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Fishing with Dad

Copyright © 1995 by L.W. Strand

This article appeared in the Summer 1995 issue of Mentor logoMentor Magazine


I think the world is moving much too slowly. I concentrate on not asking one more time, "How much longer 'til we get there?" Dad has just finished saying, "Don't ask one more time!" I can tell he's still angry. He was angry this morning when we put the suitcases and things in the trunk of the black Plymouth coupe. We put a rod and tackle box back there too.

Mom now makes a little noise. She must think her words help me with Dad. They never did before, or now for that matter. I ride sitting on an apple box behind Dad, and Peter sits on another one behind Mom when he isn't sitting in her lap. Peter is three and sits in Mom's lap at the risk of being spoiled.

"You spoil that boy, Julia. You'll make him soft," Dad admonishes her.

Lap sitting isn't making me soft, because I am seven. I am big and don't sit in laps. I am seven and going fishing with my Dad even though I have this idea that Dad thinks I'm kind of soft anyway.

We are on vacation to a lake in northern Michigan, and we're going to be there for a week. It is a new experience for us. It is the first vacation we've had except once when Grandfather died, and we went to Chicago and saw my aunts. Anyway, that wasn't like this was going to be. This is so exciting! Something good is going to happen to us.

"We're there," Dad says as we pull up to a small cabin close to the lake. He starts fishing right after we empty the car - fishing until dinner, and after dinner too. Peter and I look around until bedtime. Then in bed I just lie there. I can't get to sleep. Tomorrow I hope I can go with Dad. The lights are out and I still can't get to sleep.

My eyes pop open with the sounds of Dad moving around the cabin, and it seems as though he's getting ready to leave. I wonder if he will take me with him. I'm hoping if I don't ask, it's more likely he will. He goes over to where Mom lies in bed and whispers a few words. Then he shuts the door behind him.

Mom talks a little to me. She never talks too much. She says how Dad has been working hard and needs some time to himself to relax. He comes in from the lake for lunch, again for dinner, and after dark as I am getting ready for bed. This time he shows off the bluegills he caught, and talks about how good they will be fried up for breakfast. Boy, I could catch one of those!

It's morning, and as Dad is leaving, Mom gets up and speaks to him. He is instantly angry and moves over to me saying, "OK. Let's go fishing."

Now? Me? I'm hurrying... my pants... my shoes. I'm ready. Oh, my coat...Oh, my hat. I'm ready; not saying anything, but very alert. I couldn't be more alert. I don't want to miss something; don't want to do anything wrong now. I'm going with him. This is going to be the best! Whatever he does, I'll do. We both have on our scarves. We both have our hats pulled a little down on one side. Everything looks right. I just can't believe it. I can't stand it! The two of us, him and me, going fishing!

The rowboat is big. The oars are big. The boat makes wooden thunking noises as we get in with our tackle. The rocking of the boat causes little waves to slap at the posts of the dock. The pole for me is leaning against a tree. It is a long bamboo pole. It sticks out over the bow pointing the way as Dad rows us out to where he knows there are fish. He looks back and forth as he positions us in exactly the right spot. He puts the anchor down a couple of times before he is satisfied. He takes my pole and wraps a line around it lots of times so it will stay. Toward the middle of the line, he puts on a bobber shaped like a red, round ball with a long white stick coming out on either side. He carefully measures down from the bobber to a place where the weights are affixed to the line with his teeth. Then he makes sure the hook is secure; the hook that will hurt and be hard to get out if I stick it in me. He puts a worm on his hook to show me how. I try to copy him, but worms are even tougher to handle than shoelaces. The worm looks flat where I squeeze it, and broken with its insides out where the hook came through...pretty bad-looking. I try another worm, and Dad takes the hook away to show me the right way one more time. My stomach hurts I'm so excited! If the bobber goes down a little way, I'm not to jerk; but, if it goes down half-way on the little white stick, then "jerk!"

The mist lies all along the edge of the lake, and it hangs over the water further out as well. It's cold, and I shift around on the hard board seeing the little rings on the surface where the fish push up their noses and sometimes plop out. I don't see my bobber go down at all when suddenly I hear, "You missed that bite. Pay attention if you want to fish!"

Now I'm really paying attention, and I jerk too soon. I move over to fish close by Dad. He says to take my pole over to my side of the boat. His words are harsh, and he's not looking at me. He picks up the anchor and rows to shore for breakfast.

As he and I enter the cabin, an expectant smile flashes across Mom's face and disappears just as quickly as she sees something is wrong. I am afraid to ask what I did wrong. It must have been really bad, because Dad never took me fishing again. He didn't take Peter fishing either...ever...not even once.

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