My Uncle the Fisherman
By Ami (Gypsie) Offenbacher-Ferris
It was my turn. Being the oldest girl in the family, but born behind a dozen male children; I had waited my turn, for years. Boys first, as usual. That’s how it was and how it always would be.
If I had wanted to be first at the sewing machine or to stand in front of a steaming hot pot-bellied stove all day; that would have been no problem.
I didn’t want to learn those things. I wanted to learn how to fish, good and proper like my favorite uncle did. Uncle Louie didn’t stand beside the meandering creek with a switch and sewing thread trying to catch minnows. Nope. Uncle Louie went out onto the Dark Lake and brought home the biggest, meanest catfish anyone ever saw.
Some people said he sang a song out there where no one could see him, and those catfish became be-spelled and hopped right up into his old fishing boat, just to get a better listen.
I knew better. I knew he knew how to fish the right way. He was a Fisherman.
It was cold that first morning and still dark outside. Uncle Louie grilled me as to what I had packed and what I was bringing. I had watched him for years and I knew the right things to bring.
I stood straight as a pole-cat about to get chased by a hound dog, waiting for his approval. He stood with his hands on his hips, gnarled fingers curled into his palms. He eyed me up and down and shook his head, satisfied with what he saw.
A young girl with shaggy hair and expectant eyes dressed in her brothers dungarees, flannel shirt and muck boots that were at least two sizes too big. I had two pair of wooly socks on and more stuffed in the toes, heels and around my feet so the boots wouldn’t come off. I was thankful I had cause of the cold on that October morning.
Uncle Louie turned without speaking and strode out the front door. He didn’t look back. I would either follow him, or I wouldn’t. I followed carrying my gear.
It was a long walk through the woods to the spot where Uncle Louie kept his boat. The oars were laid inside, a thick rope wrapped around a tree trunk kept it tethered to shore.
Uncle Louie stood beside the Dark Lake a long time, starring out at the placid water as the sun rose. I stood, mimicking his every move, not making a sound. Not a twitch, or a squirm; my eyes locked on the wide mouth of that deep, blue water.
A splash! A fish jumped to catch its morning meal. An unsuspecting insect hovered too close to the water to get a drink, it was the last drink it would ever take.
I whispered quietly to Uncle Louie, then pointed to the fading ripples spreading out and disappearing from the spot where it had jumped. He watched for a moment before turning to look at me.
“You’ll do,” he said.
I smiled up into his weathered face. He smiled back. The few teeth he had left, stained by chewing tobacco and strong coffee.
Looking down at me he asked, “What were you planning on fishing with my girl?”
I turned red, but not as red as the brand-new fishing pole he pulled from the bottom of his boat and handed to me.
I learned to fish.