The Slap Heard Around The Bay!

   Hello everyone, I apologize for the long gap between this entry and my first. I have been getting everything ready for the fall hunting season. For those who did not see my first post, this blog is about living off the land for the 2019 calendar year. It will include stories of my adventures, along with some much needed how to’s for those who may not know where to go or how to do something. I like to think that stories shared around a campfire after a hunt or a long day on the water are exactly what needs to be expressed in order to keep the memory of adventure alive. That being said, here is one of my favorites from my childhood.

Choctawhatchee Bay, FL 2006

   Like all fishing trips, my stepfather and I had a routine to get everything ready before the simpletons woke up. Drinking coffee while going through the checklist was the only way to get things done. “Rods?” I asked “Yup,” he replied. “Tackle?” “Yup.” “Boat?” Silence. Then he lowered his coffee just enough to hide the smirk from my line of sight followed by deep eye contact, giving off the feeling that he wasn’t mad, just disappointed in my question. This early in the morning, I couldn’t back down. So I responded with, “Well dad, is it there?” Silence. Refusing to let him win, I peaked my head around the corner in-order to commit to my checklist. I heard a faint laugh coming from the inside of the garage. Lo and behold, we are negative one boat. While a sinking feeling rushed over me I heard, “well son, is it there?” Still lost for words I hear him say, “stop screwing around and lets go wake everyone up.” I later found out that he moved the boat, without telling anyone, to the other side of the house after filling it up with gas the night prior.

   Wake up call was always my favorite part. If everyone was not up before the time we finished the checklist, you could expect to hear some early 2000’s Heavy metal. To be exact it was Chop Suey! by System Of A Down every time. He always tiptoed past the bedrooms, made his way to the central stereo system of the house and paused. It was as if he felt guilt for what was about to come, shortly followed by a maniacal smile. With two joyful taps of his finger the stereo was powered on and the song was set.  He worked the volume knob as if conducting a symphony. Carefully keeping the volume at lower levels throughout the Intro and milliseconds before the first verse he would flick his wrist, Max volume! The chain reaction caused by this was remarkable. All of a sudden, everyone was wide awake and begging my dad to turn down the music as he basked in the vibration the sub was producing around him. Thirty minutes later everyone would be loaded up in the truck and we were ready to drive for an hour to our destination.  

   This particular day we had seven people including myself on our 25 foot pontoon boat. This amount of people in one confined area made every task much more difficult, especially when it came to throwing a cast net for bait. Now, when it comes to netting bait you have three types of people. Those who can, those who don’t care to try, and those who desperately want to but look like a person losing a fight with an octopus. Even though it would have been funny watching someone tangle themselves up in a net, we had our hearts set on filling the freezer. “The sooner we get to our honey hole the faster we can accomplish our goal.”  my dad would say. Which is why he made the executive decision to destroy the hopes and dreams of those who wanted to become a master net caster that day. After getting everything we needed, our boat was in the water and we were full steam ahead to our secret spot.

   Now you would think our odds would be higher than normal considering we had seven people fishing right? Well it was, but towards the middle of the trip things really got interesting. All day long we pulled up fish, one right after another. Except for my younger brother, who at the time was 11 years old. He would try every trick of the frustrated fisherman’s handbook from fishing in the same spot the last fish was caught, to always switching rods and rigs with everyone thinking it was just his gear giving him bad luck.

   This went on for over three hours. Finally he gave up and said, “I’m done, I don’t want to fish anymore!” If only he would have realized that patience could have benefited him. Not even two minutes after he sat down “his rod” was hit so hard that it almost fell overboard. Lucky enough my mother was there to catch it in time. While she was struggling to get this monster of a fish up to the boat. My brother started to wail,“That’s my rod! That’s My fish! Give it to me!”  

   “You move your feet, you lose your seat!” My mother cackled. At this point my brother was crying so loud that my eardrums felt like exploding. After we got the fish onboard I helped get the fish unhooked, seconds away from dropping it in the fish well, a screech from the deepest parts of hell came out of his mouth inches away from my face. This is where I lost control of my motor functions. Next thing I knew, I was swinging this 7 pound Gafftopsail Catfish across my body directly at the source of my pain. The split second before it made contact with the left side of his face, time stood still. Our eyes were locked. I could tell he wanted to duck down or even close his mouth before it made contact. Unfortunately for him, I was faster. It collided with his face so fast it was like watching a UFC knockout blow. Down went my brother. Everyone on the boat was silent for five seconds. As he stood back up, the first glob of catfish slime fell off his face. My dad laughed so hard I thought he was about to pee himself. He was laughing so hard he was gasping for air. Everyone besides the two of us was joining in on the laughter at this point. We both just stood there at ground zero staring at one another not knowing what exactly happened. After wiping his face off, he silently walked back over to his seat, sat down and kept to himself for the rest of the trip. Shortly after, we finished up for the day and headed home with a haul of over 30 pounds of catfish. By the end of the night we were all, including my brother, sitting around the dinner table joking about the smackdown as if it was on a SportsCenter highlight.

   Now some of you might think of me as some kind of monster for what I did. Heck, I even look back and think, wow, that was messed up. However, I can honestly say the ride back home was nice and quiet. Not to mention, he was never a poor sport while fishing again, nor did he let this discourage future fishing adventures. In fact, as an adult years later, he often enjoys taking his own family fishing. It’s quite beautiful to think that this small piece of happiness was notched in our hearts that day over something so childish, allowing us to cherish it as another lasting memory of my stepfather’s uncanny ability to bring joy to our family through a simple day on the water.

-In Loving Memory of Robert S Drysdale.

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