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A bucket, a pole and a friend

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Mike Erwin was a simple man who loved to fish and loved his family. Photo courtesy of Karen Erwin
Mike Erwin sits on his well-known, upturned bucket and fishes at his beloved boat dock Riverview Ramp on Old Hickory Lake off Benders Ferry. He made friends with the heron on the dock, fed him blue gill he caught and named him "George." Mike has passed, but the county named the dock after him out of respect and his constant maintenance on the spot he loved to the end. Photo courtesy of Chad Barnard
Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan and Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto were at the dedication of the Riverview boat ramp in honor of Mt. Juliet resident Mike Erwin. About 60 family, friends and officials showed up to honor the man who religiously fished and launched off the ramp. Photo courtesy of Karen Erwin

Leaders dedicate little-known boat dock after 'simple man' who cared

He'd go down there, to the dock, and sit on an upturned plastic bucket.

Simple. He was an angler in the first degree. Nothing fancy.

It's at the end of Bender's Ferry Road in Mt. Juliet, but you have to take some crooked turns to get there. It's a small, nondescript boat dock on Old Hickory Lake.

Riverview Ramp is its name, but it's little known. It's a secluded, peaceful place to launch or to just sit on an upturned bucket and just fish off the side.

Mike Erwin was fishing at this spot 12 hours before he died of an apparent heart attack, though his system was weakened by asbestos exposure.

It's not a sad tale though; it's one that says, "If you got to go, go out loving what you do."

A while back Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto and Sheriff Robert Bryan dedicated this ramp in honor of Erwin. In fact, they named the dock after him. His widow Karen said he's casting and laughing in heaven to know friends and family came to dedicate his home-away-from-home after him.

What made Mike so special was he'd spend his extra time maintaining the ramp. He's been seen on his lawn mower maintaining his special place, weed eater, the whole nine yards, for years.

There were some years negotiated whom was responsible for the little known dock, but when county employees went to maintain, they'd report, "It's done! There's a guy there who has done everything."

The guy was Mike.

He grew up on Old Hickory Lake. He found Riverview boat dock haphazardly. He worked 26 years as a pipe fitter, which most likely weakened his system from asbestos.

He retired in 2004 and the Riverview Ramp, and launch, became his passion.

"This was Mike's place in this life," said his widow Karen. "To him, it wasn't about having the biggest boat, the most expensive rod and reel or catching the biggest fish. He just appreciated the beauty around him whether it is the water, the wildlife, a sunrise or sunset or the changing of the seasons. It's where he felt closest to God.

"It's been a year today since he left this life; simply by doing what he loved to do and teaching us what matters and what doesn't, he left all of us who loved him a legacy that we'll carry with us the rest of our lives."

Recently, 60 people gathered at the boat ramp to dedicate a sign in his honor. It's simple, like him. "Dedicated in the Memory of Michael W. Erwin."

It happened in most part by County Commissioner Chad Barnard who heard about Mike and his love for the water and the ramp, and how he spent his time maintaining the area there.

"I thought it was pretty cool what he did," he said. "He took it upon himself to keep it clean. We got together a sign and a certificate for him. He's one of our good ones."

Sheriff Bryan took the time to be out at the dock for the dedication. So did Mayor Hutto.

"Mike was the salt of the earth," Hutto said. "He understood life and everything about it. He was a citizen who cared about his community and a model citizen. He is the kind of person who makes up Wilson County."

So Mike was a guy who was fishing just before he died. His legacy, in part, was taking time to respect a local dock and help maintain it.

"My Daddy was a simple man," daughter Shelby said. "All he needed was his family and a fishing pole. The lake was his favorite place to be, and we dedicated this special place to him. As we gathered together I could feel his presence! What a beautiful day it was."

Mike's wife parked his red truck at the ramp on the dedication day. People took pictures and there's this weird flash in all the pictures. An anomaly, in flash. They think it's Mike's spirit somehow.

And a blue heron repeatedly is seen on the dock to this day. Mike made friends with this heron and fed him the bluegill he caught. He named him "George." They got to be friends.

When the huge lotto of a billion bucks was announced not long ago, people asked Mike what he'd buy if he won.

"I'd buy a gold bucket to sit on at the lake," he said.

Writer Laurie Everett can be reached at

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Benders Ferry Road, boat dock, community, fish, honored, Mike Erwin, Mt. Juliet, remembered, Robert Bryan
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