13 stabs with a fish hook
2 smelly, wet dogs
1 blast of fish pee
Just another day in paradise . . .
When Chap asked me if I’d ever been fishing, I said, “My grandpa used to take me all the time.”
Of course, my idea of fishing and his are completely different.
My idea of fishing is laying on a beach towel drinking a big glass of sugar-shocked iced tea and reading a good book, which is, coincidentally, very similar to my idea of working out.
His idea of fishing is poking a small fish with a hook, dunking him in the water—a mean trick because because the little guy is back in the water where he belongs, and just when the little guy thinks he can make an escape, a bigger fish comes along, and they’re both goners.
But it’s hard to reconcile eating meat if you can’t bear to know how it comes to the table, and that’s the hardest thing about living this close to the land.
Living with a cowboy is a tradeoff. On one hand, it’s comforting to know that if the whole world went to hell in a handbasket, your guy knows how to start a fire with twigs, fix an engine with baling wire, and can, if necessary, make a meal out of almost anything, including twigs and baling wire.
This morning, when I boarded our little bass boat with a tall glass of iced tea and a good book, he looked at me like he always does, like we are from two different planets that barely share the same orbit.
I had agreed to go fishing with him in the morning if he agreed to go swimming with me in the afternoon.
The dogs boarded the boat with their usual exuberance, but even I was a little taken aback by the rotten fish smell and wet shaggy coats and the worst fish breath outside of a tuna factory.
They had obviously started fishing without us.
Chap set his jaw, but didn’t comment as the dogs took their seats in the back of the boat and readied themselves for more fish.
Dogs on the boat is my idea—and Chap obliges without comment.
I white-knuckled the seat handles as he jammed the little boat into warp drive—the dogs happily hanging off the sides, tongues lolling, fur flying. I’m pretty sure it was supposed to be fun.
He cut the motor and we coasted stealthily to the “secret spot,” the one where he had previously sunk our fresh-from-the-season Christmas tree, because apparently, fish celebrate the holiday off-season.
He baited two hooks, and looked at me expectantly.
Sighing, I set the book aside, and decided to heed my mother’s advice to share my guy’s interests—better this than hunting—and tentatively took hold of the pre-baited fishing pole he handed me.
I dropped the hook into the water, and gazed longingly at my abandoned book.
To my horror and Chap’s astonishment, my rod bent—hard.
Something on the other end of the line took off, nearly taking me and the rod with it while Chap yelled, “Reel it in, reel it in!”
With a biblical amount of growling and bitching, I planted my feet, braced my knees, just as he’d shown me, and as I wrestled the beast toward the boat, it broke the surface.
I screamed. The dogs screamed. And I swear I heard the fish scream.
I suppose it was a fish—it had the head of an alligator and the body of a four-foot shark.
I dropped the rod.
Chap lunged forward and grabbed the rod just before it went over the side.
He turned and looked at me, waiting for me and the dogs to calm down, while the huge fish thrashed and flailed in the water.
Chap said, “It’s an alligator gar. They look mean, but they won’t hurt you unless you make them mad.”
I blinked. “He has a hook in his mouth—he’s already mad.”
Chap shook his head. “We’re going to let him go, but I have to get him in the boat to get the hook out—you going to be all right?”
I took a deep breath of relief. We weren’t going to haul this beast home.
I nodded and backed out of the way while he reached down and gripped the beast’s long, toothy, alligator snout and hauled it into the boat on it’s back, where it promptly shot a stream of urine right in my face.
Okay—it wasn’t exactly in my face, but it was close enough.
Shrieking, I yelped, “It peed on me! I didn’t know fish could pee and I sure as hell didn’t know there are alligators in the lake!””
Again, Chap looked at me like I was speaking tongues.
“It’s not an alligator, it’s an alligator gar.” He snipped the hook from the beast’s long, sharp jaws and released it into the lake.
I must have looked horrified as I watched the big thing slink off into the water, moving its body like a snake.
“You okay?” he said, helping me clean up.
“I just want to go home,” I said.
He nodded. “Then we’ll go swimming.”
I stared at him, then down at the water where he’d just released jaws.
“In a lake filled with fish pee and alligators? Not on your life bucko.”