Casting a Line. Catching a Day.
My vacation week was coming to a close when Zero and I headed out for our final morning hike along the bay. We approached the private 20 yards of sandy beach along our route to see the silhouette of a man standing on the bank. We stopped for a chat after a welcoming "Good Mornin'” rang out from the beach. The middle aged man with the salt and pepper beard stood next to a tall white bucket as he cast his line in half way across the creek. After walking down to the beach, I introduced Zero and myself. “I’m Herbert”, the stranger said as he held his hand out to shake. “Nice to meet you”. We spent the next couple of minutes chatting about just how beautiful the morning was. He told me that “he'd lived here all his life ‘cept for the four years I served in the United States Marine Corps. I comes here every day to fish. I love this place." It was then that I remembered seeing his bucket and pole from a hike earlier in the week.
I glanced into his bucket. It was filled about a third of the way with croaker from his morning catch. We talked a little more before the nibble on the end of his line became a bite. Herbert reeled in another. Handling the dancing catch to unhook it, he shared with me that there was very little movement on the water because the tide was in. He then casts his line again. When the weight hit the water just about halfway across again, there was a distinct plop sound. He told me the deepest area was just about where he tossed his line. "How deep is it?” I asked. "Ohhhh, it's real deep out there,” he said. "I'm none too sure how deep it is in the middle, but if you walk just a few steps off the bank here, it falls off real quick… way over your head."
As we stood there talking, I remembered how my father used to love to fish and how he would prepare his fresh catch with a clean and precise filet knife. I asked Herbert if he filleted his fish. “Oh no” he replied. I just cuts 'em down the back and pan fry 'em till they’re lightly brown. That's all I do." Hoping to learn a few of his secrets, I asked if he used cornmeal with an egg batter. He was quick to answer. "Just a little cornmeal... and some salt, and pepper", Herbert replied. “That’s all.”
As we stood on the bank beside him, I asked Herbert if he'd mind if I took his picture. "No sir", he said with a grin, "I don't mind at all". While focussing the camera, Herbert reminded me again that the tide was in. "It'll be better fishin' after 4 o'clock or so. But I'm hopin' I'll be havin' a fish fry by then." We both laughed, but I'm willing to bet he did exactly as he was hoping for.
Not wanting to take too much of his time, I thanked him and left him to his fishing as we headed back up the bank to the trail. Herbert replied with a wave, a thank you, and for my pup and I to have a good day. "Nice pup", he said as he tossed his freshly baited hook with squid to his sweet spot in the middle of the creek again.
Reaching our path, Zero and I picked up our pace along the sun sparkled trail through the woods. I thought about just how much I enjoyed talking to Herbert and how happy I was to have taken the time to meet him. And though it normally never crosses my mind to wonder or even care, I think he enjoyed talking to me as well. There's so much to be learned from unplanned and happenstance events. Never once did our conversation lean towards what we do for a living, who we know, or what we believe in or not. It was just a sincere conversation of hellos.
It was clear that Herbert didn't need much to enjoy his day... just a fishing pole, some water, and a bucket. All to often, time has an incredible way of moving awfully fast. Some days are even quicker than that. But if you’re lucky, you have a few that move as slow as the tide.
Thank you, Herbert. I enjoyed the catch.