Sept. 22, is National Hunting and Fishing Day — an event I’m not touting to promote the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, where I work.
I mention it because the event stirs memories of going fishing with my late dad. Looking back now, those were meaningful times with him.
I think I was about six years old the first time we went fishing. I don’t remember exactly where we went because I didn’t really care. All I know is that I was excited to be getting up before light and going somewhere with him.
While we didn’t technically live together during my early years, we managed to see each other almost every day. Actually, he lived down the street.
That first trip was mostly consumed by him teaching me how to bait my own hook on my very own cane pole. He took a lot of time making sure I was careful not to put the hook in my hand. I was cool with that.
While standing on the bank for hours, we’d talk about my favorite sports figures, school, and whether I was standing up for myself when challenged by other boys. There was also a little about fishing. I had no clue about the fish. I think I may have caught a couple of fish on that outing.
When I got that first nibble on the line and shouted that I had something, it was awesome because he had to help me bring it in. He showed me how I had to be careful to get a catfish off the hook so that it wouldn’t fin me.
I loved every second of that, and I couldn’t wait to tell my marble buddies that I had caught some fish, albeit just a couple.
At least one time, we were able to borrow a very small boat. It was hot that day, and I had on a cumbersome life jacket that made it hotter. I was miserable, but I was with him, so that helped. I caught some fish, but I was more concerned about a couple of snakes that had come up near the boat. My dad dealt with them.
On a couple of occasions, my stepmother and stepsister came along. That was cool because sharing those moments in the middle of nowhere helped us blend as a family.
When I caught a fish, it was exciting for a few minutes because my dad seemed so happy for me. I would bask in the light of that energy. Sadly, for the most part, I never really caught the fishing fever. I liked sports that had a ball.
As I was growing up, a few of my friends would occasionally fish around City Park in Baton Rouge or at spots near the Mississippi River levee. But that wasn’t so much to catch fish as it was to just hang around and sneak sips of Jax, Schlitz or Falstaff beer.
My dad took me hunting a couple of times, and I was a pretty good shot. But we never went on a serious hunt. I think he just wanted me to become familiar with guns and how to fire them. I was fine with that. My dad was a U.S. Army veteran and really liked guns — a lot more than I did. He had several handguns, rifles and shotguns.
I still have a rifle and a couple of shotguns that he gave me. I had a couple more, but someone broke into one of my former residences and stole two of them. My heart still breaks about that.
My friend Michael Allen, one of the most avid fishermen I know, has offered to allow me to go along with him on fishing trips. My streak of not accepting his invitation is at a dozen years or more now. Maybe one day.
I wished I had liked to fish more. While we teamed up many times at dominoes and cards, and we were good at, I think the quiet one-on-one nature of fishing was what my father loved the most.
Suffice to say, we did enjoy the days that we did spend together and the fact that I never stuck a hook in my hand.
Email Edward Pratt, a former newspaperman who writes a weekly Advocate column, at firstname.lastname@example.org.