lost - 1

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with the Story Migration Project. Recall, the whale made it Olympia, Wa., then east to the Methow Valley near the Canadian border. About a year later, it headed to Port Townsend, Wa., then to Seattle where is last came up for air and was rumored to be heading south. 

Here’s Dan’s tale from Seattle, Fishing With Dad.

Fathers and sons. One has life experience, the other figuring it out. Both subject to experiential learning, but the learning that comes from the grind of the two interacting – that is the most impressionable. Life serves up its own lessons and hands out situations that are not within our control or choice, but how we react to them defines our very nature and character.

Florida, Indian Lake, crystal blue-sky day, gentle breeze along a long wooden dock. About 20 to 30 feet out there are dark patches of deeper water surrounded by cattails and painted blackbirds carrying on. These deeper holes are where the fish lay. Waiting. All the local, non-boat owning, fishermen knew this. On a day like this the dock could have 5-6 people on it casting for a little dinner. Not casting with a fancy rod and flashy reel, but with a cane pole. Cane pole fishing was a favorite of mine. A poor man’s fly rod. The design is so clean and elegant it belongs in the Smithsonian. Made of bamboo, they came in 10’, 15’, 20’, or sometimes 25’ lengths and varnished to a rich brown. All the country stores had them. Tied to the small end of a long, perfect taper, is some fishing line the length of the pole. Using a cane pole was simple, raise the tip and the hook and bobber lifted out of the water and came toward you to re-bait or to retrieve your catch. To cast out you reversed the process and with some practice you could place the bait and bobber right in one of those black holes. The prize fish for me were catfish. They were bigger, tastier, but hard to find.

However, on this day my bait was being picked clean by little sunfish. Too small and not that good eating, sunnies were good at cleaning off a hook. The bobber would land, be still, slowly start turning, bob a couple of times, then I would try and set the hook only to have it return to me empty.

In the background my Dad was watching me. I could tell it was driving him crazy seeing the bobber go, me pulling back the rod and somehow missing the catch. Over and over I kept missing. Each time Dad would become a little more involved, a little louder shouting, “now, now, NOW! Aaw, you’re too late.” After a while a few people started watching me lose my bait repeatedly and my Dad getting more agitated. “No, you have to strike at the very beginning of the bobber moving. Okay? Now wait…okay NOW! You missed it again!” His level of disgust was rising and so were the number of people watching the situation. A scene was growing. Finally, he said, “ gimme that thing!”

In Dad-fashion he took the pole with a smirk of confidence. He was going to show his son and those watching how to do this. He casts out, the bobber is still, then it plunges down and Jack Murdoch, my Dad, pulled the pole up with such gusto that not only did he hook a 4-inch sunfish, but he launched the little guy out of the water with such velocity that it flew straight up and over the power line 12 feet above his head. He must have spun that fish about 7 times around the wire. So there my dad stood, cane pole in hand hopelessly tethered to the power line above him with this little fish wiggling away.

I have never heard so much laughter, Dad included. For the next week I would spontaneously burst into laughter and my Dad would say,” okay, enough, it’s not funny anymore.”

Oh, but it was and is to this day.


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