Posted 9/14/11 (Wed)
Hemingway wrote “The Old Man and the Sea.” A wonderful novel about an old man who hooks this fish. Heck, you’ve all read it. And if you haven’t, I don’t want to ruin the story for you.
I can’t write like Hemingway. And I can’t really fish like the old man. So the title to my little story is “Three Old Men and a Lake.”
Just happened the last couple of days. You see, I was up at Watford City announcing a rodeo over the weekend. Shirley was seeding cover crop on recently harvested ground, and when conditions were right, she would bale some second-cutting alfalfa.
The rodeo was Friday and Saturday. Now, what kind of devious person would leave his wife home and tell her the rodeo was Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. See, one extra day. A day to go fishing for the first time in a couple of years.
So, we get this deal rolling. To protect the innocent, I will just call the other old men Doug and Eric. Eric has a boat. A big boat. A big boat with all kinds of fishing equipment. He also has a cabin. A well-stocked cabin. Because besides being a fisherman, he owns a bar. Bar owners have well-stocked cabins. Trust me. I know.
So Doug and I sneak out of Watford in the middle of the night. We get to Eric’s cabin, sit out on the deck, smoke cigars (Cuban?), sip on a refreshment, and plan our strategy for the early morning. By 3 a.m., we had a plan. We would hit the lake before daylight, limit out, eat a big meal of steak and walleye, and be home for chores.
Wrong. Things didn’t go quite that quick. We hit the water about eleven. One of the largest lakes in the universe. And no other boats on the lake. A good sign? Everyone had limited out and gone in. A bad sign? The fish weren’t biting. Being old and senile, we figured the former.
As we neared the honey hole, the bragging began. We were excellent fishermen. Because of the supreme confidence and foggy memory old men have, a wager was made. Five dollars for the first fish. Five dollars for the most fish. Five dollars for the biggest fish. Five dollars for the smallest fish.
You know, when you read those fishing reports, they often say the fishing is slow. Dang right. Real slow. We fished shallow. We fished deep. We fished fast. We fished slowly. We pulled bottom bouncers. We jigged. We pulled crank bait. We used dynamite. We tried smelt and frogs and worms and minnows and hotdogs and ham and cheese and bits of steak marinated in Jack Daniels. We tried WD-40 on our bait. It was slowwww.
Eric and Doug jumped in for a swim. The lake went up two inches and the Coast Guard had reports of two beached whales! Or maybe great whites! I declined from swimming. Someone had to stay on board to push the distress signal. The boat was so big; it had a black box like airplanes do. You just push this little button and the Coast Guard will come. Eric threatened to shoot me if I touched that button. In fact, by evening, after I caught the first fish. The biggest fish. The most fish. And the littlest fish, he threatened to shoot me anyway!
Finally, the sun went down and we headed in to shore. The sunset was great and the moon was coming up over the buttes on the east side of the lake. A big, golden harvest moon. No dust. No traffic. No wind. Just three old men. Good friends. Good weather. And one, one stinking fish. A forty-dollar fish! That was about three dollars per inch.
Life is good!