THE TALE OF MOBY PICK PART ONE
About the closest I ever came to living like Huck Finn was my summer days at Lake Lenape. It’s this small lake up in north Jersey. My grandparents had an old log cabin there overlooking the water and the mountain across the way. Shoes were frowned upon at the lake. Barefoot was considered high fashion. I think my uncle Don even got me a straw hat. I wore it a lot, especially when I went fishing. Most of Granddads old fishing poles were made of bamboo and the bait of choice was worms.
Granddad and I had a secret worm patch out in the woods. It was a few yards off the road along one of the creeks that fed the lake. It was a small patch of topsoil all stirred up with coffee grounds and dead leaves. We’d sneak over there with a tin can and a small weeding fork in hand. Two minutes later we’d have a can full of night crawlers ready to rumble. Granddad would stick some more coffee grounds in the soil and I’d cover the patch with leaves. We’d then sneak out of the woods unseen by worm poachers and hop in the car and drive off. It was a secret patch. I still know where it is but, I’m sworn to secrecy. I took an oath to never reveal its location. The worms now live in peace there. It’s only right.
Granddad had a big wooden row boat. It was just a foot or two smaller than the Titanic. Every spring, before we’d put it in the water, we’d turn it upside down on saw horses. Then, we’d caulk the seams and scrape the paint till the sides were smooth. We’d dab on a new coat of Navy Grey boat paint and, she was ready for sea duty. We’d flip her right side up and grease the oar locks. My Uncle Don would break an empty beer bottle on the bow and, she’d slip into the lake ready for yet another summer at sea.
Kapok swim vests were standard issue to all kids under fourteen. I was the oldest at ten years old so, that meant all kids wore vests. These were the ones that had those awful straps that dug into your crotch. After a bit the pain would shift from your crotch to your fanny crack and then your armpits. The floating pads scraped at your chest and waist something awful especially if you had a bad sunburn. I guess it was better than drowning. I guess.
Granddad said it was ok for me to go out fishing by myself. I had passed all the required seamanship tests. I could steer forward and reverse. I had dead stop down pat. I knew my port from my starboard so, I was cleared for solo in the twelve foot craft. I also knew to stay clear of the dam if water was going over the spillway. I got to say, I loved having Granddads trust. He loved that boat with all his heart and yet, it was ok with him for me to go out in it. Boy, that was cool of Granddad.
So, one day I’m out in the lake about fifty yards off shore in water depth of two fathoms. I was trying my hand at spin casting and getting some pretty good throws. I believe I was using a green and chrome small spoon lure. I had the pole with the heavy pound rating filament line. I figured that I had caught enough sunfish. The worms needed a break and, so the lure would do. The game fish were jumping. It was going to be them against me. Funny, but I thought I saw a fish out of the corner of my eye do a wild jump. It happened so fast but, I thought it seemed to hang in the air and actually look around at the scene above the water line. On the second jump, I think it actually made eye contact with me. It sure was a big fish. I didn’t see any more leaps but, there was a kind of funny feel to the lake all of a sudden.
I sat there thinking. Gee wouldn’t Granddad go nuts if I brought home a fish like that. He’d probably get the head stuffed and we’d eat the rest for breakfast all month. Wow! There I’d be in the family photo album grabbing this huge fish by the gills. There’d be no other photos on that page. It’d be just me and that fish. Grinning at the camera.
The bottom of the rowboat felt warm on my bare feet as I rechecked the knot on my lure. Everything checked out. I thought I saw a large v shaped slow moving wake of the starboard stern. That big one was circling the boat. I hit the cast button on my reel and prepared for my best shot. I whipped the rod just as hard as I could aiming for a few feet ahead of the wake. This was going to be tricky.
The lure hit the oar handle and got stuck. “Crud”, I muttered under my breath. I reached for the oar handle. Boy, that hook was stuck. I reached for my needle nose pliers. I didn’t see the wake approaching from behind at ramming speed.
Remember that scene in Twenty Thousand Leauges Under the Sea? You know, where Captain Nemo is ramming that dynamite ship. Well, that’s sort of what I saw coming my way. There was this approaching wake with a dorsal fin in the middle, off the port bow aiming to hit right at the port oar lock. The water parted about ten feet off port and, all I saw was teeth and fish sailing out form the deep and breeching into the air. I found myself looking down the mouth of a green stripped three foot pickerel. It hissed at me just before its evil head dove into the water. It seemed to take at least an hour for its whole body to loop back into the depths. I think there was a one legged doll stuck to its side. It looked like the doll was tangled up in fishing line and stuck to the behemoths flank. The doll gurgled “Mama!”