Jim Bennett

“It got so bad that I couldn’t drink a glass of water without spilling it all over myself.”

Jon McCorkle described his early battles with Parkinson’s after being diagnosed with the scary health problem in November. “It affects my balance, I struggle to get out of booths at restaurants and I had to stop driving for a while. I’m doing martial arts therapy for my motor skills, working out daily. They say that dance is good but I’m scared of dancing and how I look when I do it,” he added with a smile. 

Jon loves the outdoors and fishing for brook was his earliest love. His dad told him he caught his first brook trout when he was one year old. His earliest memories do go back to when he was about 4 years old living in Dallas, WI. Jon used a willow or alder branch with monofilament line and worms back in 1953. He tried fly fishing around age 12 and got hooked.

“That’s when I saw my first Herter’s catalog and I wanted to do it bad! Dad had a rough old fly tying vice I used with things we had around the house to tie my earliest flies. Deer hair, chicken hackle from the barnyard, duck feathers and woodcock feathers we shot and Dad had some peacock herl. I borrowed Mom’s sewing thread and used fingernail polish for a sealant but most of flies just fell apart after a couple fish. My sister had a really nice hat with some very fancy decorative colored hackle that I would occasionally cut a few strands off without her noticing it. Eventually I pretty much ruined her hat and kept it hidden until I was brave enough to ask her if I could have it. She didn’t know I had pretty much wrecked it and luckily she said I could. I felt very relieved.”

“I saved my money and bought a good vice, hackle, feathers, fur, kip tails, silk threads, and sealant and started to make my own flies. I tied and sold buck tails for northern pike anglers for a little money around Weyerhaeuser where we now lived.  My dad, Ray, moved the family there after the track closed down in Dallas where he was yard foreman.”

Jon loves brown trout and steelhead but his greatest love was, and still is, centered on brook trout. “I think it’s because of the places they live, the sound of the water and the beautiful fish they are. Nothing is as colorful as a brook trout, except maybe a wood duck and I use their feathers to catch brookies. I remember Dad and I would go and take some bacon and a pan and go fishing when I was a kid. We’d cook that bacon up and it wasn’t the lean bacon we have today. It was full of fat. We’d each catch our 10 fish limit of brookies and fry them up right on the stream. I love to eat fish, fried, baked or grilled in tin foil with salt, pepper and butter over an open fire!”

Jon’s hand shakes all the time but he says he is a lot better since he went on medication and he now feels safe driving when he feels up to it. He gave up driving for a while, got better and occasionally drives to the store. Now with medication he is able to drive a bit more. That was toughest. Going from a retired guy who was active every day and fishing several times a week to a nearly 70 year old man who got out yesterday for the second time all year brook trout fishing. He wears a Medical Alert device that his kids bought him in case he falls and hurts himself. 

Jon’s or anyone’s future with Parkinson’s is not a good prognosis and Jon understands that. More medications, possible brain surgery to implant stimulation devices but he is remaining optimistic.  “I’m taking big steps, I exercise daily and I get real tired. I hear boxing is good. I’m doing work to keep my mind sharp to fight dementia. I’m going to keep working.” But dancing is where Jon draws the line!

Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley and can be reached at jamesbennett24@gmail.com

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