As we get older, reflections about the past and missed opportunities cross our minds. A conversation with a relative or friend that you haven’t seen in awhile can escort our minds in such a direction. Often as not, a pledge to do something right away that has been put off too long due to the naivety and ignorance of our youth will be solemnly made. The pledge happens frequently; the doing less so.
We all declare from time to time what we would have done back in the day if we “had just known better”. Going back in time and taking today’s body of information with you has been a fantasy for more than one daydreamer. And I’m sure that if we packed for such a trip, an annoying little list of character flaws would never make the suitcase: we’d leave them here in the present to eagerly greet us like a puppy upon our return.
During a recent chat with two of my cousins, one of them proposed a plan to correct one of the omissions of our youth. With much enthusiasm, he planted the seed that was soon to blossom into a task of overdue importance. With the face of a preschool child on Christmas morning, he said:
“Let’s go fishin’!”
The contract was made with all the necessary accoutrement such as place, date, and time. During the next few days, anticipation of the upcoming engagement stayed right in the front of my thinking causing little else to get done in the meantime. I cannot speak for the other two, but I was looking forward to it in earnest.
If an attempt is made to recapture childhood long after the agility so ordinary among children has left us, an adventure may be in the making. As kids, leaping before looking was commonplace, but we were more resilient then. Resiliency may be gone, but a tendency to impulses remains for those of us so inclined.
Excuses for not doing something crop up easily for most failures. One of the more common is not having had the time. Well, time can be used, but it cannot be had. It flees by you as a strong wind carrying yesterday’s dust annoyingly into the face of tomorrow. If you’re quick, you might grab hold of a moment for a moment, but no more than that. Then, it is gone.
Holding onto a moment for more than the moment might have drowned one of my cousins recently. Feeling a slight tug on his ultra-light fishing line, he stood up leaning over the edge of the boat. Masterfully, he worked the angle of his rod ever so carefully, and prepared to land his fish. I’m sure if any risk was on his mind, he intended to project the image of it being a calculated one rather than an impulsive one. His normal demeanor is conservative, and not subject to doing stand-up comedy.
Falling out of a small boat might be comical if you are not the one doing the falling. It happened quickly, and in fast motion…flip-splash! Cuz was in the water dressed more for a golf outing than a swim.
We were on a small lake fed by a stream. There was a spillway designed to keep the water level from overflowing the banks, and they are regularly found in small lakes and ponds. The intent and design maintains the water flow back into the creek, stream or river that was mother to the pool.
It looked a bit like an open man hole in the middle of the lake, and a constant surge of water poured into it as if being pulled by a powerful pump or outgoing tide. Our boat was dangerously close to that drain when one of our trio made a dive that would’ve qualified him for the Olympics.
My other cousin and I quickly worked to maneuver the boat close enough so we could pull him back to safety. We kept thinking he might just swim towards us, and wondered what kept him from doing so. Then, we saw what was holding up progress: the man in the water had a firm grip still on his rod and reel so as not to lose it to the deep.
The picture of him fully clothed and struggling to dawg-paddle with one hand while the other fist was wrapped around the equivalent of an unbalanced stick added mirth to an already comic situation. But momentarily, concern began to take mirth’s place because in spite of our efforts, he was not getting any closer to the boat.
As the moments passed, I began to worry that we might lose Cuz to the very same purgatory from which he so desperately was trying to save his tackle. I’m sure it was a carryover from his evangelical upbringing. Both of us remaining in the boat, coming from the same background, managed to rescue the perishing that day, thus I’m sure, making this world a better place. Otherwise, we’d have been in a Hell of a mess!
Anxiety reverted back to levity once he was back on board, but we decided to call it a day and head to shore where Cuz could get out of his wet clothes. As we are all inclined to do, he offered reasons for his behavior. Evidently, it was an expensive rod ‘n reel and had been a fairly recent purchase. To give it up for anything less than a four ounce bream would be unthinkable. I’ve owned some fishing gear over the years, and still have some of it. But my entire inventory consists of nothing worth dying for. Once back on the bank, I intended to take a closer look at my cousin’s awe inspiring rig.
Now, we all tend to carry things around with us related to our crafts, trades, hobbies, habits and avocations. A draftsman will commonly be found having three or four more pencils than necessary even when the task at hand may be no more than ordering a sandwich. Analogies can be drawn to mechanics, carpenters, police officers, and pipe smokers. I’ll bet you know an electrician that always has a circuit tester in his pocket. Had it been me in the water, my matches would’ve been wet.
My cousin is a banker by trade. Soaking wet and shivering slightly, he made an announcement. It would reveal his primary disappointment with the swim. He pulled something from his pocket, and told us his checkbook was soppy, sloppy, soggy, dripping wet. It was.
It had never occurred to me to bring my checkbook out there. No opportunity for a major purchase was likely to appear. In fact, the only business in sight was us trying to fool the fish with crickets and pieces of earthworms neither of which are big commodity items. I couldn’t resist comment:
“Your checkbook? Out here? Why did you bring your checkbook out here in the middle of the lake? We’re using crickets and worms which is about the only currency needed to do business with the natives! Besides, I’ll bet there ain’t a self-respecting fish in the whole pond that wouldn’t accept a credit card!”
Back on land, we were greeted by three dawgs belonging to my dry cousin who owned the property on the lake. We had only been out for a short time, but the dawgs were so glad to see us, and acted as if we’d been gone a couple of months. If people were ever so glad to see me, I’d find a way to buy me one of those fancy fishin’ poles that is to die for.
We all went inside , cousins and dawgs alike. Once in the house, pleasant conversation that had begun the evening before, continued. While us fellas talked, the two white dawgs were busy smelling dry things and wet things. The red one circled a spot on the rug three times and plopped down. We’ve all seen this behavior before, but the practicality of it had always eluded me. So, I asked:
“Why do dawgs walk around in circles before they lie down?”
Without hesitation, our host offered up an explanation in such a matter-of-fact way as if everybody should already know:
“Lookin’ for rocks. He’ll also check for sharp sticks, broken glass, ant beds and other stuff you wouldn’t want to lay on. They sense the whole area with their feet to confirm the likelihood of being comfortable. Male dawgs do it mostly. Could be because of their baggage. Now, if you watch the female (pointing to one of the white dawgs), you’ll see that she tends to look about carefully, then usually just plops down where she is.”
It’s true. She did. Evidently, females actually look closer to assess and consider what they’ll lay down with. Males seem only concerned about how it’s gonna feel. Cats are different: male or female, they’ll change their pattern if they know you’re watching them.
Along about then, my older cousin who was pretty much dry by then, wanted to know the time. Out of habit, I looked at my watch. Momentarily, I’d forgotten that the battery in it was dead and that the watch would be a liar because of it. Then remembering, I said:
“My watch is stopped. I’ve been meaning to get a new battery, but keep forgetting.”
They both just looked at me. Finally, while rubbing the top of his head with a towel, Cuz asked:
“Well, it ain’t doin’ you much good like it is. Why did you even wear it today?”
I couldn’t resist:
“I might need to know what time it used to be. Maybe I was hoping that while we were out in the boat you might just whip out that checkbook of yours, and buy a battery for it!
It was a great weekend all in all. Besides the boating incident, we had a lot of laughs, talk of family times together, and a good exchange of ideas. As a bonus, I learned something about dawg behavior that I had not previously known. I’m pretty sure all three of us will remember that weekend for a long time.
Once I got back home, I took my two younger sons with me down to the creek that runs through the woods behind our house. Our two dawgs went with us. Topper stays out of the water. There is something about it that reminds him of getting a bath. Ashley jumps right in scaring the fish and splashing water on the rest of us. Somehow, she is a dawg, but I think God intended for her to be an otter.
After a short while, my youngest asked:
“What time are we s’posed to pick up Mama?”
Looking at my watch, I studied on it for about a minute although the watch didn’t keep up with me. I felt that it was still early enough, but thought it best to check with an honest clock back in the house.
“Reckon we better be headed in that direction pretty soon. Remind me to stop by the mall on the way back. I need to get a battery for this watch.”
Before we left out on our errands, we put Ashley Cooper and Cosmo Topper back inside the fence. They knew we were going off for awhile, and were resigned to it. Topper walked around in a circle three times and laid down. Ashley looked around from side to side, and plopped down right where she was.
Watch batteries are sold in some department stores, drug stores, and jewelry stores. I knew we’d wanna stay out of the jewelry stores especially if my wife was with me. We might start out lookin’ for a battery, but end up lookin’ for rocks.