So, first: I totally have permission to tell this story. In fact, I was even encouraged. About two weeks ago, Paul and I went fishing. We were trying a new place very close to the Mississippi River. We parked the car and started walking. It was a surprisingly hot day for October. I had my big tote and Paul’s fish cooler. Paul had his backpack, his fishing rod and a little pail with minnows. We hadn’t ever fished at this place, but we had talked to a ranger the day before that said that there were some man-made ponds that they used to use to raise fish. Now they were naturalizing the ponds and stocking them with pan fish. Even better, there were several men who told us they had caught northerns in the river. So, to get to the ponds, we walked down this long hill. When we got to the bottom the path forked, and we saw the ponds. The problem with the first pond was that the banks had very steep inclines. The first one wasn’t so much a lake as a large square ditch. It made me a little nervous he would fall in. The water wasn’t clear and I had no idea how deep it was. Paul tried to fish, but no luck. Then we walked a little further and found a dock at the next pond. This was kind of nice because it had a bench I could sit on. Again, he didn’t catch anything. Finally, we decided we had enough trying with no luck and turned back to go to the car. Now, keep in mind, we had walked a long way and he had gear in both hands. It was laundry day and he was wearing his last clean pair of pants. They were a little large for him and they kept on falling down. I mean really falling down around his ankles. He would stop, put down all his gear and pull up his pants. He started to get really frustrated with his pants. I said, “Just take them off already. It’s a hot day and there is no one around.” He had boxer shorts underneath. I didn’t really believe he would because he is not really that kind of person. He is very modest. I mean, he wore long pants all summer long. He even wore a hoodie for much of the summer. But he stopped, looked around and took off his pants. I mean sort of, they were already half way off. Then, of course, being the kind of mother I am, I had to tease him, ” Now watch, a pretty girl is going to come.” He said, “Mom, there is a girl walking this way right now.” I looked back and there was a girl walking toward us. She stopped and turned back then walked forward again, then back. “She’s freaked out by your boxers, Paul,” I told him. We were both laughing.
I was thinking that we would just walk back to the car, but as we walked back we saw an access to the river. Sure enough, there were the fishermen. Paul said, “I have to try it here.” There was a steep incline toward the river. I knew we weren’t going to be there very long so I said I would wait on the road for him. He bounded down the hill in his boxers, fishing rod in one hand and little ice cream bucket with minnows in the other. And wiped out. Mud all over him, minnows everywhere. I have to give him credit. I would have just come back and said, well, that’s it. My bait’s on the ground, I’m covered with mud, and I don’t have any pants on. Let’s call it a day. But not Paul. His determination was not diminished by challenges. He got up picked up all of his minnows and put them back in the little bucket. He marched over the shore. He went to each fisherman in turn per the fishermen’s protocol and asked them if they had caught anything yet. Then, he stood on the shore of mighty Mississippi and casted in his underwear.
Now, what do you think happened? If this was a story with a moral, he would have caught a huge fish. No, such luck. He caught no fish. But I have to say I was proud of him. He had such self-possession and confidence. And the girl who was acting so strangely? It turns out she was an artist, and was walking back and forth to find the best view. Paul stopped on the way out (still in his underwear) to talk to her and see her painting.