Gone Fishin'

Sara Etgen-Baker

© Copyright 2023 by Sara Etgen-Baker
        Photo of Sara's dad.            
            Photo of Sara's dad.

Early one Saturday morning when I was about ten, Dad gently nudged me from a deep slumber. “Time to go fishin,’ Sweetie.” Reluctantly I uncovered my face; blinked; closed my eyes; and blinked again. I sat up, stretched my arms above my head; and yawned, remembering how I’d pleaded with him the night before.
May I go with you, pleeeease Daddy?” I begged.

Taking me wasn’t easy, for I was squeamish around worms and water. But I’d tolerate almost anything just to have some alone time with Dad.

But Daddy, it’s dark outside. Aren’t the fish sleeping?”

They’ll be awake soon enough. Get a move on!”

He loaded me and his fishing gear into his pickup truck and drove to nearby Lake Lavon where—at the crack of dawn—he launched his flat bottom boat, the Nini-Poo, into the water. It was a sultry, windless August morning; and the lake—flat as any mirror—lay before us without a single ripple as if time itself had been frozen. From the tall pines around the edge came not a sound, no movement of branches and no birds calling.

Dad tugged on the choke of his outboard motor and pulled on the starter rope three times before the engine sputtered into action. We skittered across the lake, shattering the lake’s glassy appearance. Once we reached an isolated cove, Dad turned off the ignition, letting the boat come to a gentle stop. He reached under his seat; fetched his bucket of worms; nabbed one of the larger ones; and drove the hook into the thicker end. He cast my live worm into the water and handed me my cane pole.

Watch the bobber,” he said, his finger pointing to the water. “When a fish nibbles, let him have a taste, then pull.”

Okay Daddy. I will.”

He baited his own hook and cast his line into the water; together we sat and fished for hours. From the pine trees around the lake’s edge came nary a sound—only the sound of Dad’s breathing. For a moment I forgot to watch my pole. The end splattered into the water, sending dragonflies off their lily pads.

Whoa, watch your fishing pole!” he said, reaching over to steady the cane pole.

Dad sat as still as the pines, as if time were suspended and our minutes were as countless as summer strawberries. “Daddy,” I rested my cheek against his arm, “are you SURE there’s fish in this cove?” He chuckled and kissed me on the cheek.
Suddenly, my bobber zinged under the water. “It’s a whopper!” he declared. I leaned back into his arms; we pulled together. Breaking through the water, erupting into the glimmer of the morning light, burst the biggest fish I’d ever seen. Dad unhooked the shimmering fish. I held my breath, and he beamed. Neither of us spoke; we just stared at one another. The gift of that day spent with Dad was one of the best presents I ever got.

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