It may come as a surprise, but girls really do like to go fishing, especially this girl. My fondest childhood memories are of my grandfather,Big Buddy not to be confused with my brother, Little Buddy taking me out on his fishing boat.
I'm pretty sure my grandfather slept standing up, leaning on the kitchen counter. No matter what time I set my alarm for, he was always in there before me, cigarette in hand, eggs frying, and two fishing poles lying across the clean kitchen table. We'd fill our bellies, fill a cooler with ice, and step out into the cool, morning air. At his home in Breezy Point Beach, Md., fragrant clover grew instead of grass along the hillsides and our pathway to the dock.
It's funny what kids remember, and I'll never forget my first fish.
I was 14 and had no idea what I was doing. I just learned the night before how to tie a hook onto my line and how to weave a worm onto it. It never bothered me that its little guts seeped out from the top and bottom. I thought it was icky and cool all at the same time.
We'd been sitting in Big Buddy's favorite spot for nearly an hour when something hit. As the crank on my reel started whirling, Big Buddy reached over, grabbed my wrist and said, "Atta girl. Hold on tight. You got something there now."
With his warm hands over mine, we reeled in a little, then stopped. I loved the mystery of not knowing what was on the other end. All I could hear was my heart pounding and the excitement in his voice. We reeled a little more. Then, I saw its caramel-colored shadow thrashing just below the surface, and Big Buddy grabbed the net. Suddenly, a smallmouth bass was lying on top of my blue sneakers. I was wet from head to toe.
Big Buddy grinned wide so wide I could see a big gap between his yellow teeth. And I leaned over and hugged his scruffy neck tightly.
"Atta girl," he said again, holding my prize smallmouth bass in his hands. He showed me the dip between its backfins. He opened its mouth. And he showed me the gills and explained how fish can breath underwater.
When we got back to the house, my brothers and parents were huddled around the kitchen table finishing breakfast. Big Buddy held out the fish, and they stopped chewing.
"Wow! That's gotta be a 10-pounder," my dad said, staring at Big Buddy. "What'd you hook thatwith."
Big Buddy launched his widemouth grin and said, "I didn't catch it she did."
I stood there beside him, all wet and smelly, beaming with pride.
My grandfather passed away in 1981, but I'll never forget how he, and that moment, made me feel.
If you should ever have a chance to take a teenaged girl fishing, believe me, she'll enjoy it.