When I was a little girl, my Dad would sometimes just show up at school. The bell to dismiss class would ring, and there he’d be, standing out on the sidewalk waiting for me. The family wagon was packed with sandwiches; cold drinks and a couple of fishing poles. We’d stop along the river to get some worms (in the sleepy little town of Freeport). At the edge of town stood an iron bridge all painted green. Up, over the railroad tracks and across the river we went, turning due west, toward the coast. To this day, whenever Hubby and I have an occasion to cross that bridge, my heart skips a beat.
When it came time to fish, Dad would always bait my hook – not that I didn’t like worms, I did. I just could not bring myself to stick the slimy little suckers on the end of a hook. There were times when we’d find a spot wide enough along side the levee road to pull off and park. Then down we went, trampling through the brush, to sit on the bank and fish. That was back in the old days – when the rivers and sloughs and all the little outlets were free to fish from. Now if you take a ride along those same river roads, there are signs posted everywhere of “Private Property” and “Keep Out”. So sad. I’ve never been able to figure out how people living on one side of the levee road could own the rights to the river banks on the other side of the road. Maybe they always did, but back then no one cared if you fished the rivers.
More often than not, we’d catch a whole string of catfish. We are talking those “cat” looking catfish – with the rubbery skins instead of fish-scales and long cat-like whiskers. I liked to touch them, only because they felt strange. Sometimes Dad would rent a boat in Freeport. Nothing fancy – a row-boat with a couple of benches and little outboard motor. The best part about the boat was that it gave us the ability to reach wild berry bushes growing along the banks of the rivers and sloughs that could not be reached from the shore. Dad and I would pick berries – so plump and sweet. Those were magical times.
We’d get home about the time the sun was setting. Mom always gave Dad a good scolding since she had worried about me all afternoon. Then Dad would show her our catch and the big bucket of berries. She would flash him a look that said “you made me worry over nothing.” and send Dad out to the garage sink to skin the fish. Mom would then smile and ask if I had a nice time. It was magical!
Once the fish were skinned and filleted, Mom would dredge them in cornmeal and fried up nice and golden. I don’t remember what we had on the side – but I’d be willing to bet it was rice of some sort. After all, Mom was Filipino – growing up with an Okie Dad and Filipino Mom, we ate a lot of rice and darn near everything was smothered in gravy!
With all these lovely memories floating through my head, imagine my surprise when I invited Dad to a down home catfish-fry and he said he didn’t like fish! But Dad – what about our outings when I was a little girl? He just smiled and said that was our special time.
Fathers are special. As daughters our first “love” is Dad – the yardstick by which all other men are measured.