“Hey Tom, Whatcha up to today?” I said as he knocked once and burst into the house. Tom knew my son David was here for the weekend and he came from next door to join in any action we might be cooking up or to stir the pot and get something going. Tom is eleven with a twinkle in his eye, an engaging smile, and enough energy to power a diesel engine across the country. David is 12, has soft red hair, deep blue eyes, a little taller than Tom and always ready for an adventure. More often than not, they find something interesting to do together. They’ve put a leash on a guinea pig and tried to take him for a walk. They get badminton birdies stuck in tall pine trees, and then get the racquets stuck trying to get the birdie out. Nerf guns are never far away.
Today Tom had something on his mind. I was writing at my desk and talking with David about the morning’s plans. The ones we didn’t have. “Nothing much Bob” what are you and David doing today?” as he glanced over at David. David was sitting on the couch closer to the nerf gun so Tom accepted there was no immediate opportunity to start a small war just yet. Elizabeth, my thin and proper, eight year old daughter, not really interested in boy stuff, wandered in from reading her favorite cartoons, Charlie Brown and Snoopy. She knew with the boys around, ice cream and snacks couldn’t be far behind and she was not going to miss any opportunity that involved ice cream. Tom, as he waited for just the right moment to spring his plan, leaned on my right shoulder and pretended to be interested in what I was writing.
Tom is a polite boy and I ask kids to call me by my first name. I can’t give myself the “Mr.” promotion just yet. “Well”, I said still typing out a quick note about a story I would write later, “We don’t have any plans right now what do you want to do today?” Tom’s mother works most Saturdays, his father lives a hundred miles away and this weekend his older brother was spending the weekend with friends. “Let’s go fishing!” Tom said it like it was the obvious choice and with a little bit of a surprise that I hadn’t realized that this was the perfect day to be near the water. “Wanna go fishing, David?” He was consolidating the majority. “Sure” responded David, “Where are we going?” “Weracoba” he said. “I’ll get my rod and be right back.”
I’ve never fished the Weracoba, but I had seen parts of it and felt I’d be a better observer that participant. Besides all my fishing gear was pack up far away. David was just as happy to share fishing rod duties with Tom as there was no time to waste. If the fish were biting, Tom and David wanted to be there now. Ashley would be happy searching for small, especially beautiful pebbles to bring back. So off we went. Our bait of choice, carefully selected based only sunlight, water clarity and time of years was…hot dog wieners. We didn’t use the really pink ones, but they were beef…mostly.
It was obvious Tom knew his way around the Weracoba. David, Elizabeth, and I followed as Tom studied where we should start our expedition. He decided the best start would be off a steep bank close to a bridge. “Be careful, I said, “and don’t get to close; you’ll scare the fish.” Grownups always say that. We are about to drop a piece of hotdog on a hook and snatch a fish out of the water. That’s the scary part to the fish…or will be. Now a “grown up”, I think just don’t want the noise and ruckus that will result in someone falling in the water.
The water was moving steadily. It wasn’t rushing over the rocks as I had seen it sometimes, but it was perfectly capable of moving small, inanimate bait in an animated way. Fish like hotdogs. Bream like hotdogs and catfish like hotdogs, but 10am didn’t seem like the right time of day to offer these fish this all American food. Tom moved us to another spot. Elizabeth showed me several choice specimens. She was finding what she wanted.
At the next location, I decided to wander a short distance away to take some pictures. The bank wasn’t as steep and the boys were being careful. Sure enough, as soon as I got started with my pictures, David came running up. “We got one Dad!” We caught a fish! It’s a catfish too! We want you to take a picture!” Ok son, I wanted get some pictures of Elizabeth on the swings, but they could wait.
You see, the infamous Weracoba fishing spot is an 8 foot wide, 2 foot deep clear water stream running through a park. These boys had just landed a six-inch catfish and people were gathering around! “I didn’t know there were any fish in there” said one surprised onlooker. “What are you using for bait?” said another just as amazed that fish big enough to bite a hook, in a stream that small, was hanging from the end of one. The boys beamed. As I removed the hook from the fish’s upper lip by placing my thumb in its mouth for stability, it bit me. It clamped down on my thumb with all the strength its tired, six-inch body could muster. The boys had caught a real fighter. I was proud of them.
Tom had found the honey hole. He and David would catch them, bream and catfish, for the next half hour. I took them off the hook and threw them back. As they laughed and bragged about this one being bigger than the last one, they must have caught a dozen. Ashley wandered up and glanced at the boys. “Dad, I’m hungry” she said sweetly with the tact and wisdom I love in my young, beautiful daughter. We were all hungry. She was the only one without the “fishing fever” we boys had contracted so she could think clearly. Agreeing with her that we should not die from starvation in the middle of a city park, we all went happily home together.
As soon as we got home, I started making lunch, the boys started the small nerf war they had been secretly and independently planning since we left the park, and Elizabeth was watching my back so I didn’t get shot “accidently”. “Dad”, she said, “I’ve learned one thing about boys today.” Continuing my sandwich making duties, I said, “Yes, Elizabeth. What’s that?” With same certainty she would use to affirm the sun is yellow, she concluded, “Dad, boys are crazy.” I smiled knowing in five or six years her opinion could change, “Yes they are, sweetie, yes they are.” And then I added, “We’re having ice cream for dessert.”