Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fishing Feet

     It's getting to be about fishing weather again. Of course, for some die-hards, that would be year round.  I don't care if it's raining, snowing, or a hurricane's a-brewing, every day's a fishing day for those that were born with a rod in their hand. I should know, I come from a fishing family, that DNA swimming through our veins like a salmon searching for a spawning stream.
     As Sissey and I cross the Catawba River Bridge each morning on our way to Lancaster, I always check to see if the regulars have cast their lines.  There are usually two old timers out on the banks of the river, irregardless of the weather, just sitting, watching their lines. I don't know if they ever actually catch anything, or if it even matters, because the point is, they are there, and it reminds me of my son, born to be a fisherman if ever there was one. I smile as we ride by.
  My son came about fishing the old-fashioned way. He inherited it. He's from a long, long line of DNA that contains the fishing gene. My grandfather,Charlie, was one of the original heirs born of the rod-in-hand, growing up in the lowcountry where salt water flowed through his veins and plough mud graced his feet.  It was a rare day that didn't call for a little fishing and Grandaddy was always prepared to cast a line. It didn't matter if there were chores to be done, school to attend, lessons to be learned, or places to always came first.  Being a smart man, he had an ingenious system devised whereby he could sneak in a little pole-wetting each morning and still get home in time for school.
     The plan went something like this: when he went to bed at night, Grandaddy would tie a string around his big toe and hang it out the window of his third floor bedroom. His friend would arrive early the next morning and yank on the string until Grandaddy was awake. He would then crawl out the window and the two lowcountry boys, one white, one black, would sneak off to the marsh with poles in hand to spend the morning fishing. The boys would sneak back in time for Grandaddy to slip back into the house, change into his school clothes, and walk downstairs completely dressed, shoes on his feet, books in hand, ready for the world of academia. No one was the wiser, or so they thought, and the fishing had been accomplished.
     Grandaddy loved nothing more than running barefoot down those sandy roads heading toward the marsh and his favorite fishing hole, but he always made sure that he made it home in time for school.  One day, his teacher sent a note home to his father with the following message: "Please make sure that Charlie comes to school each day with his shoes and socks on."  His mortified parents quickly notified the teacher that Charlie was always properly dressed and shod every morning when he left the house; but life in the lowcountry was warm and humid, and shoes were a cumbersome nuisance for a growing boy....they cramped the toes and made the feet sweat.  Grandaddy knew he couldn't possibly concentrate on strenuos studies when those wretched leather contraptions were suffocating his feet and cutting off the oxygen flow to his brain, especially after he had just spent the morning wriggling his toes in the soft mud and sweet water of his favorite fishing hole.
     Charlie would have none of that, so being a smart man, he had devised another ingenious plan, this one aimed at freeing his feet for the remainder of the school day. Little did his parents know that as soon as he reached the end of the driveway each morning, those shoes and socks came off and were stashed beneath a bush, where they would sit until he arrived back home from school each afternoon. His plan went well until the day the teacher sent  the note home to his parents.   
     After being caught bare-footed, he obediently wore his shoes--but only when necessary.  As a result of spending his growing years as barefooted as possible, he spent the rest of his life searching for shoes to fit feet that had morphed into small boats, nearly as wide as they were long,  a size Nine Quadruple E, almost perfectly square peds, regulation fishing feet.
     I drove down Rifle Range Road the last time I was in Charleston, searching for the old homeplace that existed no longer. "Yeough Hall" had burned down years ago after being struck by lightening, and the old homesite was replaced by upscale subdivisions, subdivided into small lots with massive homes, swimming pools replacing swimming holes, jetskis and power boats replacing the old fishing skiffs, and an unrecognizeable myriad of landscaped yards smashed onto the fringes of the old salt marsh. It looked nothing like the rambling, wide-open flat coastal land I remembered as a child.
      As I passed a retention pond that lined one of the new golf courses, it brought a smile to my face to see a young boy on the bank, shoes resting by his bike, fishing pole in hand, just watching his line. Progress may have come barreling through the marsh, but some things will never change, and a boy born to fish will always find a fishing hole.
Elizabeth M. Daly
Oil on Canvas

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