© 1999 by Gwen DeLamar
We had moved to our new house in the country when I was around ten years old. The pond had been built years before and was stocked full of bass and brim. In those days, girls still wore dresses to school with layers of starched petticoats underneath, pants were not allowed. We were expected to act like little girls and anything out of the realm of little girl play would give you the undesired label of a Tom Boy. That's why I was so surprised that my daddy let me fish that day, although, I still believe to this day that his intention was to forever scare me away from fishing with that ugly black lizard. The irony was that I had brought back, in only a few minutes, the largest fish ever caught from the new pond, even though he had spent many hours in the same pursuit.
The lake was always calling me. Sometimes just to walk it's edges and peer into the water to watch the tad poles. Sometimes to witness extraordinary events, like the day that a large duck ate a wriggling snake. I never knew what I might miss if I left the waters edge.
This particular day, I wanted to fish. Since I was just a girl, I couldn't bait my hook or take the fish off. Girls didn't do those things back then, at least, no girls that I knew. Today was special. My daddy was home. After retrieving a cane pole from the shed, I went in search of my dad. I found him working on the riding mower in the barn.
"Daddy, do we have any bait?" I asked, hoping he would take the time to bait my hook. I knew he was busy and didn't like to be interrupted when he was working, but the urge to fish was great. To my delight, he said that he did have something that just might catch me a fish. He picked up an old rusty coffee can that had a small piece of ply board serving as a lid. Reaching into the can, he pulled out a big ugly black lizard. Not wanting to appear ungrateful, I tried to hide my disappointment that he had not at least found a few worms for me. I watched in horror as he took the hook and ran it inside the lizard's mouth and then out one of it's eyes. Everything inside me wanted to run screaming from the scene. I said nothing. I noticed a little grin about his eyes as he handed the pole and line back to me. I knew what he was thinking...this will probably be the last time that she asks me to bait her hook. I took the pole and line in hand and said, "Thank you."
Off I went, holding the lizard as far away from my body as possible. The walk to the lake seemed even longer with this horrible ugly lizard swinging wildly about in the air. There was a gate that had to be opened and locked again. I somehow managed it without the lizard touching me. When I reached the waters edge, I put the lizard up front in the old green metal boat. There was a seat with a live well in it that separated us. I paddled out into the middle where the old creek bed through the lake. That's where it was deepest. Raising the cork high up on the line, I dropped the ugly lizard down into the water. The line sank...the cork sank. The lizard is too fat, I'm thinking, he's making the cork sink. I pulled on the line to find my cork and the pole was almost snatched from my hands. With all my might, I pulled straight up! The biggest fish I ever saw came sailing out of the water and straight at me. After swinging him wildly about in the air, I finally got him into the front of the boat. Furiously, I paddled back to shore. With the pole in one hand and the line in the other, back we all went to find Daddy again.
The fish was heavy, but somehow I got all three of us (the lizard had only lost part of his tail) through the gate once more. Daddy didn't say anything, being a man of few words, and just a little annoyed that he was being interrupted again. He took the fish off the hook, then handed the line with the tailless lizard still attached back to me. "Thank you." I said, as I headed back to the lake. After all, I still had some lizard left. I was getting bolder now. The lizard wasn't nearly as scary without his tail.
Back in the boat, I paddled out to the same spot. Just as I lowered the lizard into the water, my line was hit again. Straight up...I pulled! The fish looked as though he were flying. He was even bigger than the first one! Back to the bank we all went once again. This time the lizard was in trouble. All I could see was the tip of his head protruding from the gasping mouth of the fish.
When I found Daddy, he was busy cleaning the first fish and I stood by with my second catch, silently watching the revolting gutting process. I knew he was probably not pleased that he had to stop everything to clean my fish. As I watched him pull the hook from the second fish, it was obvious that my lizard was gone.
Daddy finally broke his long silence, "Where bouts was you fishing?", he asked. I explained to him that I had caught both fish in the same spot. Then there was nothing but silence again as he finished cleaning the second fish.
I knew I shouldn't push my luck, but I just couldn't help myself. Eventually, I broke the silence, "Daddy, do we have any more lizards?"
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Another story by Gwen: Charlie