Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Becky Thatcher

It felt like a Becky Thatcher sort of day.

Let me back up a little bit to explain. Last week marked the beginning of the late summer birthday season in my family. My father-in-law turned 79 on Wednesday, my father turned 72 on Friday, my stepmother turned 55 on Sunday, my youngest turns 20 this Saturday, and my Most-Perfect-Uncle will turn 60 a week from Wednesday. And the birthdays continue into September, too!

So last week my father-in-law asked if the family could join him for fishing on the float in Alma on the Mississippi River to celebrate his birthday. "Bronny, you should come, too," he insisted. (Yes, there is a small population of humans who get away with calling me "Bronny;" my college classmates and my husband's family. Period.) Today worked out as the only day most of us could show up. So my husband, his brother Larry, one of our sons, Joren, and I piled in the pick-up truck this morning to go join Grampa on the raft for a day of fishing.

My father-in-law is a bit of a prankster and I take it as a sign of affection and approval that he likes to tease and try to play pranks on me. But now and then I have to zing him back, just to maintain respect. So today I grabbed my antique fishing pole to take to the raft. Last month Dale and I found a 14 foot long bamboo fishing pole in the rafters of one of our sheds. We're relatively certain it hasn't seen the light of day, much less the kiss of cool water, for over 30 years.

Grampa DuWayne just laughed when I brought my over-long, unsophisticated fishing pole on the raft today. It got all kinds of longing looks from the old timers. And the youngsters (anyone younger than me at almost 50) looked at it like it was some strange device, perhaps akin to a telephone that actually dials and doesn't require electricity. Using a combination of DuWayne's tackle and my fly fishing gear, I tied a line to the thin end of the bamboo, loaded it up with a big, old red and white bobber, added a sinker, a modest hook, and a juicy big worm. I tossed the rig into the water and waited . . . .

I had a sunfish on the line in less than three minutes. WooHoo!

So here's the Becky Thatcher part. I got to spend the day on this amazing raft below the Alma Dam on the Mississippi fishing with a bunch of guys, and no one gave me grief when I just swung my Sunfish over to them for removal. I did grab a couple off the line myself, and I dealt with my own worms 95% of the time. I caught 14 Sunnies with the antique equipment and five of them were keepers.

The guys were mostly spin casting. They caught a lot of Sheepshead, which we keep and donate to the Eagle Center in Wabasha. They were catching Sunnies, too, and a northern and a few Small Mouth Bass. It was a good day to be on the water; upper 80's and humid. Cloud cover that rolled in in the early afternoon kept us from truly baking. Joren caught a nap in the recliner on the porch as well as a number of fish.

We had some excitement over the course of the day, too. Grampa DuWayne caught a 42 inch, 6 1/2 pound Gar with a split lower jaw. This is the kind of fish, that as an avid River Rat, who frequently swims in the Mighty Mississip, I would rather not see. Confirmation of prehistoric fish with a long jaw full of sharp teeth does not warm the heart. But is was impressive, nonetheless.

Several turtles were also caught. After I tired of the knots on my old fashioned fishing rig I switched to Arthur's spin casting Shakespeare rod, in honor of his absence due to work. (He put in a 14 hour day today!) I caught my biggest Sunny with his rig, and the biggest snapping turtle of the day! What a hoot.

And when they finally got him loose from the hook and the landing net, I was perched atop a bench to stay clear of the turtle temper tantrum.

Like Becky Thatcher, as much as I like hanging out with the boys, I'm still a girl who likes to wear pretty dresses at heart. (I did wear my Hawaiian Seahorse Sundress for fishing today!)

We concluded our antics with a stop at the Eagle Center in Wabasha to drop off a five gallon bucket of fresh fish and got a free pass to the staff area after hours and a personal audience with Angel, one of the Bald Eagles in residence. VERY COOL.

Did I mention that while on the raft we were buzzed by the biggest immature American Bald Eagle I have ever laid eyes on.

Wow! What a day. Thank you, Skovemen, for taking me fishing today. It truly was a blessing. Sunnies for supper were outstanding.

Oh, and Happy Birthday, Grampa!

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