Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Navy vet, Miss Nebraska exchange fishing tales on date 

Posted by Sasha at 11:40 PM ET

The Grand Island Independent
Posted Dec 10, 2008 @ 09:36 PM


John Dugan and Miss Nebraska USA Micaela Johnson swapped fish stories during a much-delayed "date" that they finally got to enjoy on Wednesday.

Dugan earned the date last July when he bid $250 during a fundraiser for the 28th National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Omaha.

Dugan, a Vietnam-era Navy veteran, made his winning bid of $250 a few days before the games, where he earned a bronze medal in the air rifle competition and a gold medal in a motorized chair rally conducted around the grounds of Henry Doorly Zoo.

Dugan and Johnson got a chance to talk with each other in the lounge on the third floor of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Grand Island on Wednesday.

Dugan revealed that he loves to fish, especially for walleye at Sherman Reservoir, where he has a cabin.

Johnson said she had never fished until she went on an expedition off the Florida Keys, where she and others were trying to catch tarpon.

After five hours, Johnson, who strapped into a harness to catch the large tarpon, which can grow to up to 8 feet long and 200 pounds, had her catch.

She said she really had to fight to reel in the fish, which turned out to be a hammerhead shark. Because the boat was not equipped to pull a shark on board, Johnson had to let it go. But before she did, Johnson said, she got permission to reach over the side to touch it.

"It's probably not the smartest thing I've done," she said.

Dugan noted that, while he was in the Navy, he and other crewmates were on the ship's fantail when a shark was hooked. The Navy vessel was no more equipped to take aboard a shark than Johnson's boat was.

"When the captain found out, he wanted to cut the line right away," Dugan said.

In addition to fishing, Dugan is an avid photographer. During his time with Johnson, he made sure to get several photos of Miss Nebraska USA, who has the title until January.

He also got several photos of himself with Johnson.

As their conversation continued, Dugan and Johnson kept learning interesting little nuggets of information about each other.

Dugan wanted to know if Johnson gets to keep her crown. She said the answer is "yes," although she is not sure where she'll keep it.

"My mother will probably keep it in her house," Johnson said.

Dugan, whose hometown is Lincoln, said being a Nebraska native helped him win the motorized chair rally, which is part race, part poker run and part trivia contest. He said the contest included Nebraska trivia.

Dugan said he was able to give the names of famous Nebraskans -- including astronaut Clayton Anderson and President Gerald Ford, who was born in Omaha.

He said he also was able to identify photographs of wheat, corn, milo and soybeans.

"I don't think a New Yorker could have done that," he said.

Johnson talked about her former days as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.

She won a spot on the 36-member squad while still a senior at Omaha Marian High School. As a person who had danced since a young age, Johnson thought the tryouts would simply give her more dancing experience.

Instead, she kept moving through the four rounds of tryouts until she was selected as a cheerleader. Despite those Dallas auditions, Johnson stayed on track for her high school graduation and was able to participate in Omaha Marian's commencement.

She told Dugan the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders have a 3-inch-thick rule book. Rule No. 1 is never be late.

"I was told that, if you're not there 30 minutes early, you're late," Johnson said. She said rehearsals went from 5 p.m. to midnight Mondays through Fridays, followed by Saturday appearances, as well as performances at all home football games.

Dugan and Johnson discovered they also have a common love of Mexican food. As a result, Johnson was pleased with Dugan's choice of restaurant, El Tapatio.

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