It was a great fishing hole only a few blocks from our house in a suburb of Cincinnati. My dad was transferred by Ford from Detroit and we were all still getting used to having so much nature around. Crayfish and creeks were scarce in Detroit, but “craw-dads” were numerous in the “cricks” just down the street.
There was a reservoir and a public park that offered a ledge where we took our gear on Saturdays. I wasn’t having much luck but the kid next to me was. Searching for the rationalization for my poor angler skills, I noticed that the other seven year-old had something I didn’t. His bobber was red and white, while mine was yellow and orange. That had to be it. Apparently, the bass responded much better to the floating red plastic on the surface compared to the floating orange plastic on the surface. Forty-one years later, I still am searching for answers to what makes fish bite.
We were about to pack up our still unused stringer when I saw my chance. My rival was putting his fourth fish into his dad’s bucket and had foolishly placed his rod on the ground. I snatched the bobber and put it in my pocket.
As we walked down the path into the woods, I heard: “Hey, where’s my bobber?” I probably coughed or something to cover any more cries of injustice and picked up the pace.
The evidence stayed in my desk drawer for a few days but started gnawing at my conscience. I imagined the poor kid crying his eyes out to his dad and looking in the bushes and the lake desperately searching for his secret forty-nine cent weapon.
Finally, I had had enough. We were going to try fishing the next Saturday and I knew that if the kid were there he would see my guilt plainly on my face. So I did the only rational thing I could think of–I had to hide the evidence even better.
Our neighbors’ bushes behind our yard were immense. Probably 6 feet tall to my 4 feet. I stepped into the sandbox and launched the plastic as deep as I could into the mess of twigs.
Two days later, for the first time in twenty years, our neighbor trimmed the hedge and tossed the bobber into our sandbox–the logical place one would put a bobber in a bush. I saw the changed landscape from my bedroom window, ran down the hill and there it was, my crime staring accusingly at me.
Friday morning, I met my dad before he left for work and confessed my crime. “Forgive me father…” He must have done all he could to keep a straight face as I wandered across the moral intersection. He patted me on the shoulder, said he was proud of me for telling the truth and would do all he could to right my wrong. Relieved, I went back to bed–my soul nearly cleansed–but I needed to be sure.
When he came home a little later than normal he told me that he’d stopped off at the fishing spot and found the very boy. He handed him the bobber, explained that I was sorry and all was forgiven. My conscience was clear–even without any Our Fathers or Hail Marys.
Two years later, when my dad was transferred back to Detroit, he asked me to drive to work and help him clean out his office. I was in charge of emptying his desk into boxes.
I heard it roll before I saw it–but I knew what it was, like Jacob Marley coming up the stairs.
“Dad!” I screamed, “You said you gave this back to the boy.”
Without missing a beat, he lied beautifully,
“Oh, that’s a gift from a customer.”
Some salesmen get bottles of scotch. Others get golf vacations. My dad received fishing tackle. I pushed reality aside, took the corporate gift and went fishing one more time before we moved back to Michigan.