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Jerry W Andrews

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The One That Got Away
By Jerry W Andrews
Sunday, January 26, 2003

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Recent stories by Jerry W Andrews
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A young boy goes fishing in the woods on a summer's day-

When I was a boy of about ten, running barefooted through the red clay pineywoods hills of northwestern Louisiana, in the early fifties, I did a lot of adventuring in the little seasonal creeks that crisscrossed the range of woodland my friends and I roamed and called our own. Early one thick-misted summer morning, I gathered up my necessaries: a couple of tiny perch hooks, four or so feet of cord borrowed from Momma's ball, a short pole from the hickory tree, and a can of about a dozen worms that I'd dug the evening before from under the lush lily growth near the spring.I stuck my old rusty Barlow knife in my raggedy summer jean cut-offs and took off for parts unknown, past my territorial line, three or four miles distant, a la Huck Finn, to catch me some fish. Now the little stream I started following by rights couldn't even qualify as a stream.An overgrown rivulet with high hopes might describe it better. However, I knew that sometime, somewhere along its trip, it would widen and deepen as they all did and that's where I expected to get a fish or three. Mostly what we tow-headed boys caught were tiny sun perch, only an inch long and three-quarters of an inch wide; absolutely gorgeous little miniatures, but a trifle difficult to catch enough of to eat, even if you ever did figure out how to clean one, without a microscope. A boy of ten, though, knows no bounds on his wishes, his hopes, his dreams. I knew I would catch fish that day, good fish, fish a fellow could clean and take home to Momma proudly, to add to supper. Anyway, little boys know anything is possible. Having left home at about seven a.m.,by eight-thirty I was several miles into the woods, pine, oak and hickory, tracking my little watercourse. It had widened and deepened gradually and appeared to have some prospect of becoming a respectable, must-be-jumped stream, wanting to be a creek. It was velvet luscious dark and cool cool shade now, deep in the trees, and the pine needles were a thick mat under my tough dirty feet as I crept Indian-style, crouched and looking from side to side furtively; my imagination had turned me into Daniel Boone, the character seemingly most suited to my location and actions. The stream now ran under a huge ancient oak windfall and I clambered over its trunk and saw the prettiest little drop-off just as it came from under the tree;it fell about about a foot into a deliciously dark pool, a tannic darkness from years of the oak's bark staining the pool. It was oval,about four feet wide and six feet long, caused by a debris dam of considerable age and solidity. The stream had found its way around the dam, but not before filling the hole left by the roots and base of another big oak windfall, which served as the basin the little stream filled. My excitement at this scene can only be described by saying it equalled the thrill of the bright red Schwinn bicycle I received the previous Christmas. My heart was thumping loudly, for I knew this was my fishing hole and maybe no one else on this earth had ever even seen it, much less fished it. Every real fisherman or fisherwoman will know exactly how I felt. Magnify that by ten-year-old boyhood to get a general idea of my thrill of discovery and anticipation. Stealth became absolutely necessary. I sneaked slowly, silently around to the high side of the hole,which was banked in such a way that I could bait my hook and drop my line, without being seen, into the inky water. I'd guesstimated the hole was three and one-half to five feet deep, so I set my little red and white bobber at about one foot below the surface and my big white juicy milk worm was raising cain, as who wouldn't be, in his position? My bobber hadn't been there thirty seconds when boom! down and away it went, stretching my line taut all the way! The fish was heading for his home, moving on out, and when he reached the end of my line he hooked himself!! Hollering, jumping up and down, I was doing a little redneck two-step, but all I really knew was that I had a fish of some sort.I stood my pole up vertical so my line would come to me and was flabbergasted to see a huge spectacular perch(called a brim in the south), come sailing out of the pool toward me. It surprised me so much that it went over my head. Then I quickly pounced on it in the pine needles. Lord, it was like a work of art-Monet-impressionistic beauty.It was iridescent, its rainbow colors challenging the heavens to match its beauty. It was about eight inches long, five inches wide and as fat as it could be. I guessed it weighed three-quarters of a pound, at least. It was really and truly like finding the world's most beautiful pearl in a mussel shell. Never had anyone in this part of the country seen such a fish from such a tiny stream. This was the king, the emperor, the world champion in its own world, the monster, the one that got away- Only it didn't. I caught it. For awhile there I was so proud I knew I had to show it to everybody. Fortunately, in a few minutes the best part of me kicked in and saved the king, the world champ. This was too special, too unique a treasure for me to remove it from its home and cause it to die. My soul couldn't handle that, even at ten, or maybe especially at ten. I revived the fish carefully, then slipped it back into its ebony pool. Lying in the luxury of thick pine straw and chocolate shade, I thought about what I had conquered that day: the woods, the water, the chase, the capture, the task, the resolution of the task, occurring when I eased the emperor back into his element, my tiny hook having barely made a wound, and finally, the totality of my adventure. The story I had to tell, believed or not, the feeling in my heart, full from the whole of the day, the sweet memories I've carried to this day: all were a gift I've always been grateful for- a lifetime gift. Was there a luckier, happier ten-year-old on planet Earth that day? Maybe. But I kinda doubt it.  

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Reviewed by Dorotha Moore 1/16/2006
We share a kinship for love of fishing and memories in Northwest
La. red dirt, piney wood lands. Love shows in your words as does the spelling of Momma, the way I spell it also.
I lived every moment with you. Thanks
Reviewed by Gwen Dickerson 1/13/2006
I'm glad I didn't miss this one! It's splendid!
Reviewed by Cles Wilson 6/30/2005
Wonderful Story.
Reviewed by Tami Ryan 8/7/2004
I enjoyed this read so much, Jerry. I FEEL the excitement that lived within you that day. There are so many terrific images and descriptions here too. ("chocolate shade" is a great description) A magical, tender story with many lessons woven within. Thanks for sharing this one.

Reviewed by Monette Bebow-Reinhard 11/19/2003
What a delightful story, and so well written. You need to start work on a novel. You have a great gift and a lot to share.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Taylor 10/10/2003
An enjoyable read. Tall tales???
Reviewed by Carolyn Red Bear (The Bear Paw) 7/1/2003
So, is that where the tall tales from fisherman come from? The one that got away? LOL This is very good! Enjoyed it much!
In Spirit,
Reviewed by Patricia Caliguire 6/30/2003
Really quite wonderful, heartwarming story, Jerry--good job!
Reviewed by Your Friend 4/25/2003
Why are you liberals such better writers than we conservatives? I started not to read this one because I've read it before, now I am glad I did, it is even better the second time. I've got a gold medal in my desk, this one deserves it...
Reviewed by C. Gourlay 2/5/2003
I have a strange habit of reading things from end to beginning and then re-reading from beginning to end. This piece worked both ways, touching and meaningful. (and reminds me in some ways of my ten year old boy... angel child)
Reviewed by *********** ********** 1/30/2003
Chocolate shade <---Now there's an image.

I loved it Jerry....It was rich with warmth and imagery...I swear its one of those stories you breathe not read.

The memories of Children are gold..My own are so precious to me...Running wild and free through the Australian bush...making friends with the roo's and enemies with the rather bad tempered Dining on hot tea and buttered damper fresh from the coals...and watching my Father pan for gold...*Sigh* If only we could be children for longer... Thank you for sharing this.....Dani

Reviewed by Patricia Boudreau 1/29/2003
What a wonderful day to treasure forever, and you have told the tale with such feeling and beauty...
Bravo Jerry !!
Reviewed by Glenna Cancilla 1/28/2003
This is very wonderful story. The memories of childhood are often the best things to write about, and you have done so very well. As for your question..."Was there a luckier, happier ten-year-old on planet Earth that day? " If there was would I don't think it would have mattered to you.
Great write.
Reviewed by Jerry Andrews 1/26/2003
I kinda like it! lol-

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