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The Bell

“I’ve been knocked down”¦”

Dateline:   Ouch

This story, is not the story, I told Wired2Fish,

I was going to send in.

The story, I told them, would be funny, the lyrics would be, “He Is Not Dead Yet” from Monte Python’s Broadway Play, Spamalot.

That’s what it was supposed to be.

“˜cept for one small thing,

it has taken me THREE WEEKS,

to write one sentence,

three weeks to figure it out,

three weeks before I could get it to go from my brain, to the keyboard,

this sentence here,

The bell rang, but I couldn’t answer.

And in my soul, I just couldn’t find a way, to make that,


“”¦and get back up”¦”

For the first time, EVER, in my career, the bell rang, and I wasn’t there.

I cry when I write that.

It is 5:47am, Friday morning, darkness is all around me, I’m writing this on a MacBook Pro, the keyboard lights up so I can work in the dark, I’m alone in a the guest bedroom down the hall, I don’t want Barb to see me writing, I don’t want her to see the tears.

I don’t want her to ask me what I’m writing, because, because I can’t even get the words out, been married 39 years, me and her, she has this thing she does, she will comment on a story of mine under the name Lois Lane, because for 30 plus years in this business I have managed to be, Superman.

To me, and I’m going to be brutally honest with you here, this is how I rank things in my life:   Family “¦ Story “¦ Faith “¦ Everything Else.

And some, I hate to say, would move Story, to the front position.

To Barb, to my children, I apologize for that, but I think Barbie knows, the life

force inside of me, what it is that is me, is,



“”¦ I hit the ground “¦”

I breathe when I write.

My brain smiles, when I write.

Why, would The Story, how, could it possibly be so important, to me, so important to me, how could that be.   You ask.

Here’s how, when I write a story, it is the story I become, the thing of the story, the person within the story engulfs me within them.

It’s like I leave me, and become free.

It is the story, that is my escape.

From me.

Because me “¦ hurts.

Brutally honest once again:   Family, Story, Faith, Everything Else and PAIN.

No one on this planet knows that, but Barb “¦ and maybe a doc or two.

To put it mildly, I was born pretty screwed up, born with me insides sort of messed up, born with hips and legs that weren’t attached.

Born into pain.

From when I was a child, to today, everything I do in life is based on one simple thought in my mind.

I am better than my body.

My body will not define me.

I will beat the pain, the pain, or my body, will never beat me.

Me inside it all.


Three weeks ago though,

my body,


“”¦ and dust myself off “¦”

Three weeks ago I was about to begin my 6th year on the road covering the Elites, and all things B.A.S.S., and both the Elites, and the dots between the letters in B.A.S.S., YOU, are very important to me.

As is being a working stiff, punch in, punch out, do your job, shut up.   Take care of your family, don’t be yapping to your kids about values, show them values by your actions, not your words.

And inside the me of me “¦ never let the body win, the pain.

From last May, seven, maybe eight months ago, I have gone through surgery to have radioactive seeds implanted in me, to in December, brain surgery for a tumor in my head, through all that, never missed a story or event.

Answered, all those bells.

Until three weeks ago, when my fishing buddy doc, Mac, said this to me, “No you can’t go anywhere with that crazy job of yours, you have two stress fractures in your right knee, Don I’m telling you, your knee is”¦breaking”¦apart.”

And in my head, this is what I said to Dr. Mac.

“What if you cut it off.”

“”¦I’m taking some chances”¦”

Dr. Mac being a long time member of B.A.S.S. knows exactly what it is that I go through out on the road, the travel, the dawn to past dusk days, the weather, all of it.

To my other docs I say this, “I just cover guys fishing, I should be able to do that, right.”

I leave them to in their own minds thinks about that, how tough could it be to cover some guy sitting on a bank, or dock, with a ham sandwich and a worm, “Yeah go ahead, that should be alright,” they all said.

“˜cept Mac.

He knew.

Been reading about it for 30 years.

Worse though, been reading me, and what I go through.

“Don’t make me cast BOTH of your legs to keep you at home, but I’m telling you dude, I’ll do that if I have to”¦and I have Barb’s phone number too you know.”

I just looked at him as he strapped my right leg into an immobilizer, watched as his assistant fitted the crutches to my height, didn’t say much, paid my co-payment, and crutched it through the hospital up to my 4Runner, opened the tailgate, threw the crutches inside, threw the brace in with them, walked around to the driver’s side, climbed in and went home.

At 7:36pm that night as I laid in bed I got this text, “You okay.”

It was from Mac.

I never answered it.

And the worst, was about to come.

“…and not known


I’m taking a whole lot more”¦”

“Hey guys I just want to take a second here to give a shout out to Don Barone “¦he’s home watching this, couldn’t make it to the event, please give him a big hand.”

My good buddy on the B.A.S.S. stage, Dave Mercer “¦ thinking of “¦ reaching out to me “¦ if you know him and know his heart you wouldn’t be surprised by what he did, I was watching the B.A.S.S weigh-in on the Sabine River, upstairs in my office “¦ alone.

Barb was watching it downstairs.

The moment I saw Dave look into the camera, being good friends, I knew it was coming and I love him for it,

but it damn near killed me.

I just sat there, crutches up against the desk, knee strapped into a huge brace, and I didn’t cry, couldn’t, cried out, I just sat in silence and watched.

Watched as one by one, the anglers, the people who I owe it to, owe it to be there to tell their story, watched as they crossed the stage, didn’t hear much of what was going on, just focused on the point where they left the stage, watched as they walked behind the backdrop,

to the stairs that are back there,

the stairs where I’m usually standing at the bottom.

Focused only, on the backdrop, the stairs.

Until I reached up, and closed the cover of the laptop.

Just sat there.

Till dark.

“”¦before I’m done”¦”

I didn’t watch too much after that, did some stories from my bed, was sort of at the event.

Sort of.


After awhile, just kind of let it go.

Went to see Dr. Mac yesterday, took some X-rays, bottom line now, going to miss the Bull Shoals event too.

The fractures are healing, but just not there yet.

Going to be another stinky few weeks for me.

Mirrors get tougher every day.

Body 2, db 0.

As it stands right now, I will be back on the tour for the Elite event at West Point Lake in Georgia getting there on Sunday April 28th.

With or without stress fractures.

“”¦ now some people think


I’m a little crazy


and all my life


I try to deny it “¦”

I’m sorry, I tried to be funny, wanted to be funny,

but I couldn’t find it in my heart.

Humor, can hide sadness, can hide hurt, but in my head, all I hear is the ringing of the bell.

The empty bell.

Chased by the rings.

Wired2Fish dudes, I apologize to you for stringing you on for these past three weeks, twenty some days, phone calls, dodges.

Seems the injury, wasn’t my leg my friends, it was up here, here where the story hangs out.

Where me lives.

I understand now, where the pain lives.   Where the pain of all those stuck in a body that’s not them, lives.

Here “¦ in the heart.

But for them, I say this, it is not our brain that makes us me, it is not our heart that makes us me.

Me, is our soul.

Maybe, learning that, is what this was all about.

Not the cancer.

Not the brain tumor.

Took a broken knee for me to find the soul, of me.

Found the soul of me, not in a mirror.

Found the soul of me, not at the bottom of the Elite stairs.

Found the soul of me “¦ in exam room No. 1.

As I’m strapping on the huge knee brace and reaching for the crutches, Mac sits on a stool and watches me.

Can’t lie to my friend, doctor or not, he’s not helping, he’s sitting watching.   I’m not saying much, actually nothing.

“Hey, dude”¦”

I look over at him.

“I’m going fly fishing in Puerto Rico for 50 different species of fish, both in and off-shore”¦”

I’m just looking at him.

“Going to go when I think the best time to catch the most fish”¦”

“Yeah, have fun.”

“Wanna go”¦come with me.”

“When you going.”

“May”¦the 22nd I think.”

I’m strapped in, big brace all locked up, almost looking at Mac through the silver metal crutches”¦I have the look on my face that translates to this”¦you crazy SOB you.

And all that Mac does, is smile.

And all I do is look at him and say,

“Yes.   I’ll go.”

Go, for all of us stuck in bodies that ain’t me,

who know,


is our soul.

“”¦ but the lines get a little hazy.”


Been Knocked Down


Josh Lewis