When I was young, and I’m talking about pre-teen years here, I spent a good number of my weekends on Dauphin Island, AL. These were “visitation weekends” with my dad’s first wife (AKA: Adopted mom) and her boyfriend, whom we all affectionately called “Bucky.” Most of the time, my brother was not with us because he was usually
incarcerated, I mean, um, somewhere else for the time being and so I was usually by myself.
At the time, my mother lived in a tiny bungalow that they had renovated. It had no central heat nor A/C, and in the winter, we all huddled around a small gas heater for warmth, and in the summer, we sweltered under ceiling fans. If we got lucky, every now and then a cool breeze from my mom’s room a/c would waft up into the loft where we slept. To this day, I cannot sleep hot and I suspect this has a lot to do with it (or so my the-rapist says)
Now, Bucky was/is an interesting fellow. Personally, he’s always been friendly to me and frankly, he probably put up with more than a lot of guys would. Of course, he also benefited from living off the alimony my dad was paying my mom at the time, but the point is, the guy isn’t dumb. He never said much, but what he did say was usually peppered with dry wit and one of the main things I remember about him, was his singing drinking songs to us during the long car rides from Mobile over to the Island. Despite being a functioning near-alcoholic at night, during the day, he retrofits nuclear power plants with computerized systems. Pretty impressive for a guy whom my dad’s second wife called, “One of the biggest drug dealers on the east coast.” She got this secondhand from a neighbor. Whatever.
I dunno. What I DO know, is that most weekends when I was at the Island, I would wake up at the butt-crack of dawn, tippy-toe out the door (sometimes, if I was feeling magnanimous, I would turn the coffee pot on as I left), walk about three blocks down the street to the 7-11 where I purchased a small container of bait shrimp. Or, if he opened early enough, I’d go into “Patronas'” seafood shop and purchase $1 worth of bait shrimp. Mr. Patronas was a great big (fat) guy who ran a pier-side seafood warehouse. Literally, the scrimp boats would pull up to his pier and sell him all their cargo. So, the man had some seriously fresh stuff. Most of the times that I went into his place, it was dark and he could be found sitting in a butcher’s smock on a bar stool watching TV while his crew scurried around. The place was all stainless steel and ice and he employed standing fans at either side of the room to push the smell around so that it wasn’t overwhelming after coming in from the Alabama heat. He was never outwardly friendly, but I seemed to notice that whenever he got me my shimp himself, I always seemed to come out better.
(On a side note, later, I went to school with his nephew and he and I ended up being best friends, though I didn’t know about the relation until much later. This is coincidental considering I went to school probably 60 miles from the Island.)
But the great thing about Mr. Patronas’ seafood shop was that he’d toss all his crap seafood off the pier into the water.
SHA-ZAM! Instant fishing buffet!
So there I stood, many a weekend, with my little fishing pole and my bait shrimp catching whatever it was that came to feed off the smorgasbord of junk seafood on the ocean floor. Most times, I’d catch little 6-8″ catfish, but often I’d catch crab, sunfish and the occasional something I couldn’t identify. But most times it was catfish. Over the years, I developed a tried and true method of getting the catfish off the hook without getting poked by their little poisonous fins (the fins wouldn’t hurt you, but they stung like hell and then itched for hours later). What I’d do is, let out a little bit of line and let the catfish dangle. Then, I’d start winding him up like a slingshot…just let the little feller whirl there on the end of my fishing pole and then I’d SMACK, hit him against the water! Usually, it took two smacks to stun the catfish so that I could take him off the hook without him wriggling around.
It was good times. In fact, it was the only thing I looked forward to on my visitation weekends. It’s also probably one of the only real things I miss about my old stomping grounds. We don’t have much fishing here in Atlanta, and certainly no salt-water fishing. So, I must say I’m looking forward to that aspect of this beach trip this weekend. We’ll be staying at a condo that’s right next to a marina with piers going out a bit into the bay. I’m hoping to impart some of my fishing enthusiasm on MLI and maybe even MLE if we can keep him from jumping in while we’re not looking.
Making memories–that’s what vacations are all about right? I’m going to try and keep that in mind for the 8 hours that we’re in the car on Saturday!