I’ve been invited to go fishing. Those who know me are laughing right now because I’m not the kind of woman you’d expect to go fishing.
While not exactly a sissy, I’m also no tomboy. However, I have been fishing.
I was about 10 years old. For months, I begged my family to take me fishing. Eventually, we went, but nobody let me hold a pole or bait a hook. We caught nothing.
I continued begging to go fishing, but my family members weren’t interested. Dad was a fisherman who, once a year, went to Lake Cumberland with a policeman buddy who had a houseboat. They spent a long weekend fishing, brought the catch back to Grandma, who would clean and cook the fish. It was an exciting time because we all loved Grandma’s fried fish and I usually got a toy or two from Dad.
Good food, toys — no wonder I was interested in fishing. Eventually, I got an old tackle box and started stocking it. I’m not saying I knew what I was doing, but I made the effort.
That summer, while my mom and I visited family in Virginia, I mentioned that I would like to fish and my cousin Gene Ray piped up. “I’ll take you fishing,” he offered, and off we went.
I told him I wanted to do it all myself, even if I might need a little help and he agreed.
We went to a lake about five miles from Aunt Mae’s house. We had dug our own worms and I baited my own hook. Yes, I did. I impaled that slimy creature on a hook with my own little girl fingers. Yes, it was a little gross, but digging them up had been a little bit gross, too. Nevermind, I wanted the full experience.
We cast our lines into the lake and waited. It might sound boring, but I had a good time talking to my cousin. It was the first time I started getting to know him and we have parted ways since then, but it was the beginning of at least one fun summer, a summer during which I had a friend to play with in Virginia.
Eventually, I got a bite. Gene Ray coached me on reeling it in. I had caught a blue gill, the beginner’s catch. He took it off the hook for me and corralled it for taking home. At the end of the day, I caught two blue gill.
I hadn’t thought about what would happen if I caught one, but once I did, I decided I should clean it myself. My cousin told me how to do it and watched as I cut off the head and tail, scaled it, slit it up the belly and emptied the inards. Yes, this too was gross, but I had come this far and I was going to finish it.
I would have loved to cook it, too, but at the time, I had no idea how to fry fish, so Aunt Mae took my blue gills and rolled them in flour, corn meal, salt and pepper and fried them for my dinner.
At the time, I had a little bit of guilt about having eaten something that was roaming free in the lake just hours earlier, but now I know how important it was for me to have a plan and follow through with it and to experience having seen where food comes from.
The fish wasn’t bad, either.
LEE WARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2661.