Friday, July 1, 2011

The Fisherman

Fr. Dale Matson

“And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.” (John 21:6, NASB).

Some of my earliest memories of my father are the kind shared by my brother Don, a fellow conscript. They are war stories nearly of the magnitude of “Two Years Before The Mast” with my father in the role of Captain Thompson. I can still see his unshaven face, his nearly bald head, topped by his requisite fishing cap (he had a special cap for each occasion) and his white fake Meerschaum Kaywoodie pipe projecting from the corner of his mouth. You could hear a periodic crackle of hot spit as he puffed away on the Bond Street Tobacco.

My galley slave name on these expeditions was “Right Oar”. My Brother was eight years older with the compliment of my name, “Left Oar”.  My dad called out for two right oar strokes for every one left oar stroke to keep from going in circles.  This was called “trolling”. I would eventually tire and say to my dad, “Can’t we ‘still’ fish?” He would reply, “We’re still fishing”. When we eventually did still fish, it seemed like the 14 foot aluminum boat became a solar cooker with us in it. “Dad the fish aren’t biting, can’t we move on?”  He would always retort, “That means the “Big Ones” are moving in, we’re going to land a lunker Bass any minute. Of course my dad would get “Buck Fever” (I know this is usually reserved for deer hunting but he always used the phrase when anyone got nervous) when a lunker got on and usually found a way of losing the six pound fish by breaking twelve pound test line.

For lunch, we had sandwiches made by my father with a handful of “padada chips” and a semi cold “Pop” (that’s what we called soft drinks in Michigan). Eventually we would convince my dad to allow us to row to shore and he would finish the day by himself. Everyone else had at least a 3 HP Evinrude outboard motor but dad said you couldn’t sneak up on the lunkers with an outboard motor. Lots of Bass in Tipsico Lake knew enough to take cover when they heard the loud unlubricated oar locks squeaking with each oar stroke or the banging of his Kawoodie pipe on the side of the boat to knock out old tobacco. I still have the pen knife he used to scrape the inside of his pipe.

He would return after dark with his lantern flashing to warn other boats and then clean his “mess” of fish under the same lantern light, brushing away mosquitoes from his face. The “victory” garden was the repository for the waste. He once gave my mother a fly rod for her birthday which was unnecessary since she didn’t fish and refused to be shanghaied with my brother and me. We had a plaque on the wall with a skeleton holding a fishing pole over the side of a boat with the caption, “stubborn cuss”. That was my dad.

And where did we go on vacation? Well, of course we went fishing at a cabin. I can hear my mother now, “Milton this is not a vacation for me, just a more primitive place to cook and clean.” To this day because of my father, I have more stories than you can shake a stick at. Life was much simpler and funnier back then. I wish I could tell him how God has blessed me the past few years it would be so much better if he were here. I miss him so. Amen

And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Matt. 4:19, NASB).

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