Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Back about 1991, it rained so much around here that the lakes got so full you couldn’t launch a boat. All the ramps were underwater for about 6 months. You had to drive a long ways away to find a lake with a ramp open.

My daughter Aubree was just about two. She was sweet and small, had just learned to walk, because she just has one of those spirits that was happy to be a crawler for a long time. She was always happy and smiling and laughing, and she had a pretty good little vocabulary for a kid that preferred crawling to walking.

Back then I used to go to Grapevine just about every week before they shut down the ramps. Then one day I heard that there was a ramp open at Grapevine. After dinner that evening, I leaned back in my chair and said to Shila (my wife back then) “Honey, what do you think if Aubree and I take the boat up to Grapevine, and see if we can get on the lake?”

I knew there was no way Shila could refuse me this. My son Lee was only about 6 months old and too young for a trip like that, but I could see in Shila’s eyes how pleased she was that I would take my daughter to the lake on a Monday evening for an hour of fishing.
“Sure” she says real sweet like “You guys have fun!”

So I load up the boat, which I hadn’t had in the water for some time, and put Aubree’ in the car seat, and away we go. Sure as heck, the ramp at Silver lake Park is open, and the engine starts right up, and Aubree and I are sailing, sailing over the bounding main. She has her little pole, and is happy as a clam, and I manage to catch a fish, and she is delighted, especially when I let the poor little thing go.
“Bye-bye” she says to the little fishy.

All we have is an hour, and it’s time now to go, but we are happy for having gone, and I crank up the motor and head for the ramp before the sun goes all the way down.

We had been the only boat on the lake, at least till now, because a big ass 40 foot Chris Craft just passed right in front of me. It had kicked up a pretty good wake, about 4 feet maybe, and with Aubree in my lap we hit it full speed…

*BAM!!!* and the water sprays, and we laugh and then we get to the second monster wave and *BAM!!!* and oh what fun this is as water sprays out and over and all upon us and then we got to the third wave and the engine is screaming and we hit it *BAM!!!* and the water sprays and then…


By that I mean the engine is no longer screaming, the throttle is missing from my hand, the boat has suddenly stopped its forward motion, and Aubree and I turn to look at where the screaming motor had been and guess what?
It was gone.
Gone, as in not attached to the back of the boat anymore. It takes a moment to process that your motor just flew off the back of the boat, but its disappearance was confirmed by little Aubree, sitting on my lap.
She gives a little wave and says “Bye-bye”
The most amazing thing that sticks out in my mind is just how quiet it gets when the motor flies off your boat.

Aubree and I paddled our way to a deserted shoreline. There was a road about 100 yards up from the lake. I carried her up to the road to see if we could find some help. In 1991 nobody had cell phones, but we managed to wave a car down, and wouldn’t you know, they happened to have one of those WWII looking 5 pound portable phones.

I called Shila. I didn’t want to tell her what happened.
“Hello?” she answered.
“Hi honey”
“Hi. What’s the matter?”
“Wellll…wellll… we have had a little problem with the boat. We are OK, but stranded on shore, and someone will have to come get us”

Now I have to give Shila some credit here. She did not freak out at all. She was cool calm and collected, but for some reason, I just couldn’t see fit to tell her the whole truth.

“What happened to the boat?” she asks.
“Just a little problem with the motor” (True)
“Where are you at?” she asks.
“Do you know where Meadowmere Park and Sandy Beach is?”
“Well, you call Kem Keeton. He knows where it is. Send him to come get us”

So Aubree and I wait to be rescued. I bring all my tackle up from the boat. It is pitch dark now.
After a bit here comes a car. It’s Kem. We load all my tackle in his car.
I’ll have to come back tomorrow with my other motor (yes, I have two) and get the boat.

We go to the ramp, way down the lake, move all my gear into my van and Aubree and I drive home. Shila meets us in the driveway as I’m unloading the van.
“I’m glad you two are OK “ she says.
“Yeah me too”
She surveys my gear.
“Where is your motor?”
That’s the question I’ve been hoping to avoid. Without looking up I say:
“Oh, I left it at the lake.” (True)
“Left it at the lake? You’re kidding. It probably won’t be there tomorrow.”
“Yep. Probably not.” (True again)

She fixes me and Aubree a little snack, and asks again:
“Steve, what exactly happened to your motor?”
“Well honey, it just kinda stopped running all of a sudden” (True)
“Do you know what’s wrong with it?”
“Welll…well… maybe it’s just flooded real bad or something, I don’t know” (true, in a sense)

But Shila’s bullshit meters are on high alert by now, and as I’m just about to crawl into bed she asks me one more time, real softly.
“Steve, tell me, what really happened to your motor?”
I hung my head. I hung it low. She had asked it with all the kindness in the world, and that much kindness deserves an honest answer.

“My motor flew off the back of the boat, Shila. It’s gone. Just gone, somewhere in 25 feet of water at the bottom of Grapevine Lake. That’s what happened to my motor”

And that is the story of me and Aubree's first fishing trip!



red dirt girl said...

Oh this is great, cowboy!! I love this vignette .... and I always love it when you talk about your kids. But the lines about Shila asking you with kindness.... the kindness that demands honesty - that KILLS ME!


Brianna said...

This was a great read..motor or no motor.. this is an unforgettable first fishing trip.

bulletholes said...

Red, that right there is why I love to write. i've held back on writing this story for years, and when I finally wrote it, it was that one line that fell out that was what the whole story was about. Thanks for catching on. i love a good reader, and you are that.

bulletholes said...

Hi Brianna! Thanks for stopping by! In my family, we do love this story. I waited a long time to write it.