A Father’s Day memory
By Tom Holston
“Goin’ fishin’”. The words were like an elixir…..racing through my bloodstream….stirring my mind with fantasies of wrestling with “big ones that’ll bend your back bringin’ ‘em in!” Pa was taking a day off from his work and allowing me to “play hooky” one day from school. I could hardly fathom my good fortune. After all, as a ten year old, I could barely ever remember my father pushing work aside for what might be deemed a frivolous way to spend a work day – and he was allowing me to tag along.
We left home early – before day – and arrived at the lake just as the sky was turning pink on the horizon in the east. Birds were chirping as the sun’s warmth began to stir them. A fog limited the distance of our view over the watery expanse, but my attention was quickly drawn to an older black gentleman wading by the dock near us. He wore knee high rubber boots and sang low to himself in a deep resonant bass voice, while he worked with the rental boats getting ready “fo’ th’ fish-a men.”
Pa left me there at the dock while he crossed the road to “Joe’s Place,” the store where the boat rental fees were paid and bait could be bought. I could hear a motor boat approaching long before I could see it through the early morning mist, and soon it materialized from the shroud and cut through the water toward the dock. They needed to buy gas. The old black fellow welcomed them to the beach and hoisted himself up to the gas pump at the end of the dock to fill their tank. One of the men in the boat asked if the fishin’ had been any good the day before. The old man looked up and his eyes gleamed. “Cap’n, they snatchin’em out by th’ roots!” he fairly bellowed his answer, then threw back his head and laughed a deep belly laugh. Before Pa returned the old gentleman had serviced two more boats and responded to their inquiries in the same fashion. I began to wonder a bit about the veracity of his response, but soon we were engaged in picking out a boat and securing our gear for our own voyage.
The fog had lifted enough now, so we ventured out from the bank. Money was tight indeed for our family in those days and a boat motor would have been an extreme extravagance. So, we paddled our old sodden rental craft, but in my young child mind I could not have taken greater pleasure if we had been aboard the Queen Mary. Here I was goin’ fishin’ like the grown-ups in a boat with my Pa as Captain and me accepted as First Mate.
We found some old sunken trees to anchor near and managed to get a few bites and caught several bream and a couple crappie. I revelled in it.
We talked of a variety of things while we watched our bobbers, and had a Vienna sausage sandwich for lunch. I thought it was great.
My family did not commonly show emotions a great deal and we never learned to hug each other very much, but my Pa had taken time to be with me and showed me caring and respect that day. We only caught a few fish – we were not “snatchin’em out by th’ roots!”, but times like those nurture and support the roots of our spirits. I have never forgotten it.
Happy Father’s Day Pa.