Daddy Taught His Daughters How to Fish
by Gail Easterling
When I was growing up, my father took me fishing on the Bay. Dad liked to work a lot, and he liked to play a lot. No matter how busy he was, he made time to take me and my sisters out on the boat. He named the boat Sweet Thing after his nickname for me when I was little. The sentiment touches me to this day, as do the memories of our boating experiences. On these trips I learned how to be patient, enjoy simple pleasures and keep my sense of humor.
On the way to the marina, we rode in the Jeep with the doors and top off. My mother hated my sisters and me riding in that car, but I loved it. There was something so freeing about watching the blue, cloudless sky whiz above our heads.
We arrived at the dock and watched Dad as he got the boat ready. He made sure we had enough gas, tackle and bait to last the long day.
It was exciting when Dad finally started the boats motor. The smell of fuel, saltwater and fresh fish filled the air. He jumped back onto the wooden dock to set us free from the marina. I nervously waited while Dad untied us from the dock, not sure how he could leap back onto the moving boat in order to drive. He hopped in with ease, and we pulled out toward open water.
On the way to our favorite fishing spot, we begged Dad to drive over the wake of every boat that passed us. He was a good sport and made several detours to accommodate our requests. He let us take turns driving the boat, showing us how to shift gears and go fast. He taught us how to line up the bow of the boat to a landmark to make sure we were going straight.
Dad knew where every sandbar was, but we still ran the motor aground. He maintained his sense of humor, jumped into the murky water and calmly pushed us back to sea.
I remember webs of tangled fishing line. Dad insisted I bait my own hook with a slimy worm and cast my own line. We sat in the blazing sun for hours without a nibble. But Dad put Jimmy Buffett on the radio and never got frustrated. He believed it was worth the wait, and he was right. The line began to bend, and I joyfully reeled in the tiny trophy of a fish that made the day a success.
We were ready to return to the dock only to find that the boat would not start. At the same time, ominous thunderstorm clouds loomed in the distance. Instead of getting worried, Dad passed the time by teaching us about the plentiful wildlife that lives in and around the Bay. He had a way of explaining things that made an ordinary bird seem special. Before long, a kind passerby towed us safely back to land before the rain began.
Even returning to the dock was exciting. Dad scrubbed the boat with soapy water, and we watched the other boats return from their fishing trips. We gawked at the size of some of the fish that were brought in and watched as they were cleaned and thrown into huge coolers of ice. When our boat was clean, we ended the day with a Shirley Temple, complete with a maraschino cherry, from the marinas dock bar. Fishing with Dad was exhausting and exhilarating.
I owe Dad a lot for teaching me how to enjoy the water. Now, 20 years later, the smell of salty air, raw fish and coconut suntan lotion instantly jolts me back to the simple, calm days on the Bay with Dad. The cool Bay breeze, the graceful flight of the blue heron and the unmistakable sound of a boat motor make me feel as if everything in the world is carefree.
Now Dad has begun teaching my boys about the innocence and importance of enjoying and respecting the Bay. They love every minute.
Gail Easterling reflects from Stevensville. Her last reflection was Carsons Special Stick on June 2.