W rong Willie and I sweltered in the July heat.
I wiped sweat and squinted through the bright sunlight to see Jerry Wayne and Doc in the other boat half a football field away. “So tell me again why we’re sitting out here in the sun, under a cloudless sky, without shade, when we could be under a tree somewhere having a cold one.”
He dug in the cooler and pulled out a dripping can. “You’re the one who wanted to go fishing.”
“I was thinking of sitting under the cover on Doc’s dock, or maybe under some big sweet-smelling sycamores on a creek bank with a cane pole.”
“Well, I have this boat I wanted to use.”
“A boat’s nothing but a hole in the water that you pitch money in. You know, if you’d sell this thing, we can travel around and hire guides with their own boats to take us places.”
“But I want to use my own.”
“Do you want to put it in salt water?”
“Well, no.” He cast a lure toward a stump, hanging up on the wood just under the surface.
“See, we could be down in Rockport, catching reds or specks.”
“It’d still be hot.”
“Yeah, but we always get out and wade. That keeps us cooler.”
“Good idea.” Willie broke the line, reeled in, and started the engine.
“Where are we going?”
“Over there,” He pointed. “Let’s get out and wade fish like we do down on the coast.”
“Uh, that’s not a good idea.”
Doc saw us move, so he started his own engine and they followed. When Willie cut the motor, we drifted close to the shoreline and Doc came in close. “What’s up?”
“Rev wants to wade fish. Say’s he’s hot.”
“No I didn’t…”
Jerry Wayne stood. “Good idea.”
We were shocked when he began to strip, revealing skin that hadn’t seen the sun since the 1970s. I averted my eyes when he dropped his britches. “Please tell me he’s wearing underwear.”
Doc hollered, “Hey!”
“Don’t worry,” Jerry Wayne said. “These aren’t shorts. This is my bathing suit.”
“Why did you wear that today?”
“I figured we might swim when we got back to shore.” Tennis shoes still on, he sat on the deck and put his feet in the water. “This feel’s good. C’mon guys. Let’s wade fish.”
He slid off into the water and sank much farther than we expected. I figured we were in knee-deep water, but it stopped at his shoulders. “Uh oh.”
“It’s a little boggy here.”
Willie frowned. “But the shore right there looks like sand.”
“Well, it might be there, but it’s gooey here.” Jerry Wayne shifted and grimaced and grunted. He took a step, and sank deeper. “I’m gonna have to get close to shore.”
We sizzled in the sun like bacon while he worked his way toward the bank. Five minutes later, he was knee deep. “See? It’s solid here.”
I noticed his legs. “You’re muddy from the knees down.”
“It’ll wash off. Hey, can somebody hand me my fishing rod.
All three of us shook our heads. “Nope. We’re not getting out in that.”
“Well, how’m I gonna fish?”
“You should have brought it with you.”
Wrong Willie pitched the rod and reel to him, but Jerry Wayne missed and it disappeared below the surface.
“Dang it!” Jerry Wayne felt around with his feet while we watched and drank cold beverages. He finally located it, but couldn’t keep his balance to bring it up with a foot. Taking a deep breath, he went under, his large rear bobbing on the surface.
“That’s frightening,” Doc sighed. “Think he’ll come back up?”
“I hope. This end is wrong in several ways.”
He finally resurfaced with a great splash. His reel was thick with mud. “This ain’t a good idea. I’m coming back.”
He waded back as far as he could, then swam the rest of the way and handed the rod to Doc. That’s when the fun began.
Jerry Wayne tried to pull himself back in the boat, but after ten minutes of huffing, puffing, grunting, awkward gyrations, and language blue enough to frost ice, he finally hung on the side, exhausted. “I can’t do it. It was a lot easier when we were teenagers.”
I had an idea. “Doc, get on your knees, lean over, grab him under the arms, and then fall backward. That’ll drag him in. That’s how you it if someone falls overboard when you’re rafting.”
Jerry Wayne held onto the side of the boat and bobbed in the water. “Well, then what am I gonna do?”
Doc handed him a life jacket. “Put this on and hang on.” While Jerry Wayne slipped into the preserver, Doc started the trolling motor. “We’re going back to the dock.”
I thought about it for a long moment, then Willie started his own trolling motor, and we made our slow way down the bank, us casting and sweltering under the hot, July sun, while Jerry Wayne hung onto the side and stayed cool all the way back.
The only justice was that by the time we reached the dock, he was red as a boiled lobster, which made me hungry for seafood, so I talked the guys into stopping for lunch.
The restaurant was nice and cold. It was a satisfying 4th of July outing, all said and done.
Email Reavis Wortham at [email protected]