.
Well Myron also had this particular way of walking — there was always a sort of distinctive “clomp – clomp – clomp” sound just before he would walk through the front door and we got to where we could recognize it pretty well. Every week, like clockwork, we’d hear the “clomp-clomp-clomp”, then he’d burst through the front door of the shop and bellow out “Is My Rod Done Yet?!”. It never was, of course, since the thing was incapable of holding it’s shape.
Well the way the shop was set up there were these long row benches along the left hand side and it was a big, cavernous kind of industrial space. The first bench was Tom Maxwell’s. The second was mine. The third was George Katsar’s, and the fourth was Tom Dorsey’s. For straightening rods we had these long pipe-like gas burners that would put out a large steady flame.
One afternoon, while I was working at my bench, I heard the telltale “clomp-clomp-clomp” so I turned and said to Tom Maxwell, “Oh no, here comes Myron again.”
Tom said, “Alright, this time I’m gonna take care of him.” Tom grabbed a scrap rod section and thrust into the heart of the flame, holding it there for what seemed like ages while we could hear Myron heading through the front door to the double doors that led into the main shop area.
The double doors flung open just as the rod section burst into flames and Myron let loose his weekly pronouncement: “HEY, IS MY ROD DONE YET?”
Tom swung the thing in a wide arc from the burner pipe, the rod section trailing flame and smoke, and stuck it right under Myron’s nose, who, dumbstruck, looked as though he’d just been handed a live grenade. “Sure Myron, here’s your rod,” Tom said casually. There was a long, silent pause until the rod section, which had now burned clean through, broke in half and landed in two pieces at Myron feet.
We all completely lost it at that point and could barely stay upright at our workbenches. The look on Myron’s face was just indescribable. Naturally, the whole thing became a long running joke at the shop whenever anyone asked if their rod was ready and when it happens today I still think of that story.
Anyway, I suppose if there’s a takeaway from any of this it’s to be careful when you ask a rodmaker about the status of your rod. You may be doing so at your own, and perhaps your rod’s, peril.