Gone Fishin' : Fisherman welcomes the return of mission control
I have nothing to say about fishing. Not a word to report. I have not been fishing and can pass on no firsthand information.
I have spent the last week feverishly raking dirt, digging dirt, cutting vegetation, watering everything in sight, vacuuming (not so much of that) and sweating, mostly sweating. I had lots of projects to accomplish in a short span of time.
On Sunday my wife and daughter return from a five-week adventure in New York City. This is very good news for Oscar the goldfish, Tashmoo the dog, and me the husband.
Some people thought the absence of my wife, Norma, meant I would spend lots of time fishing. That was not the case.
The astronauts would be lost without mission control. In my house and the house of many fishermen, the wife is mission control (Lela Gilkes is the equivalent of Gene Kranz the head of mission control in Apollo 13). Wives are the support system.
I took a young friend out fishing during the VFW Fluke Derby. He and I were a team. I told his mom I would attend to sandwiches.
The morning of the tournament I prepared sandwiches with the only ingredients in my refrigerator. Our day's rations were cream cheese and bacon sandwiches.
Some chef in a fancy California eatery could probably pass off bacon and cream cheese as new American cuisine, but had my wife been home there is no way she would have let me feed that kid such a concoction. Mission control would have made sure we had roast beef or turkey.
Norma has been in New York looking after our daughter while she attended a summer theater program for teens. That left me on my own.
Ask a fisherman if he appreciates his wife, and unless he has already engaged a divorce lawyer, he will say yes. We think we appreciate our wives, and our wives all think we do not, or at least not to the degree that we should.
Photo by Nelson Sigelman
It is not easy being married to a fisherman. Over the course of our married life my wife has found a striped bass in the bathtub surrounded by ice, live eels in the refrigerator vegetable bin and dead, decomposing and reeking eels in the basement.
My wife no longer agrees to attend any social event if I will be fishing prior to the engagement. Past experience has shown her that I am not to be trusted when I say I will be home in plenty of time to get ready.
I knew her summer absence meant an adjustment. I know how to operate the washing machine and dryer, run the vacuum and iron a shirt (not that I tried, and my wardrobe reflected it). And I am perfectly capable of going shopping for myself. It had just been a while, and my timing was off.
The first week Norma was gone I kept forgetting that I needed to stop at the store. When a married guy says he had eggs for dinner, it is a pretty good indication that his wife is away.
With Norma gone, my responsibilities included her goldfish, Oscar, and our very old Lab, Tashmoo. Oscar did not need a lot of tending, a few sprinkles of dried bait every few days and occasional water replenishment.
Tashmoo is another story. Tashmoo's life revolves around his dog bowl and his bladder. And Labs, in addition to their many wonderful qualities, can tell time.
Tashmoo knows when it is time to eat. That meant I needed to be home at 7 am, and I needed to be home at 5 pm. That put a crimp in any boating plans.
Luckily the heat and humidity kept Tashmoo in a flatline stupor that allowed me an hour or so on the upper end of his schedule.
Although Tashmoo has eaten the same dry, brown pellet-like food his entire life, he reacts to every meal as though it were his first. My menu was more varied.
One of my assigned tasks while Norma was away was to eat items from our basement freezer that had missed the household rotation and had a date ending in 06 or 07. These are the kinds of things husbands are good at.
Fishermen are very good at living off the land (convenience store and take-out establishments). Years ago, before I was married, I survived during the Derby on pizza slices and candy bars.
Cooking for one creates logistical challenges. For me it was the vegetable. To solve the problem, I substituted those one-serving plastic containers of applesauce that come in eight-packs and have a shelf life similar to plutonium.
The absence of my wife and teenage daughter did mean I had complete control over the television and could watch shows that begin with a warning that some material might not be suitable for all audiences and provide dramatic scenes of animals, fish and people eating other animals, fish and people, or any combination.
One evening I watched Michael Caine and Jack Hawkins battle an army of Zulu warriors - probably the tenth time I have seen the film "Zulu." Norma would have had something to say about that.
I could have spent the past five weeks fishing in my spare time. Norma expected that.
When Norma returns on Sunday she will find a small stone retaining wall in place of an eroding bank and weeds. She will find a small patio in place of weeds that passed for a lawn. And she will find a bluestone driveway newly expanded so my boat will not be in the way.
That required removing one of her flowerbeds. I know that will be a surprise.
I look forward to fishing. Mission control is back.
Happy and adrift
I spoke to mission control at Coop's Saturday. Lela said Coop was offshore with Donny Benefit, a commercial fisherman. Also on board were Peter Jackson and Justin Pribanic.
By all accounts it was a very successful trip that included mahi-mahi, and yellowfin and bluefin tuna. When I spoke to Coop on Sunday, he was still recovering from an epic battle that was quite unexpected.
A fish of giant proportions hit one of the rods. The first assumption was a big bluefin. It was blue, but it was not a tuna, it was a blue marlin, a first for Coop.
Coop said it took him about two and half hours to get the fish to the boat. Donny estimated it was 11.5 feet long.
When Coop had the fish at the boat, he told Donny he would really like to let it go. "Can you eat it?" asked Donny.
"No, not really," said Coop.
After the men returned to shore, Donny delivered the catch to the fish market. In the case was blue marlin. Coop explained the fish was just too beautiful to kill.