Boats, People Watching, and Catfish On the Pearl

The kids are out of school, baseball season is over, summer is here, and the fish are biting. A few days ago, I went ahead and pulled the boat out of its resting place, and prepared for the first voyage of the summer. I’ve periodically pulled it out, cleaned it, and cranked it to make sure when the time was here that I wouldn’t be sitting on the sidelines. Thankfully, she fired right up the first time that I turned the key. Anyone that owns a boat knows that this is a miracle in itself!

I had every intention of heading to the river as soon as my batteries were fully charged. Rarely do my intentions become reality. I watched painfully as my boat sat in our driveway for two days without being used. As soon as I thought it would be a good time to head out, the girls would come up with something that needed, or had, to be done. I put on a half-smile and agreed to their terms, hoping that my river trip would happen sooner rather than later.

Sunday afternoon would be the first time that we didn’t have something that just had to be done, or someplace we just had to be. Well, sort of. We had lunch at my in-laws and the river was calling my name. I didn’t think that I’d ever get the girls to leave so we could get back to the house. After hustling them into the car, it was decided that we’d all be going out on the boat for the evening. This may seem normal to you, or you might be thinking, “What’s the big deal?” I’ll tell you what the big deal is. Getting four girls into the boat, including a two year old, is big work. Fellas, have you ever noticed how your wife and children will pack the car for an overnight trip? There will be enough stuff in the car that you can’t even see out of the rear-view mirror. And that’s for one night. A day trip to the river usually isn’t much different. They will pack enough snacks, drinks, and towels to open up a bed and breakfast on a sandbar. Seeing that I don’t own a yacht, this over-packing usually makes for a pretty cramped boat ride. For some reason, though, today was different.

As I hooked the boat up to the truck and loaded up the life jackets for each person on board, I noticed Collins (middle child) carrying a small grocery bag of snacks. I wondered, how can this be? Is this all they intend to bring? They didn’t even pack drinks! I loaded up a couple of rod and reels and packed a small cooler with a few bottles of water. This trip is already looking better than previous trips! We loaded the kids up in the truck and headed toward the Pearl River.

When we arrived at the boat launch, I could have sworn I’d been conned into taking my boat to some kind of auction. There were more boat trailers parked in the lot than you’d see at the Bassmaster Classic. It dawned on me that it was Memorial Day weekend, and every boat owner in three counties was at the river. My patience was being tested at the launch, as it took at least 25 minutes before it was my turn to back my trailer in. I got the boat into the water, slipped and fell twice, and strained a quad before finally getting everyone in the boat. Thank goodness the boat fired right up or who knows who I may have killed! As we headed up the river, the pain in my leg went away, and my anxiety disappeared. I finally felt at home.

Speaking of feeling at home, when you go to the river in South Mississippi, especially on a holiday weekend, you see all walks of life. If you had time to just sit and look, it would be a fantastic place to people watch, much like an airport! My kids were probably a nervous wreck with some of the characters we encountered, but these are my people. I love how every boat you pass, or every person on a sandbar, will wave at you as you go by. Heck, you can pass a sandbar full of people waving, go two hundred yards past it, turn around, come back, and they will wave again! Fortunately, for me, this has always been the case. Folks on the river are happy and friendly because they are on the river.

We traveled up the river a pretty good piece and found a nice spot in the shade to fish for a while. Since this wasn’t so much of a fishing trip as it was a pleasure trip, we baited up one rod with a worm and cast it into the edge of the current. It wasn’t five minutes later the rod was almost jerked entirely out of the boat. I grabbed it quickly and began reeling. The kids squirmed with excitement as I landed the four pound channel catfish into the boat. The fish wasn’t huge, but daddy was seemingly a hero. I beamed with pride at the first, of hopefully many, catfish for the summer. We baited the hook again and tossed the line back in the water.

We didn’t catch any more fish, but I didn’t really care. Watching my girls enjoy the outdoors was more than worth the trip over for the afternoon. On the way back to the boat ramp I explained to Mackenzie (oldest child) how to navigate the river. She soaked up every bit of information like she was preparing for a test. Hopefully one day she will look back on days like today and smile, just like I do when I think about times on the river with my dad.

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