Tony uses oxygen to assist his breathing. He's been a smoker for over 50 years and continues to smoke. "I've already damaged my lungs. What's the use in quitting now?," he said.
Story and photos by Bruce Thorson
July 7, 2009, Bridgeport, Neb: Meet Tony. His last name is Grubham, but he goes by Tony and he's 70 years old. I had a couple of enjoyable conversations with him.
"Only in America can a guy sit on his ass, in a bathrobe all day and people come in and give him money. I'm probably the only guy in America that does that. It's the greatest country because you're not limited with what you can do," he bellowed out as he leaned back in his office chair.
When I first pulled up in front of his bait and tackle shop, located next to a small chain of lakes, I could barely see the boats, motors and canoes among the weeds. When I pulled open the rickety screen door to step inside, there was barely of pathway visible. His store is filled, and filled and filled with stuff--boxes of worm bedding, lures and fishing reels hanging from the ceiling, fox pelts hanging from the ceiling, outboard motors and boxes and boxes.
While I was visiting Tony, a couple of his loyal customers dropped in. He sold them all a couple dozen worms. But before he did, they would talk, talk about family and health and kids. One man walked in and asked Tony if he had a drop light he could borrow to hook up outside his camper so he could see. "Yeah, we came here to de-stress a little bit," he said. "My mom has cancer and it's been kind of hard."
Some of his customers have known Tony since they were kids. They would remember the popsicles and cookies he would give them.
Tony loves fishing and loves that people and kids love fishing. So much so, that if a kid walks into his store and can't afford to buy the worms, Tony will give them away.
He'll also let them, or anyone for that matter, look at his two rattlesnakes he has sitting in an aquarium on the floor. "I gave them snakes a couple of mice this morning," he growled out. "I don't see the mice in there anymore so I guess they're fed."
About the economy he said, "I don't tell Washington (D.C) how to run their business and they don't tell me how to run my business."
About President Obama he said, "I think he might be good from what I hear. He's trying his darndest."
Tony's bait and tackle shop reminded me a little of a similar shop I used to visit when I was young fisherman. There were boxes and boxes of stuff everywhere, and it all was coated with a thick layer of dust.
This time I was reminded of that bait shop, plus I was able to visit with a man named Tony. I hope we meet again.
This is Tony's Starvation Acres bait and tackle store, and just about anything else you need for fishing.
Inside his store, it is difficult to find a path leading through all the stuff he has there, but if you need just about anything, Tony most likely will have it.