A Fish Tale
By Richard G. Johnstone, Editor

Richard JohnstoneOnce upon a time, there were two fishermen (or fisherwomen, if you prefer). One was very much like the Old Man in Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea: obsessed to the point where all he thought about and strove for was to hook the big marlin. This first fisherman in our story -- we'll call him Big Catch -- wasn't obsessed with a marlin, of course, because he was fishing a large freshwater lake, Lake Virginiana. His single-minded focus was on a different fish, the lake trout, but not just any lake trout. Only specimens of a certain size, those over 10 pounds, were of interest to him.

To help him pursue the "big one," he had a fancy fishing boat with all the latest gadgetry - sonar depth finders, etc. -- and a well-equipped array of shiny new bait-casting, spin-casting and spinning reels, plus fly rods. He had more lines than an IRS long form, more hooks than a quilting club, and more lures than a discount furniture store ad. (And, I might add, there are likely enough wise-guy analogies in the preceding sentence to provoke linguistic overload in even the most ardent wordsmith or punster.)

In short, this guy was loaded for bear, er, large trout. And as he trolled all over the large lake in his fancy boat, he caught many fish - bass and bream, whitefish and catfish, mostly small, with a few medium-sized and a handful of large ones. But he threw them all back. He was only interested in landing trout - large trout. And land a few he did, and on those occasions he would celebrate with a loud whoop.

Our other fisherman - we'll call him Average Joe -- was not at all like Big Catch. His approach, his style, his tactics, his areas of interest - all of these were 180 degrees away from Big Catch, or just a lightweight monofilament line shy of being 180 degrees away. In fact, the only real similarity between Big Catch and Average Joe was that they were both fishing the same lake. But Average Joe primarily fished one side of the lake, a large cove that his grandfather had first fished in the 1930s. Joe knew this cove well, cared for it tirelessly, and fished it responsibly but enthusiastically.

Yet despite being "local," Joe was no rube. No sirree (or ladyyyy). Joe had all the right rods, reels, hooks, lines - and sinkers, too. From plugs to poppers, spinners to spoons, Joe was a prepared angler, an enthusiastic fisherman, a true sportsman. He caught many, many fish over the years at his end of the lake, from small chub, to medium-sized trout, to largemouth bass. He never overfished, but he made good use of all he caught and kept, wasting nothing. He was a genuine steward of the lake.

One day, in the not-too-distant future, competition will come to the electric utility industry. In pilot programs starting this year, and in a phase-in effort beginning in 2002 and set to be complete by January 1, 2004, all citizens in Virginia will be able to choose their electric supplier. In other words, the company that provides the actual electricity they use; the local utility delivering that electricity will remain the same.

Unlike fish, who have no choice as to who catches them, the people of Virginia will be able to choose which utility "hook" they want to take. As local providers of proven power in dozens of communities across the state for almost seven decades, electric cooperatives want to become the providers of choice to all interested customers, small, medium, and large, too.

Commitment...community...cooperation...stellar service...competitive rates... these are the contents of the cooperative tackle box. Cooperatives aren't interested in just pursuing the big catch, or the catch of the day. We're interested in ALL classes of fish, and in catching and keeping them for the long term with a level of service as deep as the ocean, and as strong as 12-pound braided nylon line.

And THAT'S no fancy fish tale.


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