Mary Lu Scholl picture, member of the Citrus Writers of Florida

More Rowing than Fishing

First let me explain, I was a city kid.

I moved to the Nature Coast in the 80’s and wanted a boat.  Not like my husband’s boat – intimidating and efficient.  I only wanted a small boat, one with oars because I don’t do well with motors.  I suggested a canoe and my husband laughed at me.  Finally he found me a little Jon Boat with an anchor on a six foot rope (that’s important later).  His only admonition was “Stay out of the Gulf.”

My daughter wanted to go fishing.  She was in grade school, and less squeamish than I.  She, for example would pluck oysters right off a rock and eat them (her dad’s influence).  My husband was busy that day, so we loaded up and took off for the nearest river.  Neither of us were accomplished fisherman, had any idea what we were fishing for, and only a vague idea what to do with one if we caught it.  The trip was the principle of the thing.  Nevertheless, after seeing all the wildlife in our immediate area, and catching nothing, we were bored – and determined to prove to my husband we could do this.

I rowed, and rowed.  Soon the water around us opened up into a wider expanse.  I suspected we were at the mouth of the river.  We dutifully stopped – ever obedient – and cast our lines again.  There was a little island just a little further out just begging us to try our luck out there.  Just past it was another one; fish follow channels between islands, right?  What was the difference if we just went a little further?

The river was a distant memory.  Sharon was looking over her end of the boat into the water and said, “Uh-oh.”

You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression ‘hook, line and sinker.’  I looked into the water on my side and whatever it was, was longer than our boat.  It grabbed Sharon’s line and suddenly it was dangling with that stressed little crookedness that indicates the complete disdain the creature had of our efforts.  I calmly told her I thought we had fished enough for the day and looked around to get our bearings.  I had rowed that far out, rowing that far in shouldn’t be a problem.  The tide was going out.  I hadn’t factored in the disparity of my efforts to that of the tide.  I rowed.  I rowed.  We went nowhere.  When I quit rowing we went the wrong direction. 

Not a problem!  I threw out my anchor.  Apparently, the water was deeper than six feet.  THAT was a problem.

I rowed harder. 

“What’s wrong, Mom?”

“Nothing, Honey.  Everything’s fine.  See that pier over there?  Wave at the people on it.”

She waved, they waved back – sitting in their lawn chairs and enjoying the afternoon safely on a wooden deck with less than six feet of water under it.  I decide maybe I should head obliquely and try to get to shallower water even if it was farther from my target.  A desperate effort got us a little closer to shore where it wasn’t quite as deep.  I was exhausted.  I tossed the anchor over and breathed heavily for a minute.  Sharon looked at me with concern.  “Where are we?”

“The good news is we are getting closer to the river.”

“Where were we?”

“Kind of in the Gulf.”  My daughter – much better behaved than I am – was horrified.

I ignored her and looked around.  I couldn’t row with the anchor down because it wasn’t long enough to let me get anywhere.  When I picked it up, I went the wrong direction.  Did I mention the tide?  I pulled the anchor in.  It didn’t take long.  Did I mention six feet?  I tossed it toward a nearby rock under the water.  It caught and I pulled us up to the rock.  My next target was a stand of some kind of water vegetation.  It caught and I repeated the maneuver.  In this manner, we continued moving incrementally closer to the mouth of the river.  We had attracted attention from the pier.  They were now standing and leaning on the railing.  I’m not sure if they were catcalling or offering encouragement – I was too tired to care.  Sharon waved and they waved back.

Moving closer to the shore, I kept it up.  It was getting late.  There was a spectacular sunset.  The people on the pier ignored it.  We were far more interesting.  It requires different muscles to throw an anchor and pull the boat along the rope than it does to row.  I finally switched back and found the pull (shove) of the tide had lessened.  As we reentered the relative safety of the river, a cheer broke out from our audience.  “Yay!  Good job!” 

I ignored them with the remnants of my dignity floating along in the water behind us.  I only hoped we wouldn’t be in the Chronicle the next day.  Sharon jumped out when we were close to shore where we put in.  One more thrust of the oars beached us and I crawled out.  I resisted kissing the ground because I didn’t want Sharon to know just how close we came to dying.  We loaded up and went home. 

My knees were still weak and my arms and shoulders hurt while I fixed dinner.  My husband came home and we sat down to eat.  He asked what we had done all day.  I mentioned that we had gone fishing and hadn’t caught anything.

“Where did you go?”

“We were in the Gulf, Daddy.”

The next day, my boat was missing from the carport…

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