Replacement Policy

Lose or break something on a buddy’s boat? Replace it right away. That’s what good men do.

Joe Lichtenberger, Nebraska farmer

Joe Lichtenberger was my grandfather, and he loved fishing. His calling as a Nebraska farmer made him tough, but principled. He taught me a number of life lessons, one of which was to promptly replace any equipment that I lost or broke.Courtesy Joe Lichtenberger Estate

My grandfather on my mother’s side, the late Joe Lichtenberger, schooled me when I was 16 on the importance of promptly returning borrowed equipment, and just importantly, replacing any lost or broken gear.

Following this precept served him well throughout his life as a Nebraska farmer, particularly during the Great Depression, when fellow growers depended on each other for loaner equipment in times of need.

However, my lesson was not delivered on the farm, but rather in a boat on Harlan County Lake. It was the late '60s, and my little brother and I had taken the train from California to visit for the summer. With my grandfather, fishing was always on the agenda. On that particular day, the white bass favored two-ounce chrome Kastmaster spoons, and so I borrowed one from Joe's buddy, Pat, a fellow farmer who had joined us on the boat.

I proceeded to catch a number of bass on that spoon and so grew quite attached to it. Ever observant, Joe sensed that I just might forget to return the lure. So he took me aside. “Make sure you return that spoon you borrowed,” he mentored. “Always return lures. That’s what good men do, you understand?

“And if you lose it, you need to buy him a new one,” he added. I nodded in agreement, and took pains not to lose the lure. At the end of the trip, I snipped it off, handed it back to Pat and thanked him for the loan.

It was a minor occurrence, but an enduring lesson for an adolescent being raised by a single mom. Today, I expect everyone to adhere to the same code. But of course, not everyone does.

Still, I’m surprised by the number of people who lose or break my gear, but fail to replace or fix it. The offenses range from busted fishing rods and lost lures to pliers and boat hooks that go overboard. One guest inadvertently pull the cord while wearing one of my inflatable PFDs, but never offered to replace the cartridge. They ain’t cheap, as I found out.

You might expect this of novice anglers or non-boaters, but I have found veteran fishermen and old salts equally guilty. The question is: What are they thinking?

Well, perhaps they’re not thinking at all, failing to realize that someone else (like me) will need to pay for their mistakes. That’s hard for me to imagine, but I guess they didn’t have someone like my grandfather to set them straight early in life.

Or maybe they figure it’ll all come out in the wash. When I break or lose something while on their boats, we’ll be even. Perhaps, but I still like the idea of, “You lose it, you replace it… right away.” That way, the ledger stays current. It shows respect for your buddy’s gear and forestalls hard feelings.

I know that’s what Joe Lichtenberger would do.