Sitting on the end of the dock, I was unknowing that my future wife had probably sat on that same dock at some point.
Uncle Monte usually kept worms in the fridge, but sometimes there was just a pile of dirt, and the extra bacon and corn from the last meal would find its place on my hook.
I was around 6 or 7 years old, and my rig was nothing special — a 24″ Fisher Price pole — cheap black plastic, with red accents. Any kind of beast in the murky lake could snap it in half with enough will power.
Suddenly a bite. Out went the slack in my line. I’d imagine that the surprise of success, paired with the strength of the beast below, was nearly enough to pull me into the chilled lake.
My mom, sitting with her legs around me grabbed ahold. Calmly and with a big grin on her face she reeled in our captive. The reel, as it turned out, was not designed for this level of work. The flimsy plastic gears clicked and popped, the hollow rod creaked and turned shades of white under the stress.
Eventually the monster was close and just under the murky surface. You could almost see the fear in his eyes as he broke into the air. Much larger than I could have imagined, he measured a whopping 18-inches or so. A smooth bass with lots of vigor.
While my mother filled with pride, I filled with curiosity, as anyone who knows me would expect. I rubbed his slippery skin. Investigated how his dorsal fin was sharp when you touched it the wrong way, but harmless when you pushed it down. It gasped an flapped against the weathered boards of the dock.
By now, Aunt Ferrell had brought out the Kodak. We captured the moment. I’m not sure if we returned the catch to live another day or if, like many others, he was doomed to the dinner plate.
It’s one of my most vivid memories of my childhood, and one of the only pictures of my mom that I willingly display on my wall at home.