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Sunday, June 17, 2012

My First Big Fish, my Father's Gift

When fear crept into my life as a youngster, I sought out the safety of his arms. He was a giant to me, tall, lean, and squinting his firm brow out in defense of the sun's smile. His strength was not only measured in muscle but in wisdom. His even manner settled all those around him, like the keel of a finely made boat. He, like a boat, would rock in turbulent waters just enough to give, always able to stay upright.

He amazed me at how he could untangle a net or tie a knot even the biggest fish could not compromise. The water’s edge teased him with gentle splashes, urging him to slip the rope, pushing the two of us to places where monsters lay waiting for the patient toss of the bait. His hand was so gentle on the pole that he could feel every ridge of the sandy bottom until the slightest ripple gave away the presence of scaly prey.
 
His bare shoulders, dark and tan, bowed in perfect form, silhouetted against the sunrise—my father, the angler, embattled with the tug of a monster.
         
"Here son", my father offered, a smile as big as the distant horizon on his face. "You reel him in." He passed the burdened rod to me. I was far too excited to insist he do it, the excitement swelled in my legs as I stumbled over to his end of the boat. Cautiously, I stepped over tackle boxes and paddles, in order to position myself next to my grinning father. . No higher than his waist I stood as he placed me between the gunnels and his towering frame. With one hand, I reached for the corked end of the rod, and then another, all four of our hands together worked in unison in order to subdue the frantic monster that steadily pulled the line from the screaming reel.

“Time to tighten down the drag, boy. Are you ready?”

I was not able to make a sound come forth from my mouth. The euphoria of the fight had me and pulled at my thoughts as hard as the fish. As I nodded my head in response, at that same moment, an enormous splash broke loose my voice, the first of several "oh my God!"

"Now that's a big trout boy. Start taking the line back now," My father encouraged. He slowly, one hand at a time, released the rod to me. The pull was more than I had bargained for. My small frame and 75 pounds of fighting muscle went to work. Between me and the trout—which my father said had to be at least 10 pounds—was a thin, clear strand of hope that I prayed would hold.

Please let me get him to the boat. My silent plea was reassured with the knowledge that my dad had rigged the tackle. His success with behemoth Texas speckled trout was legendary, and this one would be my first big fish. The bow of the rod lessened from a strenuous burden to a gentle pull with each lunge the fish made. He was giving in—and not a moment too soon. I could feel my strength starting to fade as well. The day he so gently passed that burdened rod, one hand across the other to me, he firmly ignited a fire that still burns to this day.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thank you for giving me the greatest gift of my life. I love you.




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