“Fishing is boring, unless you catch an actual fish, and then it is disgusting.” -Dave Barry
I once caught three speckled trout in a single cast, off a pier in Rockport. I love that memory. And that I never had to do it again.
Growing up with two brothers, I did enough fishing to last a lifetime.
Sitting in the sun with crickets and stink bait and waiting for something to bite besides mosquitoes was never my idea of fun.
Imagine my surprise years later, when my future husband asked:
“Do you like to fish?”
and I answered “Yes!”
instead of- “Oh, no thanks.”
Our first trip on his boat, I learned there were no bathroom breaks. I also learned that minnows cost 25 cents apiece (or so I was told after several failed attempts at casting). He married me, anyway. And between vacations, scout camps and lake trips with our parents, I never had to be his fishing buddy again.
Years after our parents were gone and we were empty-nesters, Mike continued his trips to the east Texas lake he fished with his dad. The small trailer in the woods with the enormous lake view was his favorite getaway, even when he didn’t catch fish.
The first time I tagged along, I found out why.
We woke so early Friday I couldn’t look at the clock.
I sleepwalked to the truck, grateful we’d packed the night before. I had never seen Dallas this time of morning and was amazed at how many headlights lit the dark freeway. Mike chuckled.
“At least we’re leaving,” he said.
For him, the joy of this trip started the minute his truck pointed east. I closed my eyes and he starts talking again. Normally he speaks 50 words a day. That morning he couldn’t shut up. I sipped slowly and intentionally from the thermos of coffee he made, while he talked about traffic and the different ways he avoids it.
When I woke, we were 20 miles from Marshall.
He nudged me to “look at the beautiful sunrise”. It had been raining for the last hour. Now the sun shone through black clouds. The effect was awesome- like someone had highlighted the edges of them to underscore their significance.
When we reached the lake, it was raining. We carried as much as we could to avoid a second trip and hurried to the trailer. It was the first time I had been there since Mike finished the porch. A lump formed in my throat.
It was beautiful.
To the last detail, it was a blending of our childhood memories. Of summers spent on the porches of grandmothers. I could tell he was waiting for a reaction. When I told him it was the most romantic thing I’d ever seen, he laughed the nervous laugh he uses when he feels he’s gotten too much attention.
As I unpacked, I knew I should have taken allergy medicine. The air was so thick my clothes were damp. Everything smelled like a wet dog. I remembered that my mom-in-law kept Lemon Pledge under the sink. It was still there, so I cleaned everything with it.
That night when we went to bed, rain was still falling. The sound of it on the tin roof had me asleep in no time.
Saturday, we woke to the sound of birds, frogs and the absence of rain.
From the porch, I watched a heron on the dock. Mike emptied his last bit of coffee into the grass and headed toward the lake. A fishing trip was inevitable.
I followed, carrying everything I might possibly need for the rest of the weekend. Mike parked the boat a respectable distance from a guy we saw catching fish all morning.
We tossed in our lines and waited.
And waited. I checked my line occasionally, just for something to do. Mike had not had a bite either, though I counted his bait and equipment changes at 23. The man next to us continued pulling them in.
Inertia killed my minnow,
I left him in the water and switched to binoculars. I tried to be still. When I saw Mike watching me, I put them down. I stared into the water like a ten-year-old girl and realized that when we fish we are all small. An entire world exists below the surface that we cannot control or understand.
The other fisherman leaves.
As he trolls by, he tells us he’d caught 100 fish in that same spot in three days. Too bad his vacation was over, he said, and wished us luck. We waited a few minutes, then abandoned the mission.
When I asked Mike if he would go back tomorrow, he looked at me like I was crazy.
Later that afternoon, he mowed while I picked up sticks and put them in piles that he would burn another time. It appears that all he does here is work, but his body language says otherwise. He tends this little piece of earth with the same care he tends his garden at home, knowing what he gets in return will be greater than he gives.
A cup in the sink and three empty cream containers told me Mike had been up for about an hour. He was gone and so was the boat. Coffee in one hand and binoculars in the other, I opened the screen door and moved quietly to the swing.
A pair of chickadees made so much noise, the hummingbird left to check it out. In the distance was the drumming sound of a woodpecker. For generations. men have come to this beautiful place to fish and seek solace. Two generations I know added amenities to make it feel like home. And to lure wives.
Very clever. Yet, with or without trappings, this place is paradise.
Mike returned from the lake empty-handed.
“At least there’s no fish to clean,” he said. And we both laughed.
We ate sandwiches on the porch and watched hummingbirds and squirrels. Then we packed the supplies we brought with us and put everything else away in cabinets. I stripped the bed and gathered laundry, while Mike turned off the power and secured everything outside.
We drove out of the woods with the windows down, to feel the fresh air on our faces as long as possible. My husband looked 10 years younger.
As we neared the highway, he reached for my hand. There were no words left for either of us.