Monday, May 28, 2012
One of my favorite childhood memories is going fishing with my Dad. On occasion we would go to a private catfish pond and sink a few chicken livers. On one particular occasion, I guess I was around second grade. My Dad came home off the road working construction and on Saturday, we went to the Bostick's Catfish pond. I am pretty sure at the time that Dad was fishing, and I was learning how to bait cast. But this day was different. I got a bite, and when I set the hook, it became very clear I had hooked something big. I began reeling in with all the might in my small body and the fight from the other end was substantial. Pop offered to take the pole, and I refused. "Don't touch this pole. This is mine!" I kept reeling. Every time I stopped reeling for a second, the fish on the other end would pull line back out and the brake on the Zebco would squeal. I caught my breath and began reeling again. Finally, after a struggle that seemed to last forever, I reeled in a catfish that weighed 10 lbs.
If you do some research, you will quickly find that a 10lbs catfish is not any kind of record, locally, regionally, or nationally. In fact, there are reports that catfish have been caught in excess of 600lbs. MSNBC Fish whopper: 646 pounds a freshwater record. But to a young boy in second grade, reeling in a 10lb catfish was a major accomplishment.
Fishing in a private pond had fees. You paid per pound for what you caught. As a young boy, these things really did not register. Years later, I learned that that fish cost my Dad half of his weekly spending budget. He left on Sunday evening to go on the road working construction for a week with a mere five dollars spending money to his name until his next paycheck. He made the financial sacrifice to see the smile on a little boy's face for what seemed like an overwhelming accomplishment.
Living in a small town has a few benefits that larger cities do not have. One of those is a small town newspaper which covered small local and personal events as news. One of our neighbors heard the story and suggested my Mom carry me to the newspaper office on Monday with my picture with my fish. So after school on Monday, we went to the newspaper. They deemed it newsworthy and ran a small story. When my Dad got home the following weekend, I handed him a clipping from the local paper about me and the catfish.
A lot of things happen growing up. I had clashes of will with my Dad and at times questioned if he loved me or if he just wanted to fight me at every chance in the road. But when I learned what that catfish cost him, the financial sacrifice he made for a moment of joy and a bit of accomplishment - it put it all in perspective for me and our relationship began to heal. I realized that Pop had loved me all my life. He fought me when he thought he knew better. Through our collisions, he began to realize he had to let me fail on my own to be able to mature and develop.
I will always cherish one Saturday at a fish pond with a little Zebco rod and reel with my Dad. I never realized how important that day was in my life until I was in my mid 20s. But I hold it as one of the best memories of my childhood.