Fishin’. Sounds like a grand idea, right? Just you and a lazy river, sunshine, birds chirpin’, a sandwich and a cool drink, throwin’ in a line. Sounds like a relaxing way to whittle away a summer afternoon… unless you’re me. When I hear, “Let’s go fishing!” it’s as good as “Let’s go accidentally break some expensive piece of fishing equipment that means a lot to someone else!” or “Let’s see who can cause an emergency room trip first!” I tried. I really did. I wanted to be that little fishin’ buddy my Dad longed for. But it didn’t take. I’m all about the snacks and a sunny afternoon… but me and fishing just never cemented our relationship.
One of my earliest memories of a failed fishing trip began as a simple outing to a park. I assume that my mom had put my dad in charge of child duties for the day. He had decided to while away the afternoon with a little fishing trip for me and my sister. I know I couldn’t have been more than three years old – as I know the day included a ride on my Dad’s shoulders. This particular trip’s demise wasn’t really my fault, but it should have been an omen for trips to come. Just as we had settled in along the crusty shore of the quarry pit, and had our lines in, I had to use the restroom. My Dad, no doubt a bit exasperated, scooped me up, took my sister by the hand and headed for the nearest park bathroom. When I look back, I remember it being sort of a Bugs Bunny in the desert, searching for water montage – each time we approached a grassy hill, I was certain there would be a bathroom in sight. And each time, the possibility turned out to be a mirage. I was sure we had been hiking for hours by the time we finally reached a hovel of a restroom. I did my thing, and we started the long journey back to the fishing hole.
When we returned, there was only one fishing pole still lying on the shore – and it wasn’t mine. This part is so fuzzy to me. I have no idea why in the world my dad abandoned our poles with their lines in the water. Maybe he too was thinking the restrooms were closer. Or maybe that lack of multi-tasking skill forced him to take care of just one task at a time. Maybe I was whining and crying, and throwing a holy fit. Who knows? More importantly, what I clearly remember is that he was not upset or angry. He just laughed and said, “Wow, Julie! That must have been one big fish that took your pole!”
There were many failed attempts at fishing enjoyment in the years to come. However, this next one, was the last. When I was about thirteen, we packed up the poles, some snacks, and a couple of cousins, and set out for another “relaxing” afternoon of shore fishing in southern Missouri where we had been visiting relatives. The tricky piece about fishing with me was that my Dad always had to monkey around with the reel on my pole because I am left-handed. On this trip, my Dad had set up a pole for each of my cousins, my sister, and finally me. I had his best pole. It was the only one that would make the reel “switch-over” quickly. I thanked him and set out along the shore to get in conversation-distance of my cousin.
Since I wasn’t so crazy about this fishing stuff anyway, I looked forward to the social opportunities. I was walking sideways, carefully watching my line and making sure it wasn’t crossing anyone else’s. I wasn’t watching my feet. As you can guess, my feet weren’t watching either. Somehow, I tripped over the tiniest, eensy-weensiest trunk of a shrub. Because I was so bent on getting over to talk with my cousin and not tangling up any lines, and had both hands on the prized fishing pole, I went down like a totem pole that had been whacked at its base. Kah-whamp. As I was lying on my side in the scratchy weeds, I realized my fist was still gripped tightly around something… but the pole was lying about two feet away from me in two pieces. I had obliterated the prized fishing pole and the “switch-over” reel. If I could have magically turned into a grasshopper, I would have shamefully and quietly hopped away – never to be in pole breaking distance again.
In time, my Dad forgave my gaff, and he excitedly looked forward to purchasing a new pole – an even better one! My Dad never stayed angry for long. I think he secretly knew he should have left well enough alone. The unknowing fish that went home with an entire pole that warm afternoon years before was wise beyond his years.