One of the Old Men steered the boat while the other watched for stumps and floating logs ahead. I sat down on the deck out of the way, a full ice chest to my back, the setting sun behind us all. We were coming home with all the boxes full of catfish, a good day’s work done and a sense of satisfaction I’ve rarely found anywhere else.
After a full day spent baking in the summer sun, everything breathed a sigh of relief in the twilight. Temperatures are all relative, of course, but the cool of the evening means the most to those who’ve been under the sun since first light.
As with a switch, almost, things go from sweltering to comfortable around sun- down come July, and that day was no exception.
Purple martins and flycatchers seized the moment to make their last frantic rounds of the day, to be replaced in the sky by leatherwing bats flying their darting zags and tight circles over the water. Day shift handed things over to night.
Silver gray snags from trees long dead stood their ground as ripples and waves passed by, and the air seemed lighter and more friendly the further we swept along. Smooth, wide swells and the occasional sharp chop of another boat’s wake stirred the surface, but mostly we had the water and the lake to ourselves, it seemed. Plastic boxes emptied of frozen catalpa worms rattled inside a bucket somewhere as the wind dried our shirts and carried wafts of the Old Men’s cigarettes behind us.
As always, arriving at the landing after a long, full day renewed my enthusiasm. The Old Man in the front went for the truck, the other running the boat kept the prop off the concrete while I made haste to do the same for the bow, pushing the boat back lakeward after stepping out. I always took pride in helping strap the boat down to the trailer, lowering the motor against the transom and strapping it fast, then pulling the drain plug as the very last thing before we rolled. Whatever bilge we’d shipped during the day ran out behind us now as we drove in the dark toward home, leaving a wet trail of the lake’s last impressions behind. It’s a trail I still follow often in my mind, to a lake of potential in one direction, to a pickup truck of Old Men and a boy in the other.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy oak in West Point.