It could've been any number of weekday summer mornings years ago...I couldn't have been much over 10 or 11 years old. Wide awake and ready to go. Rods in the boat, bait out of the freezer, now all I had to do was wait...About 8:30 he'd roll in, eyes bloodshot red and body tired after working the third shift, midnight 'til 8am, but most of the time 8pm to the next morning, never one to turn down overtime, blue collar to the core...Dad asks if I've got everything in the boat and ready to go? “Yep”, I'd reply as he sits his old plastic lunch box ,covered in Chiquita banana stickers on the counter. A few minutes later and we're dropping the old aluminum runabout into the water for a morning of catfishing on the river., a cloud of blue smoke puffing from the antique Evinrude...This scene played out more times than I can count and I can still remember watching the old fiberglass rods with the cork handles tap, tap, tap ever so slightly and then nearly be pulled overboard as a channel or flathead screamed line off the Zebco 33's...But more than the fish, I remember my dad and I sitting in the boat, anchored up in some deep hole spending time together. Sometimes the water fast, sometimes slack depending on what Markland was doing... Drinking Pepsi's and killing time and listening to a CB radio...Eventually, sleep deprivation would get the best of him and if the bite was slow, we'd reel in and call it a morning. Before heading home, we'd make a trip to the upper reaches of Grant's Creek to check a hidden minnow trap or make a pass out Arnold's Creek to seine more bait to replenish our supply. But the bait or the fish didn't mean that much to me then or now...it was the time spent.
Years passed and the catfishing gave way to bass fishing in all the local ponds. We yanked a lot of fish, but most were released to swim another day. Rapalas and Jitterbugs tossed along the banks hoping to have a bucketmouth send the bait skyward. Dad was content to stand in one spot while I'd explore my way around the banks and hopefully catch more or bigger fish than the old man...The sun would finally beat us down or the darkness would set in and we knew it was time to head home and give it a rest. Certain catches and specific ponds still stick in my mind, but it was the memories made that meant more than the bass caught...
Eventually, our fishing forays became fewer and farther between...high school, friends, girls, part-times jobs and college have a way of messing up time between fathers and sons. We'd still manage a few evenings here and there to wet a line, but the life of a young man gets in the way. Bass boats and an occasional tournament filled the void between us, but adulthood and responsibility has a way of chipping at time...work, family and kids came along and the boats were sold and the rods gathered dust, but the memories still last.
My dad isn't an overly emotional or talkative type guy, never was...but he had his own way of encouraging my passion for the outdoors. At the drop of a hat, he was always willing to throw the poles in the back of the truck and walk across a chigger filled pasture to some cow pond to take his boy fishing. He isn't one to tell you how he feels, but I know...he showed it...whether we were building model trains, hitting fly balls and fielding grounders, or taking a pudgy, little kid with coke bottle thick glasses to a fishing hole...he showed it. I can only hope that I've shown my kids the same when our time is chipped a way.