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The Soapbox: The Boy and The Fish

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Brandi Chambless
Brandi Chambless

The rediscovery of summer each year is truly unlike any other celebration of humanity. Without a doubt, weddings and births will always garner community merriment coupled with familial togetherness, but the unknown possibilities of summer’s secrets are the moments that allow for true individual growth. The memories of the faraway places we go and the quality time with people we meet during summertime are unforeseen buried treasures that can be souvenirs for life.

To me, the mystery of why simple summer moments seem to craftily recode our DNA for the future to come can be explained by one thing and one thing only: God exists and he is a creative God that wants to bless us with good things according to His plan. To me, growing up with a father who was a storyteller, this blessing also includes giving us the greatest stories to tell as long as we live.

My story begins here, when I, along with about 30 other pairs of eyes, saw something so spectacular that I cannot believe it really even happened. But it did.

Before dawn one summer morning, I rolled out of bed and walked a 1540 foot pier into the Gulf of Mexico. My tackle in hand, I called myself “fishing,” but the truth is I was primarily there to witness the sunrise.

By the time first light came along, there were about 30 others fishing from the pier. At a depth of about 30 feet, we were catching a variety of saltwater fish including Spanish mackerel, redfish, and flounder. Rules of the game: Don’t cross your line over another fisherman. Don’t make stupid small talk – only discuss things that make sense to the moment and choose your words wisely. Don’t ask dumb questions.

I wasn’t rigged up for long before a teenage boy next to me shouted “fish on,” his rod bent down toward the water 20 feet below us. This was the beginning of an hour and a half struggle with what everyone knew was a large fish.

The other fishermen continued to fish while the boy did what I call a fisherman’s dance, changing positions, crossing over, maneuvering his rod around light poles. For the first hour, most of the fishermen pretended not to notice or speak very much to him.

Suddenly, bearded men I hadn’t noticed on the pier before, seemed to come near to him and coach him. When the fish finally surfaced at the 90 minute mark, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had never seen a tarpon before. The prized gamefish requires a specialized permit to harvest. Most of them are released after photos.

From an elevated point of view of at least 20 feet, I thought the silvery blue scales seemed like something straight out of Genesis. While the rest of us were catching fish, close to one foot in length or less, the estimated size of this fish was estimated to be about six feet long weighing approximately 100-150 lbs.

In the cycle of my best understanding that this moment was actually real, I looked at the fish and I looked at the boy. I studied the size of his rod and the elevation of the pier. The next steps were not very clear to me, being that I don’t speak fluent Fisherman.

The men and women of the pier whom one might call “regulars” had a way of saying things by grunting and gesturing that didn’t register with me. I just watched in awe. The boy seemed to be exchanging souls with that fish.

When the regulars decided that it was time, the boy had to cut the line.  The tarpon disappeared as if this was all a dream.

Another young boy with a large chew in his mouth selected to penetrate the silence with the most eloquent words anyone could say at the moment.

“That’s Alabama’s fish, boy,” just before spitting into his cup and wiping his chin.

I know that the boy will always remember the one that got away. And I knew right then that this was going to be one of my greatest summer memories of all times. I only wish I had asked him his name since I felt we all had not only witnessed something of God’s supernatural creativity, but because now I will have to tell his fish story for the rest of my life and will only be able to refer to him as the boy and the fish. But that’s okay, because I know God knows, the boy knows, and for certain….that tarpon knows it.

Read Brandi’s column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

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Read Brandi's column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

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