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How To Catch A Drowning Fish?

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 along 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 with anxious 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 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 awhile 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 shear 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.  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!”

The fish are drowning

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Cattle Grates and Chastening

My mind has been flitting off in at least 1,000 directions — I had a rough night sleeping — maybe I should say, rather, that I had a rough night falling asleep — my hips were hurting and my shoulders were hurting — mostly my mind was hurting. The grey matter between my ears kept wanting to go on long walks down memory lane and insisted we go.  There were a flood of memories — smells that I remember — sights — a longing to return to some memories and an urgent need to flee from others. However, the thoughts that meandered through my sleeplessness last night were of my grandparents. I was remembering this one time that I was staying at my Mammaw and Pappaw’s house for a couple of weeks during the summer — I was probably all of 6 or 7 years old — and I wanted to go home so bad. They lived in Goochland, VA and my house was in Powhatan, VA (about a 30 min. drive) and I was CERTAIN in my little mind that I could walk home. So, I packed up my little suitcase and headed down the long driveway through their field and stopped at the end of the driveway where the cattle grate was — I paused and thought long and hard on whether or not I should cross that cattle grate and head to Powhatan — I knew somewhere inside of me that crossing that grate was like walking through a door you could not walk back through. I don’t know how long I stood at the end of the lane before the good sense God gave me crept back in and I turned around and headed back to the house. Unbeknownst to me, Mammaw was watching me out of the window and in her wisdom she was letting me reckon it all out for myself! However, she told me later in life that she had purposed in her heart that if I crossed that cattle grate, she was coming after me and was going to give me a whooping!!!

God also allows us to reckon things out, but I think that He also watches from the window, as it were, and purposes that if we attempt to cross the cattle grate — He’s going to give us a whooping. Hebrews 12:5,6 “My son do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him: For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” I will always be grateful for my Grandparents chastening and even more thankful that God loves me enough to chasten, rebuke and scourge me — from time-to-time when I am in need of it. Sometimes God uses Grandparents, sometimes friends but most assuredly He always uses His Word — like a cattle grate!

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A Place Called Home

Those who know me well, know that I’m from a place I fondly call: “My Beloved, Virginia.” I miss Virginia so much that at times my heart aches. There are so many things engraved on my soul that I long for each day and miss even more with each day that passes, as I’m away. I miss Virginia when the daffodils tease, as they reach for the sun through the snow begging for Spring to join them in their early blooms. Then as the snow finally melts away and the grass begins to share it’s lovely carpet of green climbing up through the mud left behind by that melting snow — with a promise that life will begin anew — the dogwoods start budding and the cardinals return to build their nests and prepare to raise their young.

As Spring marches forward, the hot lazy days of summer come in and families start gathering for reunions to meet the newest members of the family and treasure, once again, time with those who joined years ago. I remember running and playing with cousins who were as close to me as brothers and sisters and all the fun we had playing in the fields and cooling off in the lake at the end of a hot summer day, which never ended without us running through the dark with mason jars collecting fire flies to light our way home. There was always a bottomless glass of iced tea, watermelon picked straight from the garden and Pappaw threatening to chew our ears off, as we squealed with glee, and Mammaw pretending to be worried that he might actually succeed. How I long for one more summer to spend my time between Grandma’s house and Pappaw and Mammaw’s house where I was promised to be spoiled with all the pure, Virginia love that could be given.

When the sun set and summer finally gave into the cooler weather of fall, the leaves began to turn every color of red, yellow, umber and finally brown as they let loose of the trees so that we could gather them into what seemed like giant mountains. We would spend hours raking and then what seemed like seconds to enjoy diving, jumping and hiding beneath them. With the final motivation from Momma and Daddy, telling us it was time to clean them up, we raked as hard as we could to the ditch so Daddy could burn them. I remember the smell and the flecks of ash as it floated away with a final “goodbye.” Suddenly, it seemed, as if magically, Thanksgiving would come and oh, how grateful we truly were to grow up in a place that assured us of love.

With the smell of the turkey fading away and the fragrance of pine and cinnamon filling the air, Christmas was ushered in to give us the gift of Redemption and Salvation born of a virgin, Mary, found lying in a manger, in a little town so far from a place named after another virgin, Elizabeth, than our little minds could fathom. We bowed are hearts and praised God for those gifts. The snow fell and we found once again we had come full circle in my beloved Virginia.

When someone asks where I’m from, my thoughts with a lifetime of memories saunter through my mind much like the James River saunters through my homeland and I proudly say, “my home is Virginia.” For me, Virginia means home. Another Virginian felt the same way and he described home this way:

“At night across the mountains when darkness falls, and the winds sweep down out of the hollows, the wild things with their shiny eyes come to the edge of the clearing. At such an hour, the house seems safe and warm. An island of light and love in a sea of darkness. At such an hour the word home must have come into being. Dreamed up by some creature that never knew a home. In his yearning there must have come to mind the vision of a mother’s face, a father’s deep voice, the aroma of fresh baked bread, sunshine in a window, the muted sounds of rain on a roof, the sigh of death, the cry of a new born babe and voices calling good night. Home ~ an island, a refuge, a haven of love.” Earl Hamner

Yes, my home is Virginia and there for me are those precious memories of a haven of love.