Slipping and Sliding with Dad
(This blog also appears as a guest post at www.maydecembersecrets.com)
The American Eel is believed to come from an area of the Atlantic Ocean called the Sargasso Sea. They are born there and then spend most of their life in fresh water. They are energetic little fish which swim from the Atlantic ocean up many of the rivers and streams in America to mature in some interesting places. This post is about those which found their way into the muddy banks of creeks in West Virginia. That’s a pretty long swim.
One of the activities I loved to do with dad was to fish. We usually fished in Twelve Pole Creek, an almost river-sized creek near home. Most of the time we fished with either minnows or worms. There were times, though, when dad wanted to fish with eels. They lasted much longer than other baits on a hook and big bass seemed to particularly love them. Obtaining them meant a lot of work for us, though.
We could stop at any bait shop for minnows or worms, but eels required that we wade in creeks around home with bait buckets and long handled shovels. Somehow dad knew just the right creek in which to “dig eels.” He would point and say “dig there” and I would shove the spade into the mud at the edge of the water and throw it out onto the bank. With luck, and speed, we would quickly be able to dig a half dozen or so eels. As I remember, though, they didn’t come easily. There were many shovels full of mud with no eels or eels that were so fast they got back into the water before I could grab them. Sometimes he yelled at me when an eel made it back to the water, but it would only be a few minutes before we were laughing again as I scrambled around trying to catch those slimy, slick little creatures. As was usually the case, he was very patient with me.
We would take the eels we caught and happily fish with them for many hours. Some of my fondest memories of dad are around the time I spent fishing with him. He was a good fisherman and a good teacher. He taught me everything I know about fishing.
Dad loved to wade as he fished. I guess he felt it got him closer to the fish. The family had a bit of a problem with that, however. You see, he never learned to swim. I saw him slip under water a couple of times. He always came back up sputtering, with his fishing rod in his hand, and somehow scrambled out of the hole he had stepped into.
Earnestine was also fortunate to have the benefit of some of his fishing knowledge. Living in the big city she never got an opportunity to fish as a child. We’re both glad she learned a little about fishing from an expert like dad. The memory of her catching her first (cat)fish in my sister’s farm pond will always be with us. Again, we were all laughing as she dragged the fish out of the water and yelled for help with it.
It was hard for my parents to accept my divorce and remarriage, particularly to a woman who was much younger than I. We have always emphasized bonding between Earnestine and my children. Because of the distance and reticence of my parents we could not similarly emphasize that closeness with them. Although she ultimately bonded with most of my family, I believe her interest in fishing was one of the things that strengthened her friendship with dad.