by Chris Strickland
I was looking forward to a wonderful of fishing with my grandpa. My brother and I would just hop into the cab of his ‘ol pickup truck. We’d have the 14 foot john boat following closely behind on the old tired trailer. I woke up as soon as the rooster crowed, and to the smell of fresh bacon cooking in the little kitchen of the house my grandpa built with more youthful hands that the ones I had come to know.
My grandmother had just finished frying up the eggs and the link sausages, everything smelled good. My brother and I wiped the sleep from our eyes and filled our mouths with this wonderful southern gourmet spread. We shoveled the food down, knowing that all that stood between and the glorious day on the Choclahacee River was the food before us.
Breakfast Done, Time for the Worms
As we finished the food, my grandfather told us to dig the worms out of the worm bed while he loaded the boat with the cane poles and rod and reels. We picked out only the fattest, juiciest worms in the bed. Grandpa had already gotten the crickets. What a feast the fish would have just before we caught them.
Quickly we collected enough worms for the day, and ran to the truck. But the boat wasn’t attached, something was wrong! My grandfather wasn’t there, but I heard this noise, and when I turned around there was my grandfather driving the tractor. What was going on here, why was my grandfather driving the tractor when we were suppose to go fishing? The farm had already been tilled, why was that monstrosity here? The cool morning became stifling, time slowed, and then the world came crashing down. The old man, the one who I thought had much wisdom, connected the boat to the trailer was impeding the day of Armageddon.
Then came the really bad news, grandpa said these word “Boys, get in the boat and we’ll go”. How could he do this, I looked at my brother and he looked at me. How embarrassing, we’d looked like local yokels, real hicks, rednecks. Someone would see us, we’d be scarred for life. Our plight, for all to see was exposed to the world. We sluggishly climbed in the boat, and the feeble old man drove us down the lengthy road of almost three miles towards the river. I imagine the barefooted kids across the street in their torn and tattered clothes, playing soldiers with sticks just laughing at us.
They would point and shout, look at the hayseeds riding in the boat behind the tractor. They would be out playing when we came home, ooh!!! I could only hide my face in shame, I could only imagine what my younger brother felt. We rode down the old paved road, and an old rusted pickup truck filled with watermelons was traveling in the opposite direction passed by. I could see the driver dressed in his fine overalls snickering, look at those country bumpkins. I ducked down, no one would see me.
Just Put the Boat in the Water
Finally, we arrived at the boat dock. But there was already a man in an old beat-up Chevy backing his boat into the water. While dressed in his finest jeans, with only one hole, and his plaid shirt, with just the slightest bit of oil stains, could see us. I knew he’d see us, he probably even travel back the 1000 plus miles to where I was living and let all know he saw us looking like bumpkins.
Why did grandpa do this to us?
This was the worse thing that could have to me, after all, I nearly in the sixth grade, I was a man of the world. I couldn’t take this embarrassment, torture. But the old man was oblivious to the torture I was enduring. Even my younger brother seemed like he was ready to fish. My grandfather then backed the boat into the water, soon, soon, we would be in the water. But everyone on the river would know we were the poor hicks that rode up in the tractor. We were right there under the highway bridge, where all the travelers of the world could see us. The shame was too much to bear.
My grandfather pushed us away from the boat dock with his oar, and once safely away he started the motor. But I looked up at the bridge crossing highway 90, and there was a brand new car crossing. They saw me, they knew I was one of those folks who traveled to the river attached to the back of a tractor. They were probably someone important, maybe even someone associated with the news. Please, just get us out of here. And then, the boat started to speed up, now no one could see me.
My grandfather then drove us down stream, past the future location of the I-10 bridge, not even a plan yet. I kept looking backing, hoping no one else would see us. I think we were finally safe. No other boats around. Grandpa slowed the boat down and pulled up near a stump close to shore. He tied the boat up, and said this would be a good spot. I looked around, no one could see us, yes this would be a good spot. I picked the fattest worm from the worm can and put it on the hook.
Then as my Dad had taught me, I spit on the worm and whispered to it a girl’s name that I was sweet on. Old age has faded her name, but we all know who the sweet girl in the sixth grad was. She had the beautiful eyes, wondrous hair and luscious smile. This as we all know is what attracted the fish to the worm. If it wasn’t for the young girls, no boy would have ever caught a fish.
Let’s Catch Some Fish
I dropped my line over the edge of the boat and let the sinker take the worm to the bottom. I used my pointing finger to put a little pressure on the line, and I waited for that little twinge on the line. In just a few minutes I felt it, I yanked hard. I had it, I had a fish. I reeled, I shouted, get the net! Get the net! I just knew I had a monster, the pole was bent over. It must have been at least 50 pounds.
The fishing line darted back and forth as I reeled the whale towards the boat. My grandfather leaned over and helped me pull the fish in. It was a 100 pound bluegill, it must have been at least five feet. But for some reason my grandfather thought it weighted close to a pound and was about 10 inches. Grandpa had to be wrong, after it was a huge powerful fish that I had just finished the battle with. After all, I had used my own spit and the wisp of a girl’s name. Only the biggest of all fish would bite on that bait.
The early morning wore on and we all caught several more fish. The sun was staring down at us now, it was probably getting as late as 7:00 in the morning. My stomach was starting to growl, so I reached into the paper sack to pull out one of my grandmother’s sausage biscuits. Not one of those fast food biscuits, but a real sausage biscuit like grandmother could only make. Made from fresh sausage from pigs that grandpa had raised himself. I then pulled out one of the quart mason jars out of the cooler, full of lemonade, with the lemons freshly squeezed by my grandmother. This was the life, how rich I was. There was something that had bothered me earlier, but I couldn’t quite remember what it was.
I helped my grandfather untie the boat so we could find a different spot down the river. Somehow that old man knew where the fish would be swimming and would also be hungry. As we slowly traveled downstream I stared at the different features of the riverbank. There were old pines leaning over, I couldn’t see the strings that were keeping them from falling into the river. I watched an alligator sunning on the bank, just hoping he wouldn’t decide we’d make a good meal.
Fishing is Done, Time to Leave
The day wandered by, we pulled into a backwater area made just for using the cane poles. As we sat back and enjoyed the coolness of the shade, the bobber on my cane pole when under and I caught a bream. We stayed there for a while until the place was fished out. Grandpa said it was time to go home now.
As we sped back upstream towards the boat dock I opened up the cooler and looked at the stringer inside. We must of caught over two dozen fish that day. What a feast it would make for the evening meal. My parents would be coming, and my uncles too. There would be plenty for everyone. As the boat pulled up to the dock, I made sure that everyone could see the magnificent string of fish. They all wanted to know what our secret was. I just smiled, I knew the secret was grandpa and his knowledge of the river.
My brother and I climbed back into the boat after we connected it to the tractor. Grandpa then started the trek back to his house. I sat up proudly and showed the stringer of fish for the world to see. For some reason, I remember being upset early during the day. But I just don’t remember why. After all, I was riding in a boat being pulled by a tractor, driven by the greatest fisherman alive. A man so wise, I thought to be poor, but he was a man rich and wise. If only, when I grew up, I could be so wise.