The Fathers Day Reel That Never Caught A Fish


A few nights ago, I thought about “Father’s Day.” I often wake in the wee hours, which are my most fruitful time to contemplate the state of the world. Things such as, did I forget to water my veggie garden or put the trash bin out for collection. The small items require as much thought as the big ones.

The restaurants will be packed to the limit this coming Sunday, and Bass Pro Shop and Amazon will be working overtime until Saturday night. But, of course, it wasn’t always this way.

Like Mother’s day, it wasn’t an official government-sanctioned holiday until the 70s, although the American public has recognized the special day since 1910.

During the second world war, it gained ground because the retailers figured out how to make a few extra bucks by plucking our heartstrings with schmaltzy advertising. As a result, hallmark has sold Billions of cards, and American retailers continue to milk this golden cash cow dry.

Around our house in the 1950s, “Father’s Day” wasn’t considered an extravaganza. My Dad mowed the yard or made repairs on our home, Mom made him a special meatloaf with cornbread, and my sister and I gave him our homemade construction paper cards. Sometimes, he received a gift, but not often. One year Mom purchased a fancy fishing lure for us to give him. Large shiny treble hooks and feathers were sure to make any fish want a bite. Another year, a nice shirt and a pair of fishing sneakers. He never expected much because money was always tight, and folks of his generation weren’t wired like they are now.

In 1969, I gave my Dad a Garcia saltwater fishing reel for ” Father’s Day.” Captian Rick Corn, who owned the Sports Center in Port Aransas, gave me a “poor boy’s” deal, or I could have never afforded such a gift. It was a beautiful bright red and chrome reel, nestled into a padded black leather case. Unfortunately, it was too pretty to use. The saltwater would tarnish the colors and the shining chrome within a few weeks. Then it would be like our other working reels.

For years to come, during our fishing trips into the Gulf, I noticed he never put the reel on a pole. He said it would be a shame to lose it overboard like we had a few others when a 40lb King Fish hits our bait at light speed, and the rod escapes the holder and goes flying into the water. He kept it locked in the storage closet of our family beach house. So I forgot about the reel for many years.

My father passed away in 1996. So when my sister and I sold the beach house in 2001, I ran across the reel in the storage closet; it had never been on a pole. It was as shining and beautiful as it was the day I gave it to him.

Years ago, I passed the reel on to my youngest son, Wes. He knows the family story behind the reel.

He and his family live on South Padre Island, just a short drive from Port Aransas. His home is on a canal that leads to the Gulf. His Blue Wave fishing boat moored to his dock behind his home. As of yet, I have not seen the reel on his rods, so I will assume he treasures the 52-year-old reel as my father did, by not risking its loss in the Gulf. One day, he may pass it on to my grandson, and perhaps he will catch a record-breaking Kingfish with that reel.

“A Beach Day in Texas, 1969”


Port Aransas 1969

The beach in Port Aransas around 1967

I first published this story almost a year ago. My good friend Danny asked me to republish it because it’s one of his favorites. I have added a picture of the beach in Port Aransas from around 1967. The guy in the foreground carrying the longboard is Pat Magee, a local resident who won many surfing championships and opened his own surf shop in Port A around 1968. Any day in the summer during the late 60s, there would be a line of vans and cars two deep parked between the pier and the South jetty, since that was the favorite surf spot. I was fortunate to have been a part of that.

The hint of daylight gives enough lumination for me to find my way down the steep steps of my family’s beach house. Grabbing my surfboard, wax, and a few towels, I load my supplies into the back of the old Army jeep and leave for the beach. The old vehicle takes time to wake up, and it sputters down E Street, doing its best to deliver me to the water’s edge.

Port Aransas is quiet this morning. Fisherman and surfers are the only souls moving on the small island.

As I drive to the beach, taking the road through the sand dunes near the jetty, the morning dew on the metal surface of the jeep, pelts me like fine rain. The salt air is heavy and I can see the cloud of mist rising from the surf long before I reach the water. The seats are cold on my bare back and legs. The vehicle lacks a windshield, allowing bugs to hit my face and chest. Texas is a buggy place. That’s a fact we live with.

I park near the pier and see that two of my friends Gwen and Gary are kneeling in the sand, waxing their boards. I am usually the first to arrive but today they beat me by a few minutes. I join them in the preparation. We are quiet. This will be a good morning and making small talk might interfere with our zone.

The Gulf of Mexico is glassy and clear. The swell is four feet, with a right break. We enter as a group of three and paddle out past the second sand bar.

Sitting on my surfboard, I see the first half of the sun rising over the ocean and feel the warmth on my upper body. A tanker ship is a few miles offshore. The smoke from its stack gives us a point to paddle to.

Today will be hot, and by noon, these beautiful waves will evaporate into a slushy shore break full of children on foam belly boards. But this morning, the three of us are working in concert with our beloved Gulf.

We ride for hours. The ocean is feisty this morning. The waves are doing their best to beat us, but we show them who the boss is. The beach fills with other surfers, and now the line-up is crowded,, and we ride into shore. Gary and Gwen leave, and I make my way home to go fishing with my father. The Kingfish await.

Gary and Gwen are gone now and have been for some time. Gary lost in Vietnam, and Gwen from an auto accident the next summer on his way to the island. If they were still here, I would like to think that we would have kept in touch and shared our surfing stories around a good glass of bourbon at Shorty’s Bar. Three old men telling lies.

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