Tonight, I will tell you what I have always called “My Big Fish Story.” I would like to preface this story by telling you that every word is true. I am not like some fishermen and embellish the tale.
Missouri, for the most part, is still a green state. It is an outdoorsman’s paradise. The huge forests are teeming with deer, turkey and other wildlife. It is a popular vacation spot during hunting season. Missouri also is home to some very large lakes and fishermen and boaters alike enjoy the many recreational facilities available. The Lake of the Ozarks (known to the local population as “The Lake”) located in Central Missouri is so large it actually has more miles of shoreline than the entire State of California.
My story, however, does not take place at The Lake but rather at Table Rock Lake, located in southern Missouri in the Ozark Mountains.
In the early 1960’s my father began to have symptoms of a major heart condition. His doctor advised him that he needed to relax and find something that interested him. He decided that fishing was fun, relaxing and inexpensive. So he bought a fishing pole, a few lures, and a fishing license. The neighbors allowed him to fish in their ponds.
The next summer he had the bright idea that camping would be fun, relaxing and inexpensive. With the Sears Roebuck catalog on one knee and the Montgomery Ward catalog on the other he ordered a tent, sleeping bags, a camp stove and other necessary items for our inexpensive vacation.
The time came to leave on the camping vacation. Everything when packed just right fit in the trunk of the car. We merrily set off to visit my mother’s weird family in West Virginia.
The next summer, my father decided to buy a fishing boat and outboard motor. He thought it would be inexpensive and relaxing to camp at Table Rock Lake. This monster lake has over eight hundred miles of shoreline. The dam is located in Branson, Missouri. We camped at the most primitive campground he could find near Blue Eye, Missouri. Blue Eye is located on the Missouri/Arkansas border about twenty-two miles south of Branson.
My mother and sister, Peggy, are both sleepy heads and go to bed at a “decent” hour and get lots of sleep. I’ve never understood that concept. Bed is a great place to die. Other than that I’ve never had much use for sleep. Daddy was always a night owl too. He was a big man, well over six feet tall and very strong. Most people called him Red because of his red hair and ruddy complexion. He also had a heart that was giving out on him at a young age. I did not know him very long as a well person.
One night we sat alone by the campfire. My mother and sister were asleep. It was peaceful sitting there, battling the mosquitoes, and listening to the water lapping against the shore. Daddy asked me if I wanted to go fishing. We could take the boat into open water. If we left the fire burning we could use it as a marker to ensure we did not stray to far from camp.
We decided to shut the motor off and just drift. He sat in the back of the boat and I was in the front. We had been fishing for about thirty minutes when something grabbed my line.
“I’ve got a bite!” I yelled.
“Reel it in,” he told me.
“Of course, you can!” He yelled at me. I was only about fifteen or sixteen years old and probably weighed about one hundred pounds.
I was holding the fishing pole with both hands and I was struggling to stay in the boat.
“Give me that thing!” his tone was angry. He jerked the pole out of my hands and realized immediately that he would not be able to reel in whatever was on the line.
He braced his feet on the sides of the boat and hung on while we went for a wild ride around the lake. It did not take long for our “fish” to drag us to the dam, approximately twenty miles from our campsite. We traveled at a high rate of speed. There was no moon only billions of stars.
We saw the lights of the dam and knew we were in trouble. If we did not get the outboard motor started and in reverse quickly we were going to crash. Daddy let go of the fishing pole. He was tired, his heart was over strained, and he was gasping for breath. We had to get that motor started. I tried, but my arms were not long enough to pull the start cord. He had to do it. Gasping for breath he pulled the cord. He could not pull it hard enough. Try again. Both of us pulled, together. Nothing. Again! Finally it caught he moved the lever to reverse and turned the motor hard to starboard. We barely missed the dam. The wave we created almost capsized our little boat.
Daddy lay in the bottom of the boat trying to recover while I tried to find the way back to camp. I probably went around in circles because I could not see anything. The first light of dawn he seemed to feel better and took over steering the boat. The sun was high in the sky when we returned to camp.
“Where have you been?” Mother demanded.
“Get Sue to tell you about our big fish. I’m going to bed,” Daddy told her.
We never went back to look for the fishing pole. Instead, we packed up and went home.
I never saw my fish. I was never sure exactly what had taken the bait on my line. I guess it was just “the big one that got away.”
©2008 Sue Fulton
Source by Sue Fulton