Father’s Day: A Time to Fish

Fishing reel
Fishing reel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So tomorrow is Father’s Day. I will call my Dad tomorrow and wish him a happy one. I will also take a little walk down memory lane with him. Because Father’s Day when my brother and I were kids meant one thing.

Fishing.

Every year on Father’s Day, we would get up early. I am talking early here. Certainly no later than half five in the morning. We would creep out of the house and gather up all the fishing poles and tackle boxes, jump in Dad’s truck and head for the cafe.

Once there we’d fill up on the southern delicacy that is biscuits and gravy. Dad’s favourite was sausage gravy, but mine was and still is bacon gravy. It’s making me salivate just writing about it. Then we would head to the store and buy saltine crackers, all the better to catch minnows for bait. We also bought giant Cokes and Dr Pepper‘s to go with our purchases of Pork Rinds.

Then it was off to the bait shop for a big tub of night-crawler worms and some minnows to start out with till we caught our own. We would drive to Cincinnati creek (our favourite place for fishing) and park up the truck. By now the summer heat was intense, so Dad always tried to park the truck in the shade. All the fishing tackle would be gathered up from the back of the truck and we would start walking

Fishing Tackle shop, Malden Road, NW5

Dad did tell me the other day that Cincinnati creek, named after the little town of Cincinnati, Arkansas, no longer really exists. A tornado came and changed its course and pretty much wiped the little town off the map. Another childhood place and memory destroyed by the march of time and, in this case, the weather.

I remember one year when all in the same hour, I had a Water Moccasin snake wrap itself around my right cowboy boot to sleep and we saw a King snake killing a Cottonmouth snake as they floated down the creek.

English: Florida Water Moccasin Agkistrodon pi...

Creek fishing was the only way my family went fishing. We would walk miles down a creek looking for that perfect spot where the fish were biting. Every year without fail, we went creek fishing on Father’s Day. So tomorrow I’ll re-live those long ago days with Dad over the phone, well Skype actually, and remember how special those Father’s Days felt.

Happy Father’s Day Dad.

The Apple Cider Trip

Reading my last blog, I realised that I had not written about my friend Vinnie’s funniest moment at the lake called Wedington. This moment will always be burned into my memory as the apple cider trip.The town we lived in was called Lincoln. Obviously named after Abe. In fact my grandfather on my mother’s side played Abe Lincoln in a Fourth of July town parade. As you drive into the town limits of Lincoln from the north you will pass an apple orchard. This orchard has been there for as long as I can remember. The folks who own it sell apple produce in the shops by the road. One of their biggest sellers has always been their ‘preservative free’ apple cider.

Now this cider is not hard cider aka alcoholic cider. No, that would be illegal  for them to sell as Lincoln is a “dry town” and alcohol for human consumption is not allowed to be sold within the town limits. In other words this cider is really apple juice. It is mighty tasty regardless of what you call it.

On this particular day Vinnie’s dad, and Vinnie of course, had invited me to go fishing at Lake Wedington. I have to explain that our family did not “do” lake fishing. We had always gone “creek fishing.” This meant driving until you found a farm or ranch where the owner did not mind you crossing his land to get at the creek  running through his property. Most farmers/ranchers readily gave permission as long as you closed gates behind you and did not litter up the place. The most important of these “understood” rules was closing the gates. If the owner’s cattle got loose and had to be rounded up, then the next person who wanted access to a good fishing hole was not welcome. After getting the required permission you then “walked” the creek. This involved sometimes walking for miles to find the best spots where the fish were “biting.”

To get a chance to go on an actual boat and fish in the middle of a lake was something I wasn’t going to pass up.

I got to Vinnie’s fairly early in the morning. But his dad had been out even earlier and bought two plastic gallon jugs of delicious apple cider. Vinnie was in the kitchen drinking glass after glass of the stuff. It was a little like watching an automaton. He would go to the fridge, open it and extract a plastic jug of cider. He would fill his glass and state, “Boy! I love apple cider!” He did this each and every time he drank a glass of the stuff. He did not stop until he had emptied an entire plastic gallon jug.

Apparently Vinnie was not affected by this massive consumption of fruit juice. We got all our fishing equipment loaded in the car and went to the lake. It is a fairly good distance, if memory serves me correctly, it is about a forty-five minute drive out to the middle of nowhere. During the longish trip Vinnie and I talked with his dad about fish, girls, school and other things. There was no sign of the problems that would soon erupt.

We all got to the lake, got our boat, loaded it and put it in the water. Vinnie’s dad took us right out to the middle of the lake. We got our poles baited and cast into the water. Then we sat and waited.

Well, we would have sat and waited except that now Vinnie was starting to act very strangely. I noticed that he had started squirming the minute we cast our lines from the boat. His dad had so far not left the meditative state that was required for lake fishing. Suddenly Vinnie bent over so far that his face was within kissing distance of the boats bottom. Then he started groaning.

“I’ve got to go to the bathroom…NOW!!”  This was said with an almost hysterical edge to it. “What’s wrong?” Vinnie’s dad asked. Vinnie just looked at his dad, his eyes bulging and veins throbbing in his face. “I’ve got to go, NOW!!! “Just get me to the restrooms!” Vinnie’s dad was completely nonplussed. “I told you to go easy on that cider. Well, I’m not going all the way back to the restrooms. You’ll have to go into the woods.” With that pronouncement he started the motor up and went to the nearest shore.

Before we got within ten feet of the shore, Vinnie vaulted out of the boat and legged it for the tree line. From where we sat, it sounded like an elephant on a rampage. I swear he even knocked down small trees in his rush to go for a “dump.”

“Where’s he going? Texas?” Vinnie’s dad asked. We waited for what seemed like ages. Finally Vinnie came staggering back out of the woods. His face was pale and he was sweating like a racehorse. He climbed slowly and creakily back into the boat. Vinnie’s dad started the motor and took us out into the middle of the lake again. He had just shut the motor off when…”Goback,goback,goback!” Vinnie was yelling this as if it was one word. He was doubled up again. Only this time he was rocking up and down, as he tried valiantly to keep his bowels under control. His dad dutifully started the motor and back to the shore we went.

Like before, Vinnie did his rampaging elephant routine. After we sat there for awhile with no sign of Vinnie, his dad looked at me and sighed. “I didn’t come all this way for Vinnie to go into the woods and shit himself to death.” He looked in the direction we thought Vinnie had lumbered, “Vinnie! We going back out to fish! When you get done, come out to the edge and wave. We’ll come get you!” Without waiting for an answer, he started the motor up and we went out to resume fishing.

I’d like to say that Vinnie finished voiding himself of all that cider and continued fishing, but he did not. We checked the shoreline repeatedly looking for him with no sign. After awhile, we just sort of forgot to keep looking. Hours later, we remembered and there was Vinnie waving weakly from the shore. Vinnie’s dad mumbled something under his breath and we went to pick him up.

As Vinnie got back into the boat, he had gone through some kind of transformation. He looked and acted like he was about a hundred years old. His face had gone a horrible shade of white and he was now drenched in sweat. That pretty much ended the fishing trip.

I was, of course, very sympathetic towards Vinnie’s plight…NOT. All the way back to his house, I was in literal hysterics. I kept saying over and over, “Boy, I LOVE, apple cider!” And each and every time I said it, Vinnie’s dad and I laughed until we cried. I can honestly say my face hurt from laughing so much. Vinnie took all this in good spirits considering.

As far as I know, he does not drink apple cider any more.

I was also never invited to go fishing again.

Lake Wedington or The Tale of the Dead Fish

When I was old enough to drive on my own, summers were spent with various friends at Lake Wedington. I cannot remember ever laughing so hard at any other spot. So many memories and so much laughter. Once, a friend and I rented a canoe. I’ll call this friend Vinnie, as I do not know his whereabouts to ask permission to use his real name.
Vinnie was one of the funniest guys I have ever known. He had a knack at spontaneous humour that has never been matched by anyone else I have been friends with. Vinnie also had a knack of having funny things happen to him. Not because he was stupid (he was not, that spontaneous wit was the result of being incredibly smart) but, because he liked to try different things. Whether it was shooting buzzards from his bedroom window, or making a bomb to explode on his parents property, Vinnie was up for anything.
So Vinnie and I rented a canoe at Lake Wedington. Our aim was to do a sort of Deliverance trip, without the inbred dangerous yokels. We were going to traverse the many creeks that fed into the lake. Whereas this plan had seemed brilliant when we were discussing it, we had failed to plan for the narrowness of the creeks. We had also failed to take into consideration the lack of sufficient water in the creeks. And the wasps. These angry creatures immediately dive bombed the canoe the second we stopped because the creek had run out of water. This made navigation of the creeks almost “too dangerous” to continue. After almost being stung repeatedly while turning the canoe around, we gave up.

We decided instead to explore the lake’s shores. Of course while we did this we splashed one another with oar backlash and and generally tried our best to over-turn the canoe. While we were engaged in this horseplay, one of us spotted the fish.

The fish was huge. It must have been a carp, my memory is a bit hazy on this detail. I do remember it was about twenty-four inches long. It was also at least eight to ten inches high and about three inches wide. Like I said it was a monster fish. It was also just floating on top of the water. *this should have warned us immediately, but we chose not to think about what would cause a dead fish to float*

“Wow!” Vinnie was super impressed by the size of it, “That sucker is huge!” I agreed and we sat looking at it for at least ten minutes before one of us had, what we thought, was a brilliant idea. I cannot for the life of me remember whose idea it was. But the gist of it was this: We would get the fish into the canoe and row ashore. Once ashore we would tell all and sundry that we had caught it with our bare hands. Of course it never entered our juvenile heads that folks might just not be interested in this fact.

I was in the front of the canoe and closest to the fish. I put my oar under the fish and lifted it straight up and over my shoulder to land in the middle of the canoe. This is precisely what it did, hitting one of the canoe’s struts as it came down. As it hit the strut, it exploded. The fish suddenly turned into a green watery mess of fish guts, maggots and the foulest stench imaginable. Vinnie “feaked-out,” and leaning over the side of the canoe he began helplessly dry heaving into the lake.

After what seemed like ages (it seemed a lot longer due to the overpowering smell this mess made) He straightened up and in a strangled voice said, “Oh my God! If you had flung that fish back any further it would have landed on me!” He stopped and thought for a moment and then said, “And if you hadn’t thrown it far enough it would have landed on yourhead!” That was my cue to lean over the edge of the canoe and dry heave for a spell.

Of course the entire time these histrionics were occuring the stench seemed to build. We then started power rowing to the shore. We headed for the stall where we had rented it. Reaching the shore, we jumped out of the vessel and threw our life-vests and oars at the vendor. We ran all the way to the car.  We drove back to our respective homes with all the windows open. We also avoided going to the lake for about two weeks for fear that the vendor would remember the state of the canoe we had turned in

Of course having Vinnie as a friend meant that the next time we got together we would be doing something exciting. The next time we met it was to make a bomb.