The Young Boy and the Lake

6 Sep

Last week, I read Hemingway’s novella, The Old Man and the Sea.

It was odd reading it because I feel Hemingway was writing about me years before I was born. I am Santiago, but a much younger one. My family kept a little cabin on Pana Lake and I did a lot of fishing in the summers. At night I would bait 15 to 20 poles and strategically place them all over our property as well as our neighbor’s, up and down the bank. The big fish came in to feed at night and the stupid little bluegills would go hide or go play poker or something. I don’t know where they would go, but during the day that was all I could ever catch–no chance of catching anything big during the day. Stupid bluegills.

I would wake early to check the lines. There are two more differences between Santiago and me. He went way out to see to catch a great marlin and I stayed on the bank of a tiny lake to catch a comparatively tiny catfish. Though my dad did tell me that there were “fish as big as you in this lake.” I remember being full of excitement in the mornings. I thought about what kind of monster fish I had snagged and were just waiting for me to land. Also, mornings were pretty cool because mom let me drink coffee when we were staying at the cabin. At home I drank Kool-Aid and milk. At the cabin, I was a man. I probably grew hair on my chest each summer from drinking that coffee. That’s what my great grandma used to say about coffee. And yes, I do remember standing before the bathroom mirror looking for signs of hair activity. Santiago probably had much hair on his chest.

I baited so many hooks because it was hard to snag a great fish when you were asleep in the cabin. With each additional line, my chances of success grew. I had to count on stupid fish that would just hook themselves. I reeled in line after line to find empty hooks. On most mornings that’s all I would find–empty hooks. One morning I caught my monster fish. It wasn’t an 1800 pound marlin. It was a carp and we didn’t weigh it but it may have been a seven pounder. It put up a fight, not for hours, but it did take a good three minutes to land (it was tired, no doubt, from struggling all night while I slept). It did not bloody my hands or wear me out. From experience, I knew right away that I wasn’t dealing with an empty hook–I had an actual fish on the line. For those three minutes I had visions of what a great fish I was about to land. A fish as big as me!

We weren’t prepared to keep a large fish, so I remember that, first, it went into a 5 gallon bucket and then into a large, broken wire and wood fish cage that we quickly repaired to that it could not escape. Just like Santiago who was not prepared for such a large catch. He had to carry the fish strapped alongside his boat. Sharks eventually devoured Santiago’s marlin and my carp somehow escaped from the cage. Same story. So weird.

When Santiago returned home, he had a head and tail and many feet of bare bones. I remember a different day from my childhood when I had a single fish on a stringer off the shore. I don’t remember why I kept this fish. It seems mean to keep a fish I had no intention of cleaning. Anyway, I remember checking on it one morning and finding nothing but a head, tail, and bare bones. This was a shock to me. I had never seen such a thing. I almost had a heart attach (rare for such a young lad). I ran to show my dad and he said a snapping turtle must have gotten a hold of it. Not sharks.

Santiago collapsed upon returning from his trip. He was exhausted. After checking my lines I would go play on the big tree swing, finish my coffee, or throw rocks into the lake. Once in awhile I would be exhausted from all of that and would have to go take a nap. I don’t know where Santiago ends and I begin.


5 Responses to “The Young Boy and the Lake”

  1. Lisa September 6, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    Yes, you were the quintessential Hemingway hero for sure! It’s been so many years since I read that book, all I remember is he ate some of the marlin raw…It was about14 years ago. I recall I found it interesting.

    • fightn4it September 6, 2010 at 11:09 am #

      Oh yeah, I should have worked that in somewhere. He did eat raw fish, more than once. Blech!

  2. agoat September 6, 2010 at 2:15 pm #

    isnt sushi raw fish??

    • fightn4it September 6, 2010 at 3:05 pm #

      Not exactly. From Wikipedia: Sushi s a Japanese dish consisting of cooked vinegared rice which is commonly topped with other ingredients, such as fish or other seafood, or put into rolls. Sliced raw fish by itself is called sashimi, as distinct from sushi.


  1. The Little Brown Shack Out Back « plum bananas - September 13, 2010

    […] of the little cabin on the lake our family used to own. I wrote a little about our lake life here. Our first cabin was awesome except when you had to go poo or pee because then you had to visit the […]

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