You Get a Line and I’ll Get a Pole, an Unlikely Catch

Mountain lakes, wilderness hikes, fishing.

E.B. White who is known for Charlotte’s Web was a notable American writer.  His essay “Once More to the Lake” was first published in Harper’s magazine in 1941 and explains this summer ritual.

One summer, along about 1904, my father rented a camp on a lake in Maine and took us all there for the month of August. We all got ringworm from some kittens and had to rub Pond’s Extract on our arms and legs night and morning, and my father rolled over in a canoe with all his clothes on; but outside of that the vacation was a success and from then on none of us ever thought there was any place in the world like that lake in Maine. We returned summer after summer–always on August 1st for one month. I have since become a salt-water man, but sometimes in summer there are days when the restlessness of the tides and the fearful cold of the sea water and the incessant wind which blows across the afternoon and into the evening make me wish for the placidity of a lake in the woods. A few weeks ago this feeling got so strong I bought myself a couple of bass hooks and a spinner and returned to the lake where we used to go, for a week’s fishing and to revisit old haunts.  (Once More to the Lake, Link to full essay)

So in 2010, we joined the urban exodus into the wilds to escape the boxed confines of the office and an overscheduled home life; we rented a camp on a lake in the Adirondacks.  We didn’t get ringworm, but my daughter found a leech on her leg, my son got mono, and bad spirits haunted my husband’s dreams.  But, like White wrote, “outside of that the vacation was a success.”

And there was one other thing.

Each year a lure manages to plant itself somewhere besides the fish’s mouth.  Once the lure jumped from the fish into my husband’s hand; the fish was freed but my husband was caught.  Another time my nephew cast his lure and the arc of the line reached behind and caught my brother’s head.

There’s a display case full of lures in the hospital with two of ours.

This year is no different.

My husband took the children on the boat last night.  He grumbled how it took 40 minutes just to get the lines together and start casting.  They got a bite or two.  My teen said the only thing they caught was the boat.

Which was true at the time.

This morning he called us all to the boat. Hurry! In the water was a bird, tangled in line, a hook in his beak, the triple hook in his wing.  He must have seen the twinkle of the spinner in the air, thinking it was an insect because it was attached to an upright pole.

The gull was larger than we realized up close, its wings splayed out awkwardly, its head turned at an angle from the hook.

We brought him in with the net and cut the line but had little success getting out the hooks.

 

Unlikely and unlucky catch

 

I told my husband he only had to leave the boat to bring in the summer’s first catch but he didn’t find that funny.  The children were beside themselves with angst.

There was an animal hospital outside of Lake Placid but the poor creature might have been there for hours, weakened from the fight.  So we went to the local vet.

We entered with the gull wrapped in a towel, only its head showing.

The office was empty except for the receptionist and a man in scrubs who announced before I could close the door, “We don’t treat birds.”

That ruffled my feathers, so I took a breath.  He’s a vet, I reminded myself.

“This is not our pet,” I said.

The receptionist said we should try the DEC, the Department of Environmental Conservation or some other agency.  My husband didn’t turn away, proceeding to the counter instead, the tangled bird held securely in the towel.

We were quiet as the vet glanced over.

“I guess we must leave him to his fate then?” I said to the vet.

The vet disappeared, moving heavy-footed about the rooms.  We followed him into an exam room which he left. We could hear him.  He returned and told us to shut the door.  My husband held the bird down as the vet clipped and removed the hook in the beak, tore the plastic off his instruments, instructed my teen to hold the wing out.  He clipped the other three hooks and dislodged them from the wing, deftly and swiftly.  The lure rested on the metal table, four hooks next to it.

He asked if we were visiting town.  He checked the wing and told us there appeared to be no breaks, directed us to take it to the lake and release it.

The floor boards creaked on the way back through the lobby.  The overweight receptionist hadn’t moved, but said goodbye, a smile hiding behind her expression.

The vet disappeared again.

We left 15 minutes after we came and the office was empty still.

Was he embarrassed?  Maybe.

It’s not always easy to do the right thing.

But he did.

 

All clear for Spotty the juvenile gull

 

“Once More to the Lake”

 

 

About mylinhshattan

I’m a writer who has worked in the private sector, taught at college, and served in the U.S. Army. I hold a B.S. in Mathematics from West Point, an M.B.A. from Florida Southern College, and an M.F.A. in Writing from Queens University.