Fishing Off Galveston Island

Melissa L. White


© Copyright 2023 by Melissa L. White

Photo by Harold B. White.
Photo by Harold B. White.

It was Miranda’s tenth birthday, and she didn’t suspect a thing. Her dad, Teddy, pulled her aside as she was raking up the grass clippings after he’d finished mowing the lawn.

“Go inside and wash up,” said Teddy. “I want you to go with me to Home Depot and help me pick out some new cabinet knobs for your bathroom.”

Miranda grinned, happy to get out of doing yard work, while her brother and sister were still busy raking. Miranda ran inside and went upstairs to shower. Rinsing away the sweat and dust, she washed her long auburn hair and worked the conditioner through her tresses down to the scalp. When she finished, she felt invigorated and refreshed. She dressed quickly and hurried downstairs to meet her father who had just finished showering and shaving. He smelled like cool Aqua Velva after shave. Miranda grabbed her sweater and tied it around her waist. It was October and the air was just starting to turn cool outside.

“Come on, little one,” said Teddy. “We’ve got to get back in time to watch the Astros game tonight.”

Miranda was a baseball fan and loved watching the Astros with her dad. He explained things like the “Ground Rule Double” and the “Tie Goes to the Runner Rule” while they watched the games together. It was a lot more interesting and exciting to watch than the televised golf tournaments her dad loved so much. Even when he explained birdies, bogies, and double eagles, Miranda still preferred watching baseball. She surmised that this was because team sports appealed to her youthful sensibilities more than the individual-ness of golf. She had lots of friends, and loved being in a group, and had just begun to grasp the concept of being “popular” at school. She hadn’t yet developed the notion that being alone was sometimes preferable than being in “the crowd.”

Teddy drove across town to Home Depot while Miranda fiddled with the car stereo. Her dad loved station KPRC which played Big Band hits from the 1940s. Miranda loved the Monkeys, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones, but every now and then, she enjoyed listening to Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller with her dad. She turned up the volume and Ella Fitzgerald serenaded them with her lively rendition of “Blue Skies.” Miranda laughed and hummed along with the radio.

When they got to Home Depot, Miranda and Teddy decided on white porcelain round knobs with little pink rosebuds painted on them. She loved this elegant detail and thought it would match perfectly with her pink bedroom which adjoined the bathroom. Teddy paid for the knobs and Miranda carried the bag out to the car, thoroughly pleased with their purchase.

When they arrived back home, Miranda and Teddy went inside and Teddy said, “Go show your mother what we picked out. She’s in the kitchen.”

Miranda hurried into the kitchen and suddenly a dozen wide-eyed 10-year-old girls jumped out and yelled, “Surprise!”

Miranda gasped, startled, then she couldn’t help but laugh. She hugged her parents and then greeted her friends.

“Who wants cake and ice cream?” asked Miranda’s mom.

“I do!” shouted all the girls.

Miranda blew out the candles and made a wish that one day, she would live to be a hundred, and still be able to blow out all her birthday candles.

After finishing their cake and ice cream, Miranda opened all her presents. Her friends gave her lovely gifts, like Barbie clothes, and fingernail polish. Miranda was thrilled when she opened the gift from her parents. She squealed and held up her new rod and reel fishing pole to her lips and kissed it. It was a Zebco 88 rod and reel. She loved it.

“I can’t wait to go fishing out in the Gulf!” cried Miranda.

“Maybe we can go next weekend,” said Teddy.

After the party, Miranda hugged both her parents and thanked them for such a wonderful party. “I love my new fishing pole,” she said.

“Great,” said Teddy. “We’ll go out fishing next Saturday and break it in.”


The next Saturday, Miranda woke up early and ran downstairs to find her mom already in the kitchen packing a picnic basket full of sandwiches and fruit. She packed a large thermos jug of lemonade while Miranda loaded in snacks like Cheetos and Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies. Teddy snuck in a package of Fig Newtons, his all-time favorite cookies. They loaded up their gear into the van, and Teddy hooked the van’s trailer hitch up to his Roballa fishing boat. They headed off before the sun was high in the sky and they drove down the Gulf Freeway towards Galveston.

When they reached the boat launch, Teddy backed the trailer down the ramp and Miranda and her brother helped their dad launch the boat.

They headed out on Galveston Bay and motored out past San Louis pass. When they cleared the bridge and headed out into the Gulf, everyone held on tight while Teddy opened her up and raced, full throttle, out into the chocolate brown waves. When they were about a half mile offshore, Teddy killed the engine, and they got out their fishing gear. Teddy showed Miranda how to tie on a shiny metal lure. Then they all cast their rods out into the waves and waited.

Miranda’s younger brother, Walton, was the first to catch a fish that day. Walton’s line went tight, and he held on fast and reeled it in nice and slow. Finally, a ten-pound Jack fish floundered and splashed in the waves and he reeled it up to the boat. Teddy reached over and netted the fish and brought it on board. He dumped the fish on the floorboards and its bright blue body glistened in the sun while its orange underbelly looked smooth and soft and shiny. They all watched the fish as it sucked in air through its gills, slowly suffocating until it drew its last breath.

“It’s suffering,” said Miranda’s older sister, Jewel. She reached down and stroked the fish’s belly. Miranda felt sad for a moment until her dad picked up the fish and put it into the cooler on ice.

“It can’t feel anything any longer,” said Teddy. “Everything that lives eventually dies. It’s the natural order of things.”

They took their fishing poles and went back to casting their lines in the gulf. Miranda stood in the stern beside her father. He glanced at her sideways and said, “What’s wrong, pumpkin?”

“I wonder if it really is wrong to kill little creatures like these fish that we catch,” said Miranda.

Teddy sighed. “If you eat what you kill, it isn’t wrong. Just killing for sport, without eating it is not something I believe in. It isn’t the natural order of things.”

Miranda nodded. She wondered silently about the-natural-order-of-things. She wondered if the fish had children that would miss them after they were plucked out of the sea by fishermen like herself. She felt sad, thinking about the baby fish left behind.

“Daddy?” asked Miranda, softly.

“Yes, sugar?”

“Do you think God will punish us for killing these fish?” She looked up at her father, certain their actions would warrant the wrath of God. She was very worried, and a frown wrinkled her smooth skin.

Teddy knelt on one knee beside Miranda. He looked in her eyes. “Listen, sweetheart. God knows what’s in our hearts and minds. He knows we fry these fish and gain nourishment from them. If we say the blessing before our meal and ask God to bless the food to the nourishment of our bodies, he will not be angry with us for killing fish to feed ourselves.”

Miranda still wasn’t satisfied. “But we could just as easily eat fruits and vegetables, without taking the life of any other creature. I just think it’s wrong to kill other animals. It isn’t necessary for us to stay alive.”

Teddy put his hand on Miranda’s shoulder. “You’re a kind-hearted girl. I can see where it may bother you to kill another living creature. But I assure you, that is God’s will. All throughout the Bible, it talks about sacrificial offerings the people make for God, doing God’s will, and receiving his blessing. I’ll be happy to show it to you when we get home.”

“That’s okay, Dad. I believe you.” Miranda reeled her line in slowly. “I just don’t feel like fishing any more today.”

Teddy smiled at Miranda. He too reeled in his line then set his rod and reel down on the floorboard. “Come sit with me a minute.”

Miranda lay down her fishing pole and went to sit on the padded bench in the stern, beside her father.

Teddy cleared his throat. “Now I know the Bible has a lot of stories and mysteries in it. And there are many things about our faith that don’t make much sense to me.”

“Like what, Daddy?” Miranda eyed her father with her inquisitive gaze.

“Well, like the immaculate conception, for one thing,” said Teddy.

“You mean the holy spirit giving Mary a child?”

“Exactly. I know you understand the way babies are made, with a sperm cell and an egg, then the embryo starts to grow inside the mother’s womb. But without a sperm from the male body, there is no way a physical baby could grow. I just don’t believe a “spirit” could impregnate a woman. It’s not physically possible.”

Miranda smiled. “That’s the whole basis of our faith. That God became man in Jesus Christ. If you don’t believe that, how can you believe in Christianity?”

“I’ll tell you how,” said Teddy. “I believe in Jesus’ teachings. Namely, Love God. Love yourself. And love your neighbor as you love yourself. Those three things are more important in following the Christian faith, than whether or not a virgin could give birth.”

Miranda smiled. She loved her father and his simple beliefs. He didn’t let his doubts interrupt his faith. He was a good man. A simple man. Miranda decided right then that she should strive to be more like her father. And not question things that don’t make sense. She smiled up at Teddy. “I guess that’s why they call it faith.”

“That’s right,” said Teddy. “And I have complete faith in God’s plan for us. And that includes fishing. And having a fish fry afterwards, where we all enjoy your mom’s fried catfish, hush puppies, French fries, and coleslaw. So, what do you say? Want to fish some more, till we each catch at least one fish?”

Teddy held out his hand for Miranda. She grinned and took his hand. He helped her up and together they took their fishing poles and cast their lines back into the chocolate brown Gulf waters.

Miranda watched her father as he set his line, and slowly reeled it back in. She was glad they had this little chat about faith. It stuck in her mind as something worth remembering, and she told herself to never forget it. Fifty years from now, she would look back on this fishing trip, and remembering her father’s words, she would smile.

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