I spent Easter weekend in Hallsville at my parents’ house. For those of you who don’t know, this is the house I grew up in. It sits on 15 acres of land. The back part is where the Civil War re-enactment takes place during Hallsville Western Days.
Because he’s retired and addicted to burning, mowing and all things pertaining to nature, my Daddy decided that in his newly acquired spare time, he was going to combine the two small ponds into one big pond with an island in the middle. The island has a palm tree and one chair. It looks like a Corona ad. My Mother naturally hates it.
I remember watching bulldozers excavating the ginormous hole for the new pond/minor lake. Daddy mentioned that he was going to stock it with different marine life, but we wouldn’t be able to fish for a few years.
Well. That was two years ago. It’s officially time to break out the rod-n-reel.
I’ve always been a great fisherwoman. Why, I was a mere six-years-old when I caught my first perch all by myself. I begged Daddy to let me cast and reel on my own. He was happy for me to embrace my independence, but extremely irritated that I had little to no patience when it came to waiting for the bobber to go under when a fish finally ate my worm. Frustrated, he left me at the edge of Little Pond #1 and climbed back on his John Deere probably wishing he could set fire to something.
I remember casting. I remember reeling. And I remember singing, “The sun will come out…TOMORROW…bet your bottom dollar that TOMORROW…they’ll be sun…” when I felt a jerk. I kept reeling and out popped what other fish in that pond probably called “dinner.” It could have been a five pound bass to me. Naturally, I start jumping up and down, trying to get Daddy’s attention. He finally spies me with a fish in my hand and runs over to congratulate his beaming daughter. We make the trek up to the house. Mama finally locates her Kodak disc camera and snaps several shots of me holding my prize-winning fish in dramatic poses before finishing the roll on her newly potted bougainvillea. I distinctly remember my haircut was Dorothy Hamill, my pink socks were pulled up to my knees and either Strawberry Shortcake or Rainbow Brite was on my t-shirt. I high five everyone, ask if I can keep the fish, become upset when my mother is not convinced yes it CAN live in the swimming pool and begrudgingly hand it back over to my father who releases it back in the wild to grow big and strong.
Between the whole photo shoot ordeal taking roughly 30 minutes and me squeezing the little booger in a death grip, odds are that tiny perch never made it. Circle of life people. Sad for him. Good memories for me.
Let’s get back to this past weekend. Picture it:
Daddy is manning two fishing poles because he’s a little irritated that my friend Keri has caught the biggest and most fish so far. My sister is keeping a strict eye on her toddler who insists on pestering two new additions to the non-humans of our extended family. A pair of stunning black and white geese has decided to live at Lake Ray for the spring. We’ve named them Sonny and Cher. My niece calls them “quack quacks” and one of her favorite pastimes is to chase after them in hopes to wrap her chubby little hands around their necks for a quick hug. Needless to say, Sonny and Cher do not care for Addison and often become a bit territorial when she’s around. There’s lots of honking, which only spurs Addison’s desire to caress their feathers and inspect their beaks. She’s always had a thing for birds. We don’t question it.
Disappointed that I hadn’t really caught anything significant, I’m just about to reach the point of serenading the fish with my favorite tunes from the Annie catalog (hey…it worked once upon a time) when I notice my cork has been jerked under the murky water. This is not a nibble dear reader. This is THE BIG ONE.
I begin to reel. And reel. And reel. The blunt end of the fishing pole is shoved in my gut as I try to get a better grip on what can only be a double-digit monster. I call for my Dad, but he doesn’t hear me or makes a choice to not respond. He’s always been a selective hearer. We don’t question it.
Finally, I can’t turn the dial any more. It is stuck and I’m beginning to think my line is going to snap. It’s the worst decision ever. Do I swallow my pride and ask for help with the hope that this 10-pound fish will be mine, therefore bestowing bragging rights on me that could be used to my distinct advantage for years and years to come? Or will nature reign over me this day?
Me: “HELP ME!”
Daddy: “Reel it in.”
Me: “LISTEN MAN. I CAN’T REEL IT IN ANY MORE! HE’S TOO STRONG. NOTHING IS HAPPENING WHEN I TURN THE DIAL. IT’S STUCK.”
Daddy comes over and inspects the fishing pole. He witnesses my struggle, rolls his eyes and takes the pole. I think the next word uttered from him mouth was, “Damn.”
That’s right people. My big strong Daddy had a hard time turning the dial. At this point, I’m panicking. I will not lose this 11-pound fish. IT WILL BE MINE. I take matters into my own hands, grab the line and begin pulling it up the bank. The fish is spinning. My hands are slipping. Daddy is reeling. One more heave and this 12-pound beauty slides through the mud and the muck and the goose droppings and the grass.
Check out my 13-pound catfish! Pay no attention to the fact that I have nary a stitch of makeup on my face. Please notice that I am ever-so-ladylike with my pinky lifted properly at the mouth of said fish, as if I am drinking chamomile tea at high Noon with the Queen. Yes, I’m wearing an East Dillon Lion t-shirt with pride. COACH TAYLOR FOREVER!
As we lift up the 14-pound catfish, my Dad continues to shout out and explicative or two. The girls are all jumping up and down and that’s when mass chaos ensues. I yell at my sister to go get a camera. She starts on foot, decides to take a golf cart and proceeds to leave her daughter in her family’s care. A goose honks.
My Dad, on the other hand, has started yelling, “BOB” to the top of his lungs. That’s our neighbor. Still holding my fish, he instructs me to drive him in the golf cart up to Bob’s house so he can see the 15-pounder. Addison has been left in the capable hands of Keri. A goose honks. As I’m driving like a maniac away from Lake Ray, Jamie is driving like a maniac toward Lake Ray with my mother hanging on for dear life, false eyelashes blowing in the breeze.
Bob gives the appropriate enthusiasm for a fish of this magnitude and I head down to the water’s edge for my glamorous photo shoot. When we pull up, Keri is kneeling down beside Addison, proudly holding a tiny little perch. Wait…what?
Apparently, when all of Addison’s blood relatives scattered in golf carts, she decided to entice Sonny and Cher with her two-year-old ways. Fortunately, Keri was there to stop the goose massacre and distracted Addison by allowing her to reel in her line. Low and behold, a tiny fish was on the other end.
My Dad can not contain himself. He jumps out of the golf cart before it has come to a complete stop and somehow loses his shorts, mooning everyone. He’s never really had a butt. We don’t’ question it. He and my mother are praising Addison, Keri is laughing her head off, Bob has wandered down to see what the commotion is about, my sister is taking 83 pictures of Addison’s fish and I’m standing there with a freaking 16-pound catfish and NO ONE CARES. A goose honks.
Knowing that my state record holder is about to lose consciousness as it lies listlessly in my hands, I beg my sister to pull herself away from her beloved daughter to take a quick shot of me. After two pictures, I decide to neither mount nor eat my prize and release him back into the depths of the glistening water so he can tell his friends all about me.
Because I will be back. And he will be mine again one day. Clear eyes. Full heart. Can’t lose.