Something about the discussion of the coronavirus pandemic struck Butch Barnes as odd when he listened to one of the major network news anchors list some of the necessary precautions.
He kept hearing the term "social distancing" used over and over.
He continually thought to himself he already does that.
"That's called fishing," Barnes said. "I've been social distancing myself for years."
His chuckle as he said that was half-hearted as he searched for humor in a trying time.
"I don't want to make light of the pandemic," the 58-year-old Quincyan said. "But I don't want to stop living either. I'll be cautious, but I won't be scared."
With that, he placed two fishing rods, a dip net and a tackle box in the bed of his pickup.
"Where I fish, there won't be anyone around," Barnes said. "And if there are, I'll go somewhere else. You don't want to be on top of each other if you're fishing anyway.
"And this is what makes me happy. We all need to be happy. We need to take care of each other and protect each other, but you need to be happy. You have to go on living."
He drove off in the direction of the Mississippi River, headed for a fishing hole he refused to divulge the location of and was content with saddling up on the banks of the river by himself.
This was before the "shelter-in-place" order from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker was decreed Friday. Barnes said he would abide by the order, but it comes with disappointment.
"Thursday, after we first talked, the fish were biting like crazy," Barnes said Saturday afternoon. "I could have sat there catching fish all day. I bet they're still biting right now. You don't like giving up a hot spot, but there is no choice.
"I know there was something said about outdoor recreation was OK, but I'm not risking anything. It's not worth it. I'll stay home. I'll find things to do. I'll go on living."
Before he hung up the phone, Barnes asked how long I thought this might last.
"Longer than any of us wants," I told him.
He responded with a muffled sigh of agreement and said, "You're right about that. But you know it could be worse. You could be someone who never gets outside even on a good day. We'll be outside again doing all the things we love.
"This will pass, and you know what we'll do? We'll go on living."
The old angler is right. The pandemic is a doozy of a fish tale, but the recovery from it could be the best tale ever told.
Getting there will take patience and vigilance. Listen to what the medical experts say. Follow their guidelines and show care and compassion for each other.
And while you're at it, get your fishing gear in line, inspect your camping gear and be ready when the pandemic passes to embrace the opportunity to experience the serenity outdoors.
It's the best way to go on living.