Friday, November 26, 2010
Bring Me Some Shorts
Without warning, the rod bent, dipped, and all but broke. Even engaged as he was in the sudden battle, the fisherman sneaked a glance at the sonar fish finder. Tiny blips moved and danced on the vivid blue screen, probably black crappie or yellow perch. Maybe even some small trout. The smaller blips scattered like mice at a cat convention as the behemoth filled the screen with its sinister presence.
Aye, it was a big'un. The fisherman shuddered. It was just like all those monster movies where you only saw the creature out of the corner of your eye...right before all the extras started getting eaten.
This last summer, John John took his family and several friends on an extended fishing trip to Fort Peck, many miles west of Culbertson, MT. Mom and Dad have both been there, separately, by accident, having missed the turn to Sidney. Jack went out there for his weather-spotter class, and there is a fine museum with delightful fossils. Someday I'll get to see them.
At first, 7-year-old Bubba was the only one who caught a fish, with his dinky Batman pole. The menfolks with their hundreds of dollars worth of specialized equipment, caught nothing. I'm sure the fact that he wouldn't let anyone else fish off the deep end of the boat was the only reason for that.
When it was time to set up camp, Bubba whipped out his one-boy tent and snapped everything in place. Jerry, a family friend, didn't fare as well, being unaccustomed to the outdoor life. No matter how he tried, his tent sagged in the middle. At last, in complete frustration, he gave it a parting kick and drove 25 miles to the nearest town, where he bought another tent.
"I tried to tell you that you had to fasten those strings up," was John John's laconic comment. He only laughed a little as poor Jerry finally took wire out twisted, it, and tied the top of his tent to a nearby tree.
"You might want to turn your tent around," John John suggested helpfully. "Face the door away from the wind."
"Naw," Jerry drawled. "It's hot. Besides, I like the breeze."
The next morning, John John manfully held in his laughter as a hollow-eyed Jerry crept out of his twisty-tied tent, complaining, "I hardly slept a wink all night! The wind kept whipping the tent all around, and just about blew me over."
Are you kidding? This is Jack's little brother we're talking about. He howled with glee. And the fun was only getting started.
"I'm going to fire up my propane stove and cook supper for everyone," John John promised one evening.
"You go ahead," Jerry said. "My brother and I are going to beer roast a couple of chickens over the fire. I've got a great recipe!"
"Suit yourself," John John shrugged, silently noting that it was already 7 o'clock at night.
In a little while, John, Dusty, and all three kids were happily eating their succulent dinner. Jerry and his brother were not.
The two men poked a couple holes in the top of their beer cans, and inserted one into each bird. Jerry carefully gathered up two miniscule twigs and began to insert them into the rear of the chickens. "Aaaaaagh, don't use those," John John exclaimed. "You have to get something bigger."
After upgrading from twigs to sticks, Jerry poured most of a bottle of lighter fluid into the fire pit, and excitedly held the chickens just above it while his brother tossed the match. A massive volcano of flame shot upwards, engulfing the chickens in the inferno. Whatever the temperature farther in, there was no question that the skin was done. Very done.
At last the firestorm subsided to glowing coals, and they got down to the business of cooking supper. "I don't know about that," John John said doubtfully, as he listened to the beer popping and hissing inside its poultry prison.
"Oh, it'll be fine," Jerry assured him, trying not to notice that it was getting very late and his body was beginning to consume itself. He shifted to a more comfortable position and continued his lengthy vigil.
Startled, he jerked upright as the beer cans burst inside the chickens, spilling over and dousing the already-guttering coals. "That's it - I'm eating!" Jerry burst out bitterly. He and his brother held their prizes and took a big bite. Black as night on the outside, juicy and raw on the inside. It could almost have walked away on its own.
"Please, John," the two men begged, "do you have anything we could eat?"
Fort Peck has such nice, warm water in the summer, that water sports are wildly popular. John John decided to introduce his friends to the fine art of inner tubing. "Are you sure you want to wear that?" he asked Jerry, who was just tying his drawstring sweat-shorts.
"Yep," Jerry answered confidently, climbing into the boat. When it was Jerry's turn to ride the inner tube, he happily jumped in the water, got into position, and signaled John John to take off. When the boat took off, so did Jerry's pants, to the riotous, shrieking delight of the bevy of college girls on the shore.
With dignity barely preserved by a strategic life jacket, Jerry crept to the shallow water and called to his friend, "Hey, can you bring me some shorts? And bring them right to the shore."
"You might not want to put that there," John John sighed as he warned Jerry yet again.
"My grill? It'll be fine." Jerry smacked his lips. "I can almost taste those hot dogs already." John John just shook his head.
After another fishing foray, the return to camp was marked by a shrill cry of outrage. "They're gone - all gone! WHO ATE MY HOT DOGS???"
John John held his aching sides with one hand, wheezing as he tried to talk and laugh at the same time. Pointing at the ground, he gasped, "Don't you see the footprints? The dogs got your dogs." Overcome by his own wit, it was a moment before he could continue. "That's why you're supposed to put the grill up on the picnic table, not on the ground!"
Jerry was busy having his own adventures, with no unkind soul to record or remember them, when the Great Fish made its appearance.
John John battled fiercely, sometimes playing out the line, and sometimes reeling it in. Once, the fish breached the water, landing with a splash. One look at its alligator head, and he knew he had a Northern Pike on the line.
"What am I going to do?" he thought to himself. "I was hoping to get a walleye, and I don't even have a net." Though short on equipment, he had no lack of ingenuity. As the pike drew in closer and still closer, he picked up a pair of pliers and seized its jaw, heaving its four-foot-long body into the sixteen-foot boat.
The fish went mad. Jaws snapping, it lunged, thrashed, and leaped, wildly beating against the resonant metal. Already taking shelter in the bow, Dusty tried to keep the frantic children calm. As the pike snapped and beat a few feet closer, she caught three-year-old Emily midair as she tried to leap off the boat. Apparently the certainty of one pike in the boat was more terrifying than the possibility of many more under it.
Word quickly spread, and a rather large audience had gathered to watch by the time John John got his trophy to the cleaning station. They were all there to see him clog up the drain with the fish's head, too. "Ya know, Son," one old-timer offered, "these stations weren't really designed for fish that big." Aw, he was probably just jealous he didn't have anything to plug the drain with.
They all ate fish fillets, about as fresh as it gets. John John cut them in quarters, and when they were still too big for his largest frying pan, he quartered them again. It was much more popular than the chicken.
Hopefully we'll be able to go camping there next summer. If normal, grown men could get into so many adventures, I have to wonder what a professional like Devon could do.
Until the next adventure,