“No one remembers their best day watching TV” was the caption I read beneath one of the thousands of Facebook memes that drift daily through the ether of the internet world. Some of these memes validate my faith in the good people meandering this planet with me and others diminish that faith. Some provoke a grin and others moisten an eye. This one did both.
With a photo of a young boy sitting on a dock with his dad fishing, the simple yet potent words reminded me of a couple of my best days. Both involved fishing and fellas I love.
Last summer, my 14 year old son, Aden, and I took our annual boy’s road trip around the dusty farmland towns of eastern Washington. We have been doing this for a while and try to visit new places. For reasons unknown and borderline inexcusable, we have not spent much time at the Potholes. I grew up fishing the various shorelines, drainages and seep lakes of which this mecca of freshwater fun consists. In high style, I made up for this oversight. We stopped and absolutely clobbered some fish. We nailed perch and bass and some lunker catfish, a few sunfish and an odd crappie or two. Each cast was met with action. It was awesome!!
With the hot August sun on our shoulders and our feet cooling in the water while standing on the concrete slabs of an abandoned boat ramp, my boy and I cast our lines and filled our stringer. Watching my son refine his technique and hook-set timing was beautiful for me as a father. Understanding his excited anticipation on each strike and knowing the hopeful bend of the pole, it was with great pride and joy that I saw him appreciating this day as I did. It was a rare day of stinky, bloody and scaly perfection.
While standing on the alkaline stained rocks with my fishing pole in hand, I felt my history coming around to greet me. Many years ago, I stood on these same shores with my grandpa. We took a couple of trips each year to sleep in a travel trailer, as compadres, and fish all damn day.
One day lives as exceptional. We could not keep the fish off our hooks. Cast after cast, we reeled those spiny ray little devils in. By the end of the day, we had nearly ten gallons of fish. As exciting as the catching of the fish is, the cleaning is another story and as I watched my grandpa saunter into the trailer to read some Zane Grey and take a nap, I knew that I was on my own.
As the soft spring sun wandered below the horizon, I sat on a sharp rock filleting our fish. In the dim twilight, I ached and smiled and bled. It was a day unmatched. I didn’t even care that my grandpa stuck me with the crappy job. I was used to that part of our arrangement.
When I finished in last gasp of dusk, I entered the trailer to my favorite smell in the world: yellow perch fried in butter with cornmeal, flour and some salt and pepper. I mowed into my plate with my tired, bloody, cramping hands and laughed at how perfect the day was. I will enjoy the thought of this day forever.
Many parallels can be drawn between my day with my son and my day with my grandpa: Both will live with me until I die. They both remind me that sometimes in an imperfect life, days come around to confound this truth. Spending time on the water, catching fish with people you love is about the best thing there is. Another parallel is that both times I wound up cleaning all the fish. Next year, I’m callin’ BS. Next year, that little cockroach kid of mine is gonna stand for two hours carving those babies…I’m taking a nap…then, I will remember that day as another one of the best ones…
[EDITOR'S NOTE:"Feel Good Friday" is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who just published his first book called "A Feel Good Life" (buy it on Amazon here). Dave also extols to all neighbors: "Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!" Also, you can "friend" Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]