Have I ever told you guys the story of when my lovely mother planned a "Family Fishing Day"? No? Well, pull up a chair and sit a spell.
This story begins two and a half years ago. My parents were newcomers to the Ozarks, transplants from Southern California, and hadn't had the pleasure of one of our "balmy" winters. My youngest brother Greg was flying out to spend a week, my son and daughter-in-law had just moved here, and my nephew Nick was on leave from the army. For my family, this constituted an enormous gathering, and my mom was beside herself with joy. To celebrate, she decided that we, as a family, were going on an all day fishing extravaganza on the White River - the day after Thanksgiving.
This adventure is not for the financially challenged, and my folks are not the Trumps. Seven people, two jon boats, two guides = 665 clams, plus tips for the guides, plus out-of-state fishing licenses for Greg and Nick. Yowza.
Well, Mom set it up weeks in advance, and as the Great Family Event drew nearer, the thermometer plummeted. An arctic air mass settled over the Ozarks. Man, was it cold.
My 6'2" husband rebelled. "I'm not going! It's too damn cold!" I said "Yes. You. Are. My MOTHER has plotted and planned this for weeks! She will NEVER FORGIVE ME if you don't go!" He looked me dead in the eye and said "NO." So I said "YES YOU ARE, you big wimp!". He defiantly put his hands on his hips. "NO. NO means NO." Well, at that point I had to bring out the big guns. I batted my eyelashes at him and sweetly asked "So which couch are YOU sleeping on this week?" Heh. I win.
Next, I called my chiseled, then 25 year old son. He said "I'm not going! It's too damn cold!" I said "Yes. You. Are." He said "Uh uh. No way, Jose." I shreiked that he was a big scairdy-cat, and that his feeble old grandma was tougher'n he was. That worked.
My brother and nephew were easy, but when I called my dad, he of course said "I'm not going! It's too damn cold!" I said "But Dad! Everyone is going!" He replied with "Ha! Everyone but ME. Hmph." Oy. What could I do? He MADE me play the guilt card, I tell ya. "Oh Dad" forlorn sigh..."Mom's going to be so disappointed! I hope...I hope...oh, you don't think she'll cry, do you?" Like shootin' fish in a barrel.
Friday morning we gathered at the boat ramp to begin our Great Family Adventure. 7 AM. 28 degrees. Swirling winds. My teeth began chattering almost immediately. My mom gave me THE LOOK, so with a joyous smile frozen on my face, I pumped my arm in the air and squeaked "Woo-hoo! We're having fun now!" If looks could kill, I'd be a goner.
By eight o'clock, I was a barely breathing popsicle. When I tried to set my hook, tiny icicles tinkled where my nose hairs used to be. My nephew, convulsing and shivering, set his hook so hard the sinker sailed out of the water and clunked our guide right on the head. Ice shattered around the poor man's ear. He slowly looked around, paused, and quietly mumbled "Ouch". I think he was too numb to feel much.
In spite of the cold, I cannot describe how utterly breathtaking the White River is. The fishing was absolutely fantastic. We caught rainbows, browns, and cutthroats all day, one after another. And oh! How they fought! We kept the lunkers and released the smaller fish. (psst! a 'lunker' is a really big fish, in hillbilly lingo.)
At mid-day, we beached the boats. Have you ever heard the sound ice makes on a thawing lake? That's what my knees sounded like when I stood up. When you are frozen solid, you don't walk; you do a wrist-leading John Wayne shuffle.
Concerned about my mom's welfare, I helped her from her boat. "Mom, are you okay?" She answered "Mwagahobesheeska." I translated that as "I'm freezing my f*cking ass off, you moron!" But since I'm not supposed to know that my almost 70 year old mom occassionally says "f*ck", I answered with "Oh good! I'm so relieved! Come sit in my truck where it's warm!" I took her arm, and together we John Wayne shuffled across the boat launch. I could hear people laughing. Warm people. People with down-lined parkas, and earmuffs, and thermal socks. Bastids.
We may have been freezing cold that day, but the memories (and my mom's glowing smile) will keep us warm for many years to come.
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