Back Of The Boat

On The Back Page With Daryl Gay, June 2017

Daryl Gay | June 1, 2017

There are better things to do in a boat than undergoing surgery.

Especially at the hands of a shaky semi-lunatic who can’t SPELL surgery. And whose eyes are just before rolling back up into his noggin at the sight of blood trickling down my neck.

Or maybe it’s the three sets of treble hooks he’ll be working around. On the bright side—yeah, right—at least there’s only one of the nine hooks to be sliced out. Of me.

How do I even get myself into these ridiculous situations?

Well, three guys in a jonboat is a good start. And you can just think of your own two best buds while asking the question: “If I’m sitting in the back, which one do I want in the middle?”

In case you’re not up to date on proper tri-seat jonboat crouching criteria, consider this: it’s easier for the other two of you to get the straightjacket on a crazed caster if the guy’s between you!

After all, there ain’t much wrasslin room in a 14-foot pond boat…

I’m in the back because it’s my boat and my trolling motor and I don’t trust the other two to get either of them home in one piece.

I ain’t exactly overcome with confidence in the would-be surgeon, either, but a fisherman’s gotta to do what a fisherman’s gotta do…

Besides, he’s probably the best knife sharpener I know, which means one of two things: he can easily and hopefully painlessly­­—for me, not him—whisk the hook from the thin sliver of skin…

Or I lose an ear.

You truly may be wondering how all this did come to pass. Pretty simple: an obese largemouth boiled the surface chasing a shad and three rods immediately charged front and center. And Middle Man’s backswing was fine; it was the forward motion that got a little out of whack, resulting in me wearing a lure.

And to really give my adrenalin a boost, it snugged with such force that the line popped like a pistol shot right beside my ear.

Which I’m now hopeful of having in its exact same spot once the lure has been extricated.

Middle Man is moping around expressing misery at having made such a monumental misdeed, moaning, “Hit me; just hit me. It’ll make me feel better.”

It’ll also probably break my hand; and besides, I don’t want to scare off any lunkers when he hits the water. Or have to fish him out later. I am thinking seriously of shooting and leaving him for the catfish, however…

I’ll have to give Upfront Guy kudos, though, because he came through like an audition for General Hospital. Pinched the hide, made one quick little nip, then poured ice-cold antiseptic, of a sort, over the spot as the lure fell away.

I’m still amazed that he didn’t pass out and fall into the lake, and that Middle Man sulled up like a possum and refused to fish the rest of the morning.

Which left more fish for the other two of us…

That episode was almost as memorable—not to mention traumatic—as another three-man episode, this one on Lake Blackshear. And all my fault.

Tell me: why is it that an outboard will crank every single time on the first starter bump—until you’re at the farthest end of the lake? I mean, I’m used to it in Ol’ Blue the Bronco, but you can’t exactly get out and push a boat fast enough to get it started.

And there ain’t no rolling downhill and popping the clutch…

This time I’m in the back because my friend’s boat has stick steering, and he’s up front. We also have a jester along to drop/heave anchors, hand the cricket box back and forth—who carries two?—add ballast and crack lame jokes.

The fish decide not to cooperate in this spot. But there’s a lot of spots on Blackshear. So let’s move.

Whhhirrburp. Whhhiiirrrrburp.

Times 10.

But the motor refuses to fire off. And as I’m closest to it, trouble-shooting falls to me.

I got it figured this way: keep spinning the motor, and we’re gonna have a dead battery. So stop. What I CAN do is squeeze the gas line bulb to be sure we’re getting fuel.

Check. Now try it. Same result.

And we have now run the gamut of my mechanical expertise!

Friend tries again, a couple more times, before the single word, “Connection” pops into my head.

Without asking myself why or having any type of semi-reasonable conversation with shipmates, I reach over to the battery and grab and attempt to twist the positive post wingnut with thumb and forefinger.

Presto! No thumbprint!

Ever smelt fried fanger?

The jester, who ostensibly was in place mostly to provide mirth, almost jumped over the side upon my initial screech. He later said sheepishly that he thought we’d been bummed. Which is redneck for bombed.

It would have been funny under most circumstances, but not when one’s fangers are on far.

The driver sorta slumped down in a near-faint, thinking there was no reason to waste energy and run because whatever it was already had him.

The motor? It obviously got its jollies, because it fired right up on the next key flip. And I rode back to the ramp hand in cooler.

Believe it or not, I’m leaving at 4 in the morning—headed to the coast with two great good friends. There’s a lot of water out there. “Apprehensive” is a good description of my state of mind. But this time, one thing’s sure: I’m sitting up front!

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