Fitting Thanks

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Published on: Feb. 2, 2010

Returning the Favor

passage of time has come change—now it is my turn to tailor fishing trips.

Peel away 20 years and Dad and Ray and I would be fishing all day on some Ozark stream. That’s no longer practical. Walking over rocky gravel bars and shoals risks a fall, and eight hours of fishing is just too much. Pond fishing now suits, and trips of a couple hours are about right.

With chowder assembled and simmering on the stove, I gather my fishing gear. It’s mid-October, a prime time to fish, but since September I’ve spent most of my free time in the dove fields working my three English pointers as retrievers.

As I begin checking my tackle, my pointers begin a chorus of barking, as they always do when a vehicle comes down the driveway. Dad and Ray have arrived. After hellos, we chat and joke as we gather gear and load into my pickup. I think we can all fit in my truck with Dad sitting in the back of the extended cab. Getting in is easy, but getting out proves tricky. It takes some gentle bending and pulling to extract Dad.

At this pond, access to the water’s edge is usually easy. The landowner keeps it mowed. But we’ve had little rain the past two months, and the pond is low. A little more than 2 acres when full, the pond is barely more than an acre now, ringed with a swath of grass 2 feet high with a 10-foot stretch of bare dirt where once was water. The grass lies bent and slick with dew, and the bare ground is at a slight angle. I watch carefully as Dad and Ray make their way to the pond’s edge. Both go slowly and pick every step with care.

At the pond’s edge, the focus turns to fishing. October has been unusually warm this year, but a cold snap the past three days should have cooled the water somewhat. I hope the change in weather has the fish biting. Throwing spinners, we all work the edges for 15 minutes with no luck. Ray is the first to start testing deeper water. He gets a strike and reels in a 10-inch bass.

“That a way, Ray!” I yell. “You’re the meat man!”

In his big baritone voice, Ray answers back in a joking sing-song: “Ah, the meat man, the meat man!” He quickly unhooks the bass, drops the

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