Short Stories


Fishing For Your Boy

by Morris E. Graham

It was early summer, the time when it is warm but not too hot yet in Central Arkansas. I had been doing my duty and going to work all week, and weekend was right around the corner. Two of my oldest had grown up and moved out, pursuing their adult dreams. I had one son left at home; he was sixteen at the time. While I was waiting for the weekend to generally and leisurely find something I wanted to do, both chores and some entertainment, my son’s mind had been working overtime… for days. By Wednesday night, he started planting a thought and making a request: let’s go fishing Saturday. The conspiracy was born: the conspiracy to commit catfishing. First, I had to check the temperature of the lady of the house to make sure we didn’t have something to repair, or some grass to cut. Fortunately, we were almost caught up, and the lady of the house views taking my son fishing as a fatherly endeavor, worthy of a Father’s day card on that date.

Now, we had to get the right bait. I like red worms, but my son prefers stink bait. Yup—stink bait. Stink bait is so nasty that it could gag a maggot on a gut wagon at fifty paces. But, catfish love it. Saturday morning came soon enough, and it is my son’s opinion that if you get up past five o’clock on the appointed day, you have grievously erred. Five o’clock is my normal get-up time for my day job during the week, so negotiations started to ensue. I insisted on six o’clock, no earlier, and I had the car keys.

Our friend with a farm and catfish pond lived in Glenwood, thirty miles away. With all our gear loaded in my car, (yes, including the awful-smelling stink bait), we headed out. Our farmer friend told us that the fish count was getting low and to please catch-and-release the catfish. That was fine; I had food in the fridge. Fishing wasn’t about getting something to eat; it was about spending time with my son. My son was at that age of snarkiness, you know, when adults are all stupid. But fishing was where the two generations meet for a time. This was mostly because he had a stronger fishing jones than I did, and I had the only car. This gave me, the old man, some leverage and guaranteed some quality time with my son. The lady of the house approves.

We made it just about sunrise and unloaded and carried our gear and my folding chair across the cattle pasture to the catfish pond. I set up in the usual place, close as I can get to a shade tree, stuck my ice tea on the drink holder of my chair and started to rig up my line. My son loved to play the numbers game. He set up three fishing rods and threw out the lines and laid down the poles. Yes, three, including my back-up rod with the Zebco 31 reel on it.  Fishing was a bit slow for a while. My son moved back-and forth between his three rods, and I point out that he is doing more walking than fishing. I knew he is on my right about fifty yards, but suddenly, I heard what sounds like something jumping into the water about twenty yards to my left. It took a moment for it to register. My back-up pole with my Zebco 31 reel had jumped into the water! I wasn’t about to climb in there after it. My prosthesis is not covered up, and I wasn’t wanting to get my fake foot all full of pond gunk. Besides, we didn’t know where it was, exactly. I razzed him about losing my rod and went back to fishing.

About thirty minutes later, my return line snagged something while I was reeling the line back in. I lifted my pole when the hook was about twenty yards from shore, and the tip of my lost rod broke the surface. I hollered for the boy to come look. He had no qualms about wading in the muck and pulling it out. He got the rod back on shore, and to his surprise, the fish was still on it! He reeled it in, smiling from ear-to-ear, and landed a four-pound catfish. I know. We weighed him, took a picture and threw him back. Some people would wonder why we spend so much time fishing if we have to throw them back. It’s easy—I wasn’t fishing for fish; I was fishing for a boy.

My son is now twenty and has his own truck. Brown trout are about the spawn on the Little Red River. Lately, I’ve been getting the usual propositions: this time he’ll drive me. Looks like the fishing in his early teens worked—I caught the boy, and now he is a man. The lady of the house still approves.