It’s not too dangerous, really, unless a tugboat comes churning down the intracoastal canal pushing a big wave out front of heavily loaded barges and you’re dead-in-the-water in your boat in the narrow Padre Island land-cut passage. ‘Shouldn’t ever let that happen’ you say. “You got that right, Cap’n. If I’d dreamed it could’ve, it wouldn’t of.”
Three of us went fishing that gorgeous fall evening. The wind was a cool whispery tickle in the ear, the tide was right, the solunar table shouted “Fish NOW!” and the piggy perch so frisky they were kicking dents in the side of the bait box.
From the get-go this trip was different from the times Pastor Joe and I had fished together. Little Tyke, my first-born young-un, had never shown interest in matters piscatorial. He spent his days pushing race cars around imaginary tracks in his bedroom, mouthing racing sounds.
But hang it, he ain’t the milk man’s son. Fishing is in his blood, even if he doesn’t know it yet. I wanted to start passing on the things I learned and love. After he blew out the birthday candle on Car 5 last week, I started analyzing the tide charts.
Tyke, at first, enjoyed snagging the hefty yellow-mouth speckled trout that savagely attacked a piggy on almost every cast. Whenever a boat passed by, slowing down to avoid rocking us with its wake (except for a few discourteous clowns), the bite would turn off momentarily, but we’d soon start catching again. Tyke wasn’t near limited out when he parked his rod and opted for a red soda-pop from the cooler.
Next thing I know he’s hanging on the steering wheel making racing sounds. “Vroom…Vroom,” and rocking the wheel back and forth.
“Get’cha a sandwich, Bud” I said, “and remember to ask the blessing.” I pointed westward. “See that sun disappearing behind the sea oats. That’s a million dollar picture. Pastor Joe and I are gonna fire-up the generator and get some lights overboard. Trout will be boiling the water when it gets dark. We’re gonna have fun, I gar-un-tee.”
And, we did. The night had gotten inky black, our underwater lights glowed green, and big fish shadows were darting through the light after bait fish that had come to party hardy. I was fixing to ‘splain to Tyke about it being a chain of life thing, you know, the little ‘un’s getting ‘et by the bigger ones, but I thought better of it. Well, duh. Tyke’s a little ‘un and he might figger….
“Rollie, we need to pick up” Joe said. “Something’s coming.”
Sure enough, two miles away, maybe less, a powerful search light was switching back and forth -- right-left, right-left -- shattering the darkness. Something big was bearing down on us.
Well, easy-peasy. We’d raise the lights, start the motor, hoist the anchor, and meet the interruption with enough steerage to handle the wave. This wasn’t our first rodeo. We’d be back fishing before its stern lights disappeared.
“Better crank it, Rollie” Joe said. “That sucker’s coming fast.”
“Move over, Tyke.” I reached toward the console to turn the key and start the motor.
“Lem’me drive, Dad.”
“Not now, Bud.” I was searching desperately. “Tyke! Where’s the key?”
Tyke shrugged, watching the reflectors sparkle when the searching cone of light hit the channel buoys.
Grabbing a flashlight I splashed a beam rapidly across the floor. “Not funny, Tyke. Where is it?”
The powerful spotlight grew brighter -- right-left, right-left -- flashing rhythmically across us. The ship’s foghorn blared, urging us out of its path.
Joe cut the anchor rope and slammed the small trolling motor down. We maneuvered almost to the edge of the channel, but it was too little too late. The Suzy Q sank that night with all hands on board, swamped by a powerful wall of water pushed ahead of three barges loaded with caliche.
Tyke’s blaze-orange life jacket is hanging on his bedroom wall. The key, found in Tyke’s jean’s pocket, is framed just below it. He will have a tale to tell his grandkids.
But I may never see mine. Donna is angrier than a momma red wasp.
She blames me for warping Tyke, and for causing the preacher to miss church that Sunday. We were stranded until the Coast Guard rescued us about mid-morning, but golly gee, life happens.
I’m skipping the boat show next week. The key to me reaching old age hinges on prayer. Much, prayer. And a low profile
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