Fishin’ Wives

Garry's Outdoor Kicks and Grins - July 2018

Garry Bowers | July 10, 2018

My lifelong friend and fishing buddy Ducky Jones and I were on his patio a couple of weeks ago enjoying some beverages. As is the habit of outdoorsmen when imbibing, our conversation turned toward the inane. We were creating names for groups of fishermen. We had just come up with a “cast” of bass anglers and a “dangle” of cane-polers, which, under the circumstances, were hilarious to us, when Ducky’s wife appeared. When Ducky saw her approaching, continuing our game, he whispered, “A backlash of ex-wives,” and we giggled.

Now, Ducky has had more wives than Clint Eastwood has had gunfights. Consequently, I address all of them as “Darlin” so as not to call one by the wrong name. This day, I said, “Hello Darlin,”and inexplicably added, “Nice to see you,” before I realized the spirit of Conway Twitty had invaded my psyche. I stopped before I added, “It’s been a long time.”

Thank goodness I live in the Deep South. In California, a man can’t call a woman darlin’ because they have declared that condescending and sexist. Pretty soon, nobody on the West Coast will be allowed to speak for fear of offending someone or being sued for sexual harassment.

Anyway, she asked, in a Southern Belle drawl simply dripping with magnolias and honey, what we were talking about. Ducky and I said simultaneously… “Fishing.”

“Of co-us you ah,” she replied.

I could listen to her talk all day. A native Southern girl can tell you to go to the devil in such a way that you look forward to the trip.

She continued, “Y’all know, I jest looooove t’ fish.”

At this, Ducky snorted.

“Yeah, she just loves to fish. As long as she doesn’t have to touch live bait, tie on a lure, cast more than 3 feet, land a fish or unhook it. It’s like someone who says they love to play football but won’t put on a uniform, run, block, tackle or touch the ball.”

Needless to say, Darlin’ took umbrage with that statement, said, “Humph!” and departed the veranda, julep in hand, probably to retire to the drawing room of the big house.

You begin to see why Ducky has had so many wives. It has been worse. One of his “early” ones did not fish, did not like to fish and did not like Ducky to fish. And I don’t think she liked Ducky. Those facts were no hindrance to his judgement, however. On their first Valentine’s Day, he asked me what I thought would be an appropriate gift for Mary (Maria? Marie?). I told him to get her some jewelry. He bought two matching in-line spinnerbaits, crimped the barbs on the treble hooks and presented them to her as a set of pierced earrings. She didn’t like them much.

Her birthday rolled around, and again he came to me for advice. I told him to get Marion (Maryanne? Marilyn?) something real expensive. He bought her a $450 baitcasting reel. She threw it at him. Christmas came, and for some reason he solicited my advice yet again. I could see a pattern developing, so I emphasized he should buy Marilee (Marley? Martha?) something nice for the house.

He got a topographical map of his favorite lake, had it enlarged and framed, suitable for hanging, which, incidentally, she tried to do to him. He did not have to buy her anymore gifts, as she was gone by New Years.

My wife loves to fish, too, and though she is a lot like Darlin’ in the skill category, I never complain. She was the head chef at a seafood restaurant for years, and she can clean a bass and cook a gourmet meal with it before I can find the filet knife. So I overlook the fact that only she and a 6-year-old can manage to get their line tied in a square knot around the middle eye of the rod just removing it from the truck.

Or the fact that she can never remember to put the stopper back in the cricket cage. “Look at all the crickets on the ground, honey. Why do we have to buy them when you can just pick them up here around your feet?”

But my situation has been worse. Many years ago, I had a girlfriend who had never fished a day in her life. Of course, she noticed I lived and breathed bass fishing and wanted to participate. I taught her how to cast in the backyard with a Zebco and a practice plug. I regaled her with tales of my bass fishing prowess and patiently explained that even with my experience, the biggest bass I had ever caught only weighed 8 pounds, so she should not expect any miracles her first time out.

We went to a local farm pond one day, and I tied on a spinnerbait for her because it required no presentation skills. Just cast it out and reel it in. Five minutes later she hung, played and somehow landed a bass I immediately knew exceeded 10 pounds. She was beaming and jumping up and down.

“How big is it? How big is it?” she squealed.

I frowned thoughtfully and hefted it up and down a little.

“About 3 pounds,” I mused and quickly released it.

I broke up with her the next day.

Another very temporary girlfriend I had went to a small private lake with me one summer afternoon. In the course of 15 minutes, she slammed the car trunk on a $200 worm rod, flipped the latch on the tackle box and then picked it up, and then she literally threw her rod and reel out into the water on an overhead cast. And she never quit smiling. She then got out a blanket and a box of fried chicken. She batted her eyes and said, “It’s so secluded out here, why don’t we have a little picnic?”

I told her I had a headache and took her home.

Now, before some wild-eyed feminist starts screeching like a cat caught in a wood chipper about male chauvinism and starts organizing boycotts and protest marches, let me hastily add that there are myriads of women out there who can fish circles around me. They can tie an improved cinch knot in half the time I can. They can fish a baitcaster all day without a single bird’s nest. And they can actually detect a strike on a Carolina rig. It’s just that the women with whom Ducky and I have been involved have not always fit into our world of fishing.

And we love fishing. And we love our women. But it is quite impossible to reconcile the two. I am reminded of the time I took my adolescent grandson to the doctor so he could get a severe case of hemorrhoids treated. On the way, I grinned and asked what he would do if the doctor gave him one of those 2-inch suppositories.

He said, “I guess I’ll just have to close my eyes and swallow it.”

I guess we will too.

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