"Fishy, fishy in the brook, come and get on daddy's hook," my husband, Clyde "Rip" Ripple said, as he pretended to cast a heavy duty fishing rod in Tackle Town, a popular sporting goods store in our hometown of Rockport, Texas. I don't think he had any idea how ridiculous he looked when he set the invisible hook on an imaginary fish. When Rip started pretending to reel in a large catch, which was clearly putting up quite a fight, I had to walk away so it wasn't obvious to other shoppers that he was my husband.
After he'd apparently landed the "whooper" successfully, he walked over and placed two identical rod and reel combos in our basket.
"I can't wait to catch a big redfish," he said excitedly.
"Oh, wasn't that what you just caught in the bait bucket aisle? I didn't see you measure it, honey. Are you sure it was of legal size?"
"Oh, good grief! I almost forgot I need to get a couple of those stick-on measuring tapes to apply to our rods. Thanks for reminding me."
"Seriously? I can't wait to see what a $117.29 fish looks like!" I replied.
"What are you talking about?"
"We're buying fishing licenses, expensive rod and reels—"
"I wouldn't want a trophy red to get away because we were using inferior equipment."
"Hand-held nets and neoprene waders—"
"Milo said they like to get out and wade for redfish in the shallows of Aransas and Copano Bays, and we wouldn't want to have to sit in the boat feeding bait to the crabs while Milo and Cooper are catching keeper fish right and left."
"And fishing line, nets, stringers, life jackets, pliers—"
"And why do we need all those six and seven dollar plastic rigs when Milo said we'll be using live bait? Mullet and shrimp, I think he said."
"Well, dear, it's because I had to have something to keep my steel leaders, sinkers, hooks, and all in, and there's no sense having a big tackle box if it's not fully stocked with tackle. It'd be embarrassing. I'd look like a kid fishing with a Mickey Mouse fishing pole. Besides, that way we'll be prepared if the reds aren't biting and the guys decide to 'throw some plastic' for speckled trout, as Milo put it," Rip said in defense of his power-shopping spree.
"Okay, I get it, Donald Trump! My point is that Milo said we were each allowed to keep three redfish per day. If we both limit out we'll have a total of six fish. Divide six by what this basket-full of stuff's gonna cost us and we'll have about $117.29 invested in each redfish we catch. And that's not including the bait we'll still have to buy!"
"Just be thankful we didn't have to buy the boat, too," Rip said. "You can ask any fisherman and they'll tell you they can buy fish at the grocery store cheaper than they can go out and catch them themselves. But that's of no significance. You don't fish to save money on your grocery bill, you fish for the pure enjoyment of the sport. The same thing goes for hunting, sweetheart."
Rip walked over to a rack of Guy Harvey merchandise; t-shirts, belts, jackets, and ball caps, with depictions of trout, redfish, flounder, tarpon, and other game fish on them. I assumed the fish needed to see which particular fish you were hoping to catch before they decided whether or not to bite down on your bait. Judging by the cap Rip brought back and tossed in the basket, he was hoping to land a hammerhead shark.
"I'm putting my chest waders back if we're going to be out there wading amongst hammerhead sharks," I said.
"Actually, Milo told me we were more in danger of a dolphin grabbing a hold of the fish on our stringer than being attacked by a shark. But he did say a fisherman pulled a five-hundred-pound bull shark out of Aransas Bay a few years ago."
"Thank you, honey. That makes me feel so much better about wading now!" I said. Rip shrugged and turned to head toward a rack of Columbia fishing shirts with cape-like things on the back. "Don't tell me that to have a successful day of fishing we have to look like Harold Ensley, too."
I wondered if Rip was afraid the fish wouldn't take me seriously if I had on my stained Texas Rangers shirt that I was planning to wear? They'd been handing the t-shirts out free at the admissions gate when we attended one of their games nearly twenty years ago. And if something's free, I want it whether I have any use for it, or not. I was much more financially conservative than my husband of nearly fifty years was, as was abundantly clear by the over-flowing basket of merchandise he was now pushing toward the check-out counter. All I'd purchased at the store was a two-dollar tube of lip balm with SPF-30 sun protection in it. I was more concerned about getting blisters on my lip than I was about catching a fish.
Rip and I had sold our home in Rockport about five years ago, when we were only sixty-three, and bought a thirty-foot travel trailer we had nicknamed the "Chartreuse Caboose" after we'd painted it that color with bright sunflowers on both sides to give it a little flair. Now we were full-time RVers, traveling the country and living the good life. Occasionally we'd stay in an RV park for several months and help out the campground owners for free rent, and occasionally a little cash, to boot. Other times we'd drive from place to place just enjoying the scenery and the open road.
But we were spending this entire winter back in our south Texas hometown on the Gulf so we could spend some time with our fifty-year-old daughter, Regina, and get to know her husband a little better. Also, we felt it would give Rip, with his new artificial hip, some much-needed time to recoup and recover in the warmer climate.
We'd found a nice site in a newer RV Park only a matter of blocks from Regina and Milo's home. Reggie, as we call her, and her husband, Milo Moore, were still newlyweds. They worked as a team, buying up properties that needed a little TLC, work which they hired out, and then selling the houses for a profit. They called it "flipping houses". Cooper Claypool was an old friend of Milo's, who'd first gotten him involved in the house-flipping business and had offered to take the three of us out on a fishing trip the following day while Reggie spent the day having her hair done and getting a manicure and pedicure at a local nail salon.
Despite the 'bite' the fishing equipment would take out of our budget, I was looking forward to the fishing excursion. Milo said we'd be launching the boat at the Little Bay boat ramp by Rockport Beach, and crossing the Intercoastal Waterway to fish in the shallow areas along a small piece of land called St. Jo Island, which was about six-and-a-half miles across the ship channel.
I walked toward Rip to join him at the check-out counter. I had resigned myself to the fact that even though our fishing excursion wouldn't come at a cheap price, it would no doubt be a memorable adventure. I was even getting excited at the prospect of landing a trophy fish that I could brag about at the bunko party I was planning to attend the following weekend.
As I approached Rip, his cell phone rang. After a few brief one-word responses to the caller, he ended the call and turned to me. He said, "We need to head straight to Reggie's house when we leave here. She's so riled up that I can't even make out what she's trying to tell me. I'm not sure what, but something has happened to upset her."
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