“Here is no sentiment, no contest, no grandeur, no economics. From the sanctity of this occupation, a man may emerge refreshed and in control of his own soul. He is not idle. He is fishing, alone with himself in dignity and peace.” — John Steinbeck.
Oh yeah? Obviously, Mr. Steinbeck is mercifully unacquainted with the pro bass fishing tour. The tour pits grown men against fish that have a brain smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. It’s a highly competitive sport (?). There’s the contest. Fisherpeople zoom around formerly placid lakes in $70,000 glittery-painted boats equipped with more GPS and terrain-finding gear than a 747, the speed of which they approach while zooming. There’s the grandeur. Prize money runs into the tens of thousands of dollars. There’s the economics.
As for the rest of it, Mr. Steinbeck has just as obviously never been fishing with my parents. About nine months ago, I described to a disbelieving reading public the stuff my parents haul along when they go fishing. It includes, and I am not making this up, two bowls, one exclusively for washing off the worms, and two towels, one for grasping any fish benighted enough to eat a freshly scrubbed worm (see note on fish brain size above) and one for drying my mother’s hands. No one emerges from this expedition refreshed. No one is in control of his own soul. They are barely in control of the boat. Dignity and peace? When there is a long-married couple engaged in backing up a boat trailer and launching the vessel? If I were a divorce lawyer, I would save the cost of office rental and just set up a small kiosk at any public boat dock.
A person has to take a test to get a driver’s license. Ditto with a pilot’s license. You have to take a test to become a life guard, a policeman, or a fire fighter. Even though the repercussions are at least as dire, a person does not have to take a test to get married (or to be a presidential candidate for that matter). I would like to propose any prospective couple be required to work together backing a boat into the water before being granted permission to wed.
Nothing tests marital harmony like one spouse standing out on the ramp, telegraphing all manner of hand signals while the other spouse, inside the vehicle, yanks the steering wheel first one way and then the other, telegraphing all manner of swear words and a special hand signal of his own. At our house, we call the outside person the monback, as in “C’mon back.” We call the inside person highly frustrated. Amongst much else, there is the issue of my left or right versus his left or right. It’s comedy well-disguised as a potential murder as well as a thorough test of the truck’s brakes.
Steve and I have owned boats our entire marriage. The first one was a sad, sodden wooden craft that threatened to ooze moisture while sitting on dry land. We tried to give it a Viking funeral but it was so water-logged it would barely burn. The second was a tin fishing boat in which we spent many happy hours. Wish we had that one back. The third was a nice shiny boat suitable for all water sports, skiing and fishing and cruising. The salesman filled us in on all the finer nuances of this boat’s features: the motors (two!), the seat configuration, the built-in cooler, and the electrical system. He told us the exact name of the paint in the event we wanted to do a little touch-up job. He told us how to re-wire the trailer to suit our needs. He told us how to run the trolling motor with the foot control (badly, in my case). He told us every little detail except that the boat had, instead of the usual two, a grand total of four plugs. You know, the plugs that keep the water on the outside of the boat. We had only two of those gaping holes plugged and were so disappointed that our brand new glossy over-equipped boat was such a dog in the water. Kayakers were passing us, leaving us in their double-paddled wake. We figured it out about the time the water was up to our ankles.
Now if we could just figure out a test for those presidential candidates.
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for the Sidney Daily News, Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.