My father was part of The Greatest Generation and was a B-17 and C-47 pilot in WWII. He grew up in Galveston, Texas, and had fished since he could walk. Later in life, he owned his own small fishing camp in Matagorda and would bring friends and family there to fish from his lighted pier. It was a little jewel.
He and his friend, Curly, (he also had friends named Three Fingered Fred, Gut, and Humpback Jack but those are other stories) got ready to fish one morning and discussed their plan. Curly volunteered to bring the drinks and sandwiches. My dad got the boat and all the tackle ready. As they were leaving, my dad showed Curly the keys to the camp and told him that he was putting them in the corner of his stainless steel fillet table to hide them. Curly nodded. The sun was just on the verge of rising when they set off.
About 10:00 am, Dad asked Curly for a drink. Curly let out a string of expletives. He had not only forgotten the drinks but he also left the sandwiches back at the camp. Now, Curly was one tough dude. He laid brick his whole life and had a very poor childhood (actually spent some nights in a chicken coop on a farmer’s land with his family) so he knew how to take care of himself. Any forgetfulness in the way of security or preparedness was just unacceptable to him, so he took this hard. Dad told him not to worry about it though he said later that he thought he was going to die of thirst about three hours later.
They caught a good mess of fish and decided to head in about 3:00, tired and thirsty with stomachs rumbling. On the way in, the boat started taking on water. My dad was at the stern of the boat and popped out the plug to let the water rush out while they were making way. He told Curly to start bailing to help out. While bailing, Curly looked up just in time to warn my father that he was headed directly toward the shore. My dad, who knows his boat and motor like the back of his hand, was so shocked that he opened the motor wide up instead of bringing it down. After the crash, Curly told everyone that he saw what was about to happen so he faced the front of the boat, gathered his feet under him and prepared to be launched. And launched he was!
The boat hit the shore and Curly was catapulted into the bulrush. My father had fallen out of the boat towards the motor and, by the grace of God, was not injured. My dad said when he surfaced, fish were flopping all over the shoreline and there was no sign of Curly. Dad dragged himself up on shore and yelled for Curly. Curly yelled back weakly, “Over here.” He was bleeding profusely where bulrush had implanted in his neck.
They gathered their flopping fish, righted the boat and slid it into the water where they took off back to camp. When they returned, two extremely tired and aging old men dragged ass down the pier back to the camp. Dad tried to open the door and told Curly, “Uh oh! We’re locked out.” Curly suggested breaking a window. Dad agreed. Once inside, they drank gallons of water and woofed down the pre-dawn sandwiches. They also tended to Curly’s neck which had made his white striped shirt bright red at the top and pink as the blood drained downwards.
Dad went back outside and started to fillet the fish. After gutting and beheading each one, he washed the remnants towards a hole in the stainless steel table (“The crabs and birds get a good meal when I do that,” he explained to me when I told him that was gross to let that stuff flow out to the bay.) The camp keys washed out to the center as he cleaned the table and he grabbed them. “HEY CURLY! Guess what I found…”
Needless to say, once my dad came home with this story we ate it up. He told it at every family gathering and during phone calls to friends and family. No one who knew my dad later in his life was totally surprised by these shenanigans. I told him – half kidding but not really – that he would no longer be allowed to venture out unattended with other old men. (Of course he did and almost killed my then 88 year-old uncle – again, another story).
Father’s Day that June was special. My sister, Lila, has a voracious appetite for stories like this where people bleed and almost die (ask her about a man that tripped on a pipe sticking up out of the ground at the grocery store when she was about two-years old) so she took this puppy and ran with it. She made Dad a cake that depicted the entire scenario. It was a masterpiece. She split the cake in two – one had the shoreline with “Curly” upended in the bulrush and the other with “Dad” sunken in the water by the boat. She wrote “Happy Dad’s Day” and “Oh Captain, Our Father” on it. Dad got a big kick out of it. I never heard if Curly thought this was as funny as our clan did.