My grandfather, whom we called Pappy, always said, “When you come down, I’m gonna learn you how to fish.” He said this as soon as I could understand the language, and probably before that. One of the first birthday presents I remember getting was a fishing rod and reel from Pappy.
“You see that reel,” he said while pointing to the logo. “That’s a Zebco 33. It’s the best reel you can get.” He then told the story about a demonstration he attended where they tied a fishing line to a swimmer and then reeled him in. “That thar reel nearly drownded that man,” Pappy said at the end of his tale. Zebco was a great reel, but I wouldn’t call it the best on the market. But after watching the exhausted swimmer sputtering in the pool, Pappy was hooked. He never fished with anything else.
Pappy did teach me a lot about fishing. In fact, there was no such thing as catching a fish without a lesson. “Hold your rod up,” he would shout every time I hooked a fish. He’d rush through the trees to get to where I was and coach me on every fish. Minnow or river monster, it didn’t matter. Pappy was there to make sure I kept my rod up.
I fished with many family members, and each time I came back with fish, Pappy would say, “You see there. I learnt you right. Tell them who learned you how to fish.” During one visit for summer vacation, Bud and uncle Billy invited me to fish while Pappy was at work. I packed the fisherman’s gourmet meal (beanie weenies and crackers) and headed out. We sat in a boat for hours casting and reeling. I started catching on the right side and Bud started casting in my area. Then he’d say, “You keep crossing my line. You need to cast on the other side.”
I cast on the other side and a few minutes later I started catching again. My bait must have been tastier than Bud’s. A few minutes later, his bobber hit the water near mine. The next time I cast out, Bud said, “You’re casting too close to my line again. Cast on the other side.” And so went our day of fishing.
I took a break and pulled out my can of beans and crackers and started eating lunch. “Those look like a good meal,” Bud said.
“I like them,” I said and continued eating.
“Those things look good,” he said again a few minutes later.
“Yep,” I answered. He made a third compliment just before I finished off the can and crackers. I thought it odd, but I acknowledged that they were indeed good.
Once I stuffed the cracker wrapper into the empty can, Bud said, “I can’t believe you didn’t offer me a single bite.”
“You didn’t ask.”
“You can see I’m hungry and didn’t bring a lunch.” He began giving me a guilt trip again.
I didn’t consider the possibility that he didn’t have a lunch. I figured he wasn’t hungry yet. I cut off his tirade by saying, “If you wanted something, you should have asked for a bite.” Hey, I’m a guy. Also being of the male gender, Bud should have known that hints rarely work. Guys may wonder why someone is making odd comments, but unless we are expecting it, hints are just a vague note left on the table saying that someone left their socks on the floor. We nod and think, I’ve done that myself, as we walk merrily away.
Next time say, “Can I have some of that?” or, “Can you pick up your socks?” Otherwise it’s just another passing comment. Or many passing comments.
I’ll learn you how to stop fishing and be direct. But then that wouldn’t be as fun as letting the big one get away now would it?