PAT NEAL: The feast of fools

IT’S ALMOST TIME once again for that favorite holiday of the year, April Fools’ Day.

It’s a holiday where we share the ridiculous nature of our hectic modern lives with inappropriate practical jokes that can take years to get properly revenged.

Historians disagree but some suspect that April Fools’ Day began in the 1500s when the Gregorian calendar took over from the Julian Calendar in a medieval mix-up not unlike our biannual switch to daylight saving time and back again.

Those of us still suffering from the mindless clock switching and calendar shifting are most vulnerable to April Fools’ Day jokes due to our difficulty in knowing what day or time it is in the first place.

April Fools’ brings to mind a dreadful series of unfortunate practical jokes played in a remote fish camp in the rainforest.

Where the childish antics of a few ruined the pristine nature experience of the many.

Where I choked down a borax flavored pancake smothered in pickled herring syrup then washed it down with some hot coffee seasoned with enough cayenne pepper to melt a railroad spike.

That’s when I noticed that my boots were on fire.

What was an April Fools’ joke had just been upgraded to an act of environmental terrorism. I thought of my carbon footprint and the effect of soapy pancakes on my delicate constitution.

I would have cried uncle but the burning rubber made it difficult to breathe.

These are only a few of the many examples of people with way too much spare time on their hands going to great lengths to create ever more elaborate April Fools’ Day tricks.

Curiously, the most fiendishly cruel and sadistic April Fools’ Day joke I ever heard of was not performed by some anonymous drunken fisherman but by a government bureaucracy that we have no possibility of ever getting even with.

You probably thought the state of Washington was run by a power-mad cabal of self-serving, pencil-pushing, pocket-lining functionaries whose only purpose is to make our lives miserable.

The government also has a keen sense of humor, irony and revenge. Why else would they insist that we get our new fishing license and punch cards on April Fools’ Day?

The money from fishing license and punch card sales goes to support many worthwhile government programs such as the advanced state-of-the-art computer systems that are required to administer fishing license and punch card sales.

Punch cards also provide vital funding for the latest scientific research that might someday allow the state to design a punch card the average angler can figure out.

In the unlikely event the lucky angler is lucky enough to catch a salmon, steelhead, halibut or crab they must now fill out their punch card immediately if not sooner.

That’s when the fiendish nature of an April Fools’ joke gone too far rears its ugly head. It might be just a coincidence but most fishing is done on or near water where it can rain.

People will fish in weather that is far too wet to work in.

Unfortunately, the ink on your fishing license and punch-card is not waterproof. The ink will wash off your license and punch card if you get it wet.

Disappearing ink is only one of many practical jokes the state plays on people who still buy a fishing license.

We are supposed to send our old punch cards back to the government so someone can read them in a process not unlike interpreting a Rorschach test.

All so Washington fisher folk can celebrate April Fools’ Day. The joke is on you.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal