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Thursday, April 28, 2005


gone fishin'


Apparently, all Oklahomans fish. It's not optional. Even new, gangly-legged transplants are expected to pole-up and do their part. Shortly after our move from my home state to his, my new step-father decided the seven-year old me needed an introduction. So he took our family to his favorite cabin up in the hills near a river guaranteed to yield fish. I wasn't a big fan of fish, unless it came battered, greasy, and sitting next to equally bad-for-you fries in a little paper bowl, but he didn't need to know that. I already loved my step-father and wanted him to smile. And I fell in love with his favorite cabin with very little effort. Hidden in a grove of tall pine trees and surrounded by a carpet of pungent needles from those trees, that spot of the world seemed made for remembering. And indeed, thirty-six years and two thousand miles later, I can still smell those pine needles.

At a hideous hour the second morning of our vacation, Daddy Roy roused me from my cot and nodded toward the door of our cabin. I pulled on my sweatshirt and jeans and crept across the creaky, uncarpeted floor to join him in the doorway.

"Here's your breakfast," he whispered, handing me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I couldn't recall ever before having peanut butter and jelly for breakfast. I suddenly loved him more.

With the balance of a child, I juggled my sandwich, pole, and kid-sized box of hooks and feathery wonders while poking my feet in my rubber boots. Clomping as quietly as I could across the porch boards and down the front steps, I joined him on the piney road, and we set off.

Our walk was short. After rounding a few bends in the road and traversing a slight hillside, we landed on a flat, grassy beach and unloaded our gear.

Daddy Roy pulled a white, lidded carton out of his fishing box, then peeled the top off. With my peanut butter sandwich gone, I wondered if he might be about to top off my perfect breakfast with a handful of milk duds, or chocolate-covered raisins, or some other carton-worthy delight--but no. Instead, he pulled out a fat worm, the sight of which sent my appetite skedaddling.

"I'll bait the first hook for you, and then you can do your own. So watch carefully."

My prayer life was birthed then and there. Oh, God ... help me to not throw up breakfast.

I wanted to obey--I really did--but at the last second, just as the tip of Daddy Roy's hook was about to pierce the side of that wiggling worm, I closed my eyes. There's not an hour of the day when I've been awake long enough to watch that sort of violence.

"See that?" he asked.

Nodding seemed less like fibbing than an outright answer, so I nodded.

I took my pole back and held it out as though it had hooked a bomb and not a worm. The last thing I wanted in life was for that worm to somehow swing his fat body toward me and graze my arm.

I plopped him in the water. What he did below surface, I don't know. About every thirteen seconds, I checked on him. That may have accounted for the fact that I went the whole morning without so much as a single fish nibble.

"Shanny, you've got to leave it in the water a bit longer," my patient step-father instructed. So I began leaving him in for fifteen seconds--but the added time did little to improve my results.

Midway through the experience, it occurred to me that I didn't really want a fish to bite my hook, because if that happened, I'd have to re-bait the thing. And that meant actually touching the worm. I wasn't a squirmish child, but I wasn't yet a tomboy. It would be another several months before I'd begin catching crawdads in the ditch with the neighbor kids and squishing lightning bugs on the palm of my hand to make myself glow. (To be honest, that happened only once. Or twice.) But on this morning, my bug interactions had been limited to sitting on a bee and accidentally filling my mouth with pincher bugs when I put my mouth over the outside faucet to get a drink of water. Neither had been on purpose.

From that point of realization on, I worried I might catch a fish. And the worrying paid off, because I didn't.

"We'll try again after lunch," my step-father said.

I pulled my hook out of the water, saw the still-snagged worm, and breathed a sigh of relief. I was already set for that after-lunch go-round.

"Don't you think you'll want a fresh worm on that hook later?" Daddy Roy asked.

"Nope," I answered. "I like this one."

We collected our gear, climbed the hill, and set off walking toward the cabin. Halfway back, overcome by fatigue and relief, I closed my eyes and yawned ferociously--the kind of yawn that bends small trees and alters wind patterns. And just as I was getting ready to close my mouth again, at the tail end of that yawn, I opened my eyes--just in time to watch that hooked worm drift back out of my mouth. I'd had my pole slung over my shoulder, and apparently, the hook had swung out in front of me and then straight toward my face--and into my mouth. Had I timed that yawn for just a split second earlier, I would have garnered the catch of the day ... myself.
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If you're waiting for a point to my little story, I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you. This post is just the sharing of a memory ... and an announcement about the next few days. From now till Monday, I'll be gone fishin'. Not literally, although writing about this has given me a hankering for the river. I'll be teaching at a women's retreat today through Saturday. And Sunday, after church, we're having a potluck. So I suppose I'll see you Monday.

Till then, don't let the worms bite you.

Labels:

16 Comment:

At 4/28/2005 7:31 AM, Blogger Monica had this to say ...

Have a blessed time at the Retreat and a wonderful time at the Potluck.

This was an adorable story--thank you for sharing such a wonderful memory with us.

 
At 4/28/2005 9:24 AM, Blogger Michael had this to say ...

Thicket Dweller sent me and she is right. I'll need at least six hours to really lurk.

I knew it would be good stuff when I saw that you read kelly and Cowpi.

Divin head first into the waters.


Take Care
Michael

 
At 4/28/2005 11:42 AM, Blogger thicket dweller had this to say ...

Shannon, I just discovered your blog. What a blessing, since I've just made the decision, after many years of denial, that I am, in fact, a writer. I love your writing style, and I hope to spend more time reading your inspiring words. You've got me thinking.

Have a refreshing time away, and I look forward to digging into your archives while you're away. Hope you don't mind. :-)

 
At 4/28/2005 12:32 PM, Blogger Darlene had this to say ...

Have fun fishin', Mark Twain.

 
At 4/28/2005 12:33 PM, Blogger Darlene had this to say ...

Of course I do know that you're not actually going to be fishing, but have a good 'catch' anyway.

 
At 4/28/2005 12:49 PM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Thanks, Monica--I'm looking forward to both the retreat and the potluck. And I'm looking forward to next week. For the first time in a long time, I don't have a looming deadline. My life will consist of blogging, gardening and napping ... at least until I send off the next book proposal. :)

Hi there, Thicket Dweller and Michael! Thanks for visiting. TD--thanks so much for the recommendation on your blog! I have zero time today for reading, but I'll check back on both your blogs to get to know you a bit.

Darlene, I get to whitewash a fence next week and I'm going to do it allllll by myself, because it's going to be so much fun. Don't even TRY to come here and help me, because I'm not parting with even a second of that enjoyment. Oh, stop begging ... I'm serious ... all right, all right! You can paint the fence.

 
At 4/28/2005 12:53 PM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Oh, and Thicket Dweller--that's great about the decision to start writing (not that blogging isn't writing, but you know what I mean. :) Let me know if I can point you to a writer's conference near you. Those are great for networking and inspiration. We'll talk! :)

 
At 4/28/2005 10:09 PM, Blogger Clublint had this to say ...

Sigh I remember my dad taking me fishing when I was a young gril too and I'm not even in the United States.

Lovely read.

Deb

 
At 4/28/2005 10:09 PM, Blogger Clublint had this to say ...

Sigh I remember my dad taking me fishing when I was a young gril too and I'm not even in the United States.

Lovely read.

Deb

 
At 4/29/2005 12:29 AM, Blogger Alicia had this to say ...

I am blessed with each post you write! I think you hear that often, I pray that this doesn't come without sincerity. (sp?) Your posts bring a smile to my face, encouragment to my heart, inspiration to my life, and so much more. Thank you so much for using your gift to minister to us. What a bleesing to the blogger community!

 
At 4/29/2005 11:58 AM, Blogger The Complimenting Commenter had this to say ...

That was a great story. I'm glad you have major hook scars! Have a great retreat.

 
At 5/01/2005 8:02 PM, Blogger ddddddddddddddddddddd had this to say ...

Oh, and I was sooo hoping you would be posting something this Sunday evening. I loved the fish story. LOL. I know you will have had a great retreat.

Looking forward to cryin another morning at my desk with another great post. Keep smilin'
Love,
Cowboy

 
At 5/08/2005 3:15 PM, Blogger apples had this to say ...

I only fish from a yellow boat. My grandfather's old yellow boat when we're visiting the tiny island up north where my mum grew up. My grandfather has passed away but I think the boat is still there. We row (can't scare the fish with an engine) for a while, then put our stuff in the water. 'Our stuff' being nylon and a hook (or more) attached to an old plastic soda bottle which we place on the floor of the boat.

When we catch one we pull it up (quite naturally), nylon cutting into the side of the boat and our fingers if it's a big one. When it's up it's handed to whoever is the most capable of taking fish out of mouths; if it's small it goes back into the sea, if it's a big one it stays. And by 'stays' I mean that it's put on the floor and as the waves rock the boat, the fish, and the blood, slide back and forth. Sometimes we get real big ones, one of those that in Norwegian is called 'stone bite' cuz their teeth are amazingly strong. Then you better watch your feet until it's still.

When I was a kid we used to bring the fish back to the house with my grandfather and my grandmother would have made cocoa and supper would be ready. No one every looked to see what time it was but we just always seemed to get there just as the cocoa was ready. They're not around anymore so the last time we went fishing, my mum and my aunt got the fish ready and had it for supper two hours after it was out of the sea.

Fishing rods are for chickens :)

 
At 10/08/2005 5:13 PM, Blogger Quit Smoking had this to say ...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 10/09/2005 11:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

I have a **Dog Coats** site/. It pretty much covers the sale of custom made dog coats.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)

 
At 10/10/2005 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

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