Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The One that got Away

The day had been just about as close to perfect as a day can get. The temperature, the humidity, the sun, the wind and the setting came together to create an ambience that she searches for, hunts almost endlessly for, the entire rest of the year. In Southern Indiana, a day that is not too cold, not too hot, not too humid, not too cloudy and not too sunny, only happens about three days out of a three-hundred-sixty-five-day year.

All day she had fished. Cast, reel, cast, reel, cast, reel. The monotony of fishing is the beauty of fishing. Her mind wanders, she becomes drowsy with the sound of whir, plunk, whir...whir, plunk, the line is cast out, the bait hits the calm water and she slowly reels the fishing line back onto the reel, removes the moss from the hook and bait and starts all over.

At the end of this particular Saturday, her body sun-logged, her skin slightly burnt, she overheard Don and his brother, Bob, discussing possible ways to retrieve a barrel that had broken loose from an old pontoon boat that had been constructed over many years, by everyone in the family, which was floating aimlessly about in the water.

She and Bob stood up on the dam and observed Don as he beat at it with a large stick, which, on that day, seemed like a totally sane thing to do, when she said, "I bet I could cast out, hook the lip of that barrel with the hook and at least tease it in close enough to the bank that you and Don could figure out a way to drag it in."

It was silent for a few minutes. Don continued to beat the water with a large branch off a fallen tree and Bob said, "Betcha can't."

Another couple of minutes passed, and she asked, "Are you challenging me, Bob?"

Bob said, "Yes."

So off she hiked toward Don, her rod and reel balanced on her shoulder. Bob had taken a seat on the grass at the top of the dam and was shaking his head. She cast out, missed the barrel on the reel-in, cast out, got a little closer. With the saying, "The third time is the charm," chanting through her head, she hooked the lip of the barrel and carefully and slowly began reeling that three-quarters-full-of-water huge plastic barrel toward the bank.

Don now had a good use for the stick as he could reach the barrel and bang on it, and she distinctly heard, on the breeze, Bob saying, "I'll be damned."

He joined them at the site of the wayward barrel, and while Don banged on it with a big stick, Bob used a board to effect a wave-like motion toward the bank, and she reeled.

"I have a rope here," Bob said.

"Okay," replied Don.

"What are you going to do with a rope?" she asked.

"Well, if we could figure out a way to get it thrown around the barrel and tie it, we could pull it in."

She said, "How you going to tie it around the barrel, Bob?"

The frogs sang, the sun continued to set, the fish started feeding on the far end of the lake, in the shallow water, woodpeckers pecked. The wind blew. The two men began batting at the barrel and the water with the stick and the board and promptly pushed it out where it caught the little bit of current that can be caught in a lake that size, and floated out into the center.

"Well," she said, "that's that."

She calmly tied up her rod and reel and began the hike up the dam. When she looked back, they were still standing there, looking at that barrel, wondering where they had gone wrong.

She laughed, and her laughter drifted off with the evening breeze, into the woods, and all just seemed right with the world.

The one that got away that day was white and weighed about two hundred pounds.

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