I remember well the hot, lazy days of summer growing up in my native Virginia … although, some days it seems like those memories have melted into centuries. We would work hard in the gardens…weeding…picking…digging and there were chickens to feed and hogs to slop…along with the other chores Daddy and Momma had allotted each of us for the day.
Once the work was done, Daddy would say, “Let’s go fishin’!” He would gather the fishing rods together with his tackle box and ice cooler and down we would all trod to the lake. He and Momma would get in his John boat inviting us younger girls, Angela and me, to go out with them. Of course, we would jump in with glee and eager anticipation of the fish we would soon catch for supper.
Once we were in and seated, Daddy would turn on the troll, and off we’d go! That little troll motor didn’t make that boat travel very fast; however, I could still feel a warm breeze on my face, and even, as I remember, I can almost smell the sunshine. The lake was still, like glass except for the tiny wake our troll motor was making and Daddy would remind us to be very quiet so we wouldn’t scare the fish away.
Once we were off to the appointed destination that Daddy had in mind, he would help us bait our hooks with our little red and white bobbins and we would cast our line in the water. It was ever so hard to sit there and be quiet willing fish to bite your fresh caught worm. After what seemed like endless hours (really only resulting in about five minutes), one of us would exclaim, “Daddy, the fish aren’t biting today!” or “Daddy, are you sure the fish are all over here?” We had such impatience with the whole process and were ready to quit.
Daddy always encouraged us to keep trying and not give up knowing full well that we would be bellyaching again in a few minutes. I never could figure out who was more long-suffering…Daddy or those fish who refused to be caught! However, after a while one of our bobbins would start moving and then with a start…would be jerked under neath….oh how we would squeal at the thought of a Big Mouth Bass being on the end of our line when we brought it in. The sheer joy of it was more than we could handle at times. Daddy would help us “bring’em in” and invariably it wasn’t the anticipated Big Mouth Bass we had hoped for but a small little brim hardly worth keeping.
One such outing that stays fresh in my memory bank is the day Daddy caught a drowning fish! It was a particularly hot day and swimming really sounded a lot more fun than fishing…but fishing we went. On this day it was only Daddy, Momma, and me, as Angela didn’t want to tag along. I wasn’t having a great day and a lot was bothering me that day. It seemed no matter the task I had to do was met with problems and I was certain fishing wouldn’t be any different.
Daddy put the worm on my hook and off it went into the water. I sat there, quite disinterested in the fish that may or may not be eyeing my worm, pondering all that happened earlier in my day. All of a sudden my bobbin didn’t bob…it went right under….gulp! My eyes about popped out of my head, as I swallowed hard and started reeling it in. I wound and wound that reel with all my might and could tell that whatever kind of fish decided my worm looked appetizing must be BIG!
I begged Daddy to help me and he laughed and took the rod to help. When I saw that fish come up out of that water, I felt like the best fisherman on earth….it was a Big Mouth Bass!! Daddy exclaimed, “Well, looky there!” He pulled into the boat, took the hook out of its mouth, and handed it to me proudly. I went to take it and it slipped right out of my chubby hand and back into the water. I cried to Daddy, in the greatest disappointment, that my fish was drowning! Before he could begin to console me, off I went into the water to catch my drowning fish. I heard my Momma shout, “Jim, catch her!”
I was thrashing in the water, choking, gasping, and screaming for help when my Daddy’s huge hand scooped over that boat and lifted me effortlessly back into it. I was so wet with disappointment, Momma was crying still from fear, and Daddy just laughed and said, “Now that’s how you catch a drowning fish!”