Sunday, June 21, 2009

27 years ago today...

my Dad and I planned to go fish a powerplant lake about an hour south of here. Instead of taking his pretty new bass boat (the one now in my garage), I talked him into letting me bring the old 14 foot V-hull and the 1954 Sea King 12 horse outboard he had bought new; the rig I grew up fishing out of with him. He said that although the seats were "too low" and bothered his back and knees that since we needed to be home by 1pm at the latest, that would be OK.

So I picked him up, and on a beautiful Father's Day morning we fished together as we had for so many years, neither of us knowing that by the next year he would be terminally ill and already in the hospital, slowly withering away from pancreatic cancer that would claim him in October.

We fished that powerplant lake a lot as it hadn't been open to the public very long, there wasn't a lot of pressure on it and the largest bass he had caught since Bull Shoals in the 50's had come from it. Indeed, the largest fish in the state seem to come from it each fall...

Just like the weather cycle we're in this year, electrical storms were popping up frequently and fast. We launched and headed about 20 minutes or so north to fish the area where the cooler water from the river flowed in and if we weren't particularly "loading the boat" with fish, we were both enjoying being "away" from the cares of our lives for a bit; me with GM and the constant boom-bust "overtime/layoff" cycle and worrying about having a paycheck; him about his own job, the photography business that consumed his spare time, my mother and her constant antics...

As we fished our way down a bluff bank that turned back toward the main lake, we realized it had "blown up" into whitecaps and also heard the rumblings of thunder, though it still seemed quite a ways off. I asked should we head back; he said no, let's fish a bit more.

So we did, starting down one of the many "rip-rap" walls he loved to fish with a fluorescent "Bomber" crankbait. As we did the boat was getting harder to handle; between the two of us and our tackle, the trolling motor batteries, etc., we were far over the Coast Guard weight placard in the old 1964 Lone Star.

Finally when he realized I wasn't getting in any casts at all, only trying to run the trolling motor (a stern mount) and keep the bow into the wind he said perhaps we should go...

I pumped up the 6 gallon fuel can he had adapted to the old Sea King outboard when I was Dillon's age and pulled the rope; he had done the last tune-up on the outboard before he gave it to me 2 years earlier and she fired on the first pull, just like she almost always did.

As we motored around the point and into the current of the main lake, it was waves running about 3 feet, wind in the mid 20's or so and the first bolts of lightning hit the powerplant side of the lake as the clouds opened and the deluge began. He and I had discussed before that the powerplant seemed to "draw" lightning and as I tried to keep us into the waves heading into the gale; as we were soaked completely through despite the rain gear we had slipped on; as the old Lone Star started to fill with water; we watched strike after strike "walking" down both sides of the lake, knowing we were the tallest thing for 150 yards east or west and as the lake widened we were an even better target.

When the water started to overflow my shoes I reached down and unscrewed the transom plug just as he had told me I might have to someday to drain the boat as it ran down the lake; the water started going down inside and he sat in the front seat completely soaked looking as miserable as I'd ever seen him in my life.

I throttled back a bit, to be able to speak over the noise of the old outboard (from before they started exhausting through the prop) and said:

"Happy Father's Day, Dad!"

He looked at me kind of funny for a second and then started to smile...

I'd give anything to fish that lake with him again, or see that smile!





Happy Father's Day, Dad! I miss you!

May day and the week be kind to each of you; if you are a Dad I hope your Day is wonderful; if you have a Dad, treasure him...you just never know...

alan

12 comments:

robin andrea said...

That's quite a Father's Day story, alan. What a memory.

CrackerLilo said...

I am so glad you two shared that day. *hug*

Riot Kitty said...

That sounds like one scary storm...but what a great story. And what a nice post.

Stephanie said...

Sounds to me like a perfect fathers day.

Hawaiianmark said...

Thanks for the great up lifting story - Great fathers day to you!

breathethenexhale said...

Alan. Just beautiful. You are a lovely human being...

Dru Marland said...

Having boat based adventures with my father I always wanted to do, but somehow we never managed it, and now it's too late... I'm glad you did.

LucyTolliday said...

A great story. :)

Anji said...

What a great story. it's true, you never know when it might be the last time.

Debbie K said...

Bless you Alan
What a wonderful post. You certainly put my own worries into perspective.
Thank you for sharing such treasured moments.
x Debbie

Green tea said...

Aren't those memories wonderful..
I was only 25 when my Dad died from Hodgkin's disease, back when they had no treatment.
I regret that he never got to go fishing with my G son David who lives on the lake much like he did.

ryssee said...

What a great story! I used to fish with my dad when I was a wee fish myself. :-)
Hope you had a wonderful Father's Day yourself.