When I think back to my most fond memories, I would have to say they involve a rod and reel and a young man twenty-eight years my junior, my son Eric.
We would make a yearly (and occasionally bi-annually) sojourn to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, namely the island of Cape Hatteras. Not only would these trips include serious hours of not catching fish, but soon became gourmet outings also.
We would rent a motel for a long weekend. The one we normally chose had a front porch that would enable us to grill. We would stop by the store and purchase enough food for a specific dinner each night. Lunch would be simple, usually hummus, tapenade and chips and we would seek out a local restaurant for breakfast.
Here’s how a typical day would begin: We would sleep until we decided to get up. No alarm clocks allowed. Then it was off to the restaurant for multiple cups of coffee and wonderfully greasy eggs, assorted breakfast meats, hash browns and possibly a pancake or two. Then back to the motel for some serious reconnaissance.
We would walk to the shore and check out the conditions, then return to the motel to suit up and gather together our gear. Once we were armed with chest-waders, sand spikes, fish-finder rigs and numerous other tools of the trade, we staked our claim on the beach.
After our base camp was established (sand chairs, sand spikes and a cooler), we would retrieve our chunks of bunker we used for bait. We then employed pre-tied, homemade fish-finder rigs, affixed them to the line, attached a sinker and threaded the bait to a circle hook.
Once we surveyed the surf and determined where the troughs were in between sandbars, normally a 100-yard cast or so would be sufficient. Now it was time to wait. We would pass the time by watching the calming waves, talking about anything that entered our minds or even reading a book.
Occasionally, the rod would bend double and we knew the chase was on. Depending on the species, it was usually no more than a 20 to 30 minute fight. Sometimes, a youngster would take a nibble and a 45 second fight would ensue.
At the end of the day, we would take our catch, clean it, bag it in water to prevent freezer burn and then toss it into the freezer.
That night, we would prepare a gourmet dinner, find something good to watch on TV, and eventually go to sleep and ready ourselves for the next day’s hunt.
A weekend was never enough. It had to be a long weekend (Friday to Monday) and occasionally we’d slip in an additional day if possible.
Catching fish is probably my favorite past-time. But that’s not what these trips were about. They were about a father and a son spending true quality time together. A child is a gift from God that is to be treasured, nurtured, corrected when necessary, but most of all loved.
My son is my pride and joy and a wonderful blessing in my life. And oh yeah, it was on one of these trips that he suggested I try my hand at creative writing.
So just remember: Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll sit out in a boat and drink beer.