It wasn’t uncommon for the young boy to come home long after school had let out with his trousers soaked and mud on his feet and legs.
Running the Cahaba — Adam Vines’ expression for his after-school activities — was as comforting to the 8-year-old as, well, breathing.
|Adam Vines has been running out to a lake, river or stream to fish since he was “running the Cahaba” after school as an 8-year-old.
“I lived three blocks away from school growing up, so I would walk or ride my bike to school and along the way I’d stop off along the tributaries of the Cahaba River and hide my fishing pole,” says Vines, an assistant professor of English. “When I left school I would go back down there, get my rod and fish. You could walk up and down the banks and get your tail whipped when you came home for getting your school clothes all muddy.
“Every day I was doing that.”
Vines’ love of fishing is a story as well known to some as any old fishing fable. Derek Jones, a junior in secondary education and history and Bradley Myer, a junior in Biology, were looking for a sponsor for a UAB Fishing Team and were immediately directed to Vines in spring 2007. Of course, the professor agreed to do it.
Vines has been a mentor and counselor both on and off the lake since the team became an official club in November 2007.
For Vines, this is just another way he can do the two activities he enjoys most: teaching and fishing.
Vines was the student to the teachings of his father, grandfather and uncle all those years ago on the Warrior River. He says he began fishing when he was 3 or 4 years old.
“My father used to say our family spawned in the Warrior River,” he says. “My earliest memories are fishing at the Warrior, either running a trot line or fishing with worms under a cork.”
Fishing — and the intimate contact with nature it affords — has fueled Vines as a creative writer and a teacher. He says his personal writing, mostly consisting of poems, is as informed by the natural world as anything else.
“That close attention to detail in the natural world has given me greater insight into human nature, our relationship to the natural world and what we’re like when we don’t have that relationship with the natural world,” he says.
The front page of Vines’ Web site (www.uab.edu/english/faculty/vines/) shows him holding a king mackerel while standing on his aluminum boat in the Gulf, and that’s exactly the impression he wants his students to have of him.
Yes, he says he’s an academic, and he has knowledge he wants to impart on his students. But he believes the photo shows he’s a regular person like his students — and that he wants to learn from them.
Vines says his classroom is organic in style. It is structured, but he believes in community and likes to step back and encourage his students to take responsibilities in the classroom.
“I think that’s why my classroom is so successful,” he says. “It’s discussion-based, and the success of the class relies on student participation.”
Vines’ says his knowledge of the natural world has helped him critically analyze poetry and prose that’s set in the natural world.
“When I’m looking back at some of the work that’s been written in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, especially in America — when everything was about man’s relationship to the wilderness, I think I do have particular insight; that’s because of practical experience and not just reading and knowledge,” he says.
Little has changed in the 30 years since Vines began fishing, except that he has expanded his fishing territories. He has dropped the anchor of his old boat in rivers, lakes and streams across the South. And if you’ve ever seen a red-bearded man dragging a boat across the sand and into the Gulf of Mexico in Destin, it might have been Vines.
“I’ve taken it three our four miles out in the Gulf,” he says through a wry smile. “I’m a bit crazy.”
A new child and a plea from his wife now keep him from taking his little boat out into the ocean. “She even made me get a cell phone for the first time,” he says.
That doesn’t stop him from visiting Lay Lake, Lake Jordan, the Warrior and Coosa rivers or any other creeks and rivers he can find. It’s there where he finds his solace, his inspiration for his own writing and understanding of the great works of yesteryear.
“Many of my favorite writers — Frost, O’Connor, Twain, Whitman — all were great listeners,” he says. “And the old salts and river folk I’ve met along the banks of lakes, rivers, bays, piers, boat landings and jetties have helped shape my writing aesthetic and the way I approach literature as much as any of the wonderful writers and scholars I have read or have worked with.
“Fishing, writing and teaching are not that different.”