I wasn’t born in a boat, but it was one of the few moments in my life I didn’t spend in one. My father defined enthusiasm for hunting and fishing and started dragging me along right away. I have never gotten a straight answer on whether he took me because he wanted to, or if my Mom left him no other option.
Regardless, every Friday, we would pack up and head to Lee’s Launch on Highway 90 for a weekend at the Roseau Club. A 100+ year old “camp” that we loved and shared with friends and the resident critters of Rabbit Island. It was here I caught my first fish, shot my first duck, and had my first boat and motor all before the ripe old age of 7.
At the time, my best friend Roger Lightfoot and I would fish in that 16 foot flat with a 7.5 horsepower motor all day long. The rule was to always stay in sight of the camp. Our eyes must have been much better than theirs as we seemed to always be in trouble for venturing too far away. We worked feverishly to out fish the “old men” just for bragging rights. Once in a while we’d get lucky, catch a few more fish and give our Dads hell. Our taunts would only result in being outfoxed or outwitted later in the day.
One time, we returned with a better catch and abrasive attitude, after our cocky tirade, our Dad’s give us the “honor” of checking the minnow traps we set earlier for bait. This meant my friend and I could pull out the pirogue and paddle down the bayou to the traps in the shallow ponds. The excitement of heading out into the marsh blocked our ability to see that we were leaving the dock at peak outgoing tide in a brisk breeze. We grabbed our paddles and life jackets and pushed off the dock, to quickly realize, regardless of our efforts, the minnow traps, the camp, and our laughing Dads were getting further away as wind and currents took us to Lake Borgne. Only after Roger and I reached exhaustion and a far shore, did our fathers come to the “you ain’t so smart” rescue. Our Dad’s got their revenge, Roger and I learned to always watch the wind and tide and all four of us had a good laugh.
If my father knew the lessons and gifts he was giving me on those trips to the marsh, he is a wiser man than I ever realized. For me, we were just having fun hunting and fishing. How his lessons of responsibility, independence, and confidence sneaked in, I only now understand.
In 1993, I was blessed with an amazing daughter (aren’t they all). She instantly loved fishing. At first she spent her time playing in the live bait well. Later, the bait lost its appeal as the ice chest grew in popularity. She would open a drink, put it down, let it get hot and then repeat the process. By divine Grace her actions never got the better of me, I understood that this was fun for her, this was what she thought fishing should be.
As she grew, catching became more important, she learned to hold the rod with a touch of patience. One day she announced an interest in casting, then how to work a popping cork.
Now she is sixteen and the shopping mall may have an edge over the Hydra Sports, but she can still out fish most men I know.
My fishing experience with my father was different than my daughter’s experience with me. Yet, the two relationships that developed are very similar. I don’t think I ever thanked the “old man” for his time, love, and the tough lessons he seemed to enjoy teaching, but I need to. Our time together taught me so much more than how to shoot a duck or catch a speckled trout.
As I look back at growing up with my “old man” and now grow into being my daughter’s “old man” I see how much sharing time on the water has meant to three generations in my family. In addition to those strong family relationships, my best friends, and many adventures and memories can all be tied to the love of the outdoors and fishing.
There is something about being outdoors with children that allows you to be more of a kid and lets them me more of an adult and that alone will bring you closer together.
Happy father’s day to every other “old man” who loves fishing and drags their kid(s) along. The time you spend and the experiences you share will pay off in bigger ways than you will ever imagine. THANKS DAD!
Get Out & Get On’em – and take the kid with you.