From Brazil to B.A.S.S.From Brazil to B.A.S.S. Sometimes we all forget about the gift we have been given. But this man reminds us all of things we forget.
By Don Barone
"On the boats and on the planes
They're coming to America…"
Dateline: Oneida Lake, America
I don't know where we were.
I have searched for that one spot, that one tree, all my life.
It is somewhere in Buffalo, New York.
It may be a park, it may not.
I was very young, very young; can't tell you how old, certainly just grammar school.
It was the only time I walked with my grandfather.
I grew up in a family of turmoil, a family of fights, torn apart by who knows. I was young, torn apart, so I grew up as a stranger to my father's side of the family.
It was the only time I walked with my grandfather.
It was the only time I ever held his hand.
That's why I remember it as if it happened last Tuesday. My father had snuck me with him to see my grandfather, to meet my grandfather.
We drove in a black car to a land of trees, tall trees, big round tall trees, and when we got to the land of trees there stood a tiny man, small man.
In the land of brown trees and green grass he stood there in a dark suit with a vest that was chained together with a gold chain that went from one pocket between a button and into another tiny pocket.
I remember the shiny chain.
In the land of brown trees and green grass the small man stood tall, wore a hat of felt on his head and when my father brought me up to the small man he told me the man in the felt hat and dark suit was my grandfather, Sylvester; Sylvester Barone.
And the man of the land and trees bent down and said something to me and reached out his hand and when I reached mine up he kissed my hand, and he kissed my cheek and then we went for a walk.
I have never again been able to find the land of trees. I have never again been able to walk in the footsteps of my grandfather.
As we walked he said stuff I don't remember, and then we came to an opening in the trees and it was a land filled with just green, green grass for as far as I could see.
And my grandfather stopped walking.
And he kissed my hand again.
And he told me he had a present for me, "A gift."
"This," he said, and his hand swept above my head. "This I give to you, all this."
And when I looked up at him wondering where's my present all he said was, "I give you this. I give you."
Then he bent down to kiss the top of my head and when he did so I could see he was crying, and when I was looking at him a tear fell from his eyes and landed on my cheek.
And he let go of my hand and with his thumb he rubbed his tear off my cheek and said to me, "Donnie, I give you this, as my parents gave to me. Donnie I give to you America, as my father gave it to me."
My grandfather sailed with his parents from Italy to America, maybe now almost a hundred years ago. He held his father's hand as they stood in line for hours at Ellis Island waiting to get in.
Years later when I sat in a bar with my grandfather, he told me this story again. I remembered it in my memory; I remember it from his memory.
I remember he told me that when the Sylvester Barone family finally made it from Ellis Island to actually stand on the soil of America, "My father, he cried."
I never really had many days with my grandfather Sylvester; family squabbles; but know this, both Sylvester and my other grandfather, Clayton Robbins, who along with my grandmother, the lady who basically raised me, Theresa, who also came to America, they from Canada, I know now of the gift they gave me.
Of all places for that to come back to me, it came back here, at the B.A.S.S. Northern Open on Oneida Lake when I met the man from Brazil, the Bass angler from Brazil, Marcos Malucelli.
When Marcos said to me in a soft reverent tone, "No better country in the world, America," I shook my head yes.
And I felt my grandfather, once again hold my hand.
"…got a dream to take them there
they're coming to America…"
Marcos didn't know it but me doing his story rested on one thing, what the man did while he stood at the tanks as they played the National Anthem.
If he showed respect for the soil he was standing on, I knew I would do the story.
If he did not, I would have walked away.
If you stand on our soil and that anthem plays, I don't expect you pledge it or sing it, but you damn well better honor it. Honor it as I would yours if I stood on your soil and your flag was raised.
At the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Eastern Divisional every morning we played not only our National Anthem, but also the Canadian Nation Anthem for the team that came here from Ontario, Canada.
As I stood there for both songs, I never took my hand off my heart, never, out of respect for my Canadian grandparents.
When our anthem played Marcos took off his hat, and never took his eyes off the flag flying above the B.A.S.S. stage.
"No country in the world where you have the freedom to fish like this for a living, no country like this."
I asked Marcos, basically, who he was, and it was like trying to pull teeth for him to tell me this, "I…" and then he would stop talking. I would say "I what…" and he would say, "You know it is not me to speak like this," and I would say, "but it is me to ask you this stuff," and then he would say, "but you know I feel funny talking about myself."
But when he finally did, I found this out: In Brazil he WON the 1st National Tournament held for "strictly Bass." Marcos told me that Brazil brought Bass into the country in 1967 and that he had also "won many national and state tournaments for multi-species."
Here he was, a Big Stick without a Big Mouth, and then he told me this:
"Back home in Brazil the very first Bassmaster Classic I ever saw, the first one they ever put on TV in Brazil was the 2004 Classic on Lake Wiley in South Carolina. I fell in love with the lake watching it."
So he picked up his family and MOVED from Curitiba, Brazil to Fort Mill, SC, and Lake Wylie even though he never saw it in person.
"…got a dream they've come to share…"
"It is my dream to fish B.A.S.S. and one day, one day, fish in the Bassmaster Classic."
The first tournament Marcos entered was as a co-angler, a BFL event on Lake Wylie, and he won it. "I'm very blessed."
Like many with the dream of fishing The Show, Marcos is out there working with sponsors; right now his biggest sponsor is a tourism company in Brazil called Coobrastur.
"This is the best place in the world to fish."
"Well number one,because you guys made this a real sport, a real sport, you made this a real profession where you can make a living out of it."
"And number two, you don't make me kill the fish."
Then Marcos told me he had to excuse himself so he could get his boat off the dock and make way for other boats coming in but I snuck in one last question anyway.
About family, does he have family here?
"I have wife, and we have a young daughter, Chole who is three years old, and I just have a son, Benjamin, he's three months old."
Both, born in America.
"We love the fact that our children, our children are Americans. It's a dream come true."
As Marcos left I stood there, at the B.A.S.S. Northern Open and looked out at Oneida Lake and felt the misty rain on my face.
And knew it was the tear of my grandfather.
For this gift.
"…they're coming to America."
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