Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day
Writer's uncle and childhood fishing mentor on a fun day out.

Dedicated to the men that made our dreams come true

I was in history class sitting on the edge of my seat with one foot already out the door at Central Junior High - waiting for last period to end. The year was 1978. My Uncle Arturo had promised to take my cousins Art and Ruben and I fishing after school as he did many times during our teenage years. We knew exactly where he would be waiting in that old two-tone International Travelall. It was very noticeable with all the fishing rods tied to the luggage rack.

Flying out the front door of the school and literally diving into the truck, the trip to Gordon's Bait Shop seemed to take forever. Upon arrival we knew exactly which freezer to run to as we had done it many times. We would choose the biggest and freshest shrimp they had on-hand along with a box of rock shrimp if it was available. Out the door running - eager not to miss the beginning of the annual spring drum run in the Brownsville Ship Channel.

June 19th will be Father Day's and I hope this story will rekindle fond childhood memories and experiences of long ago. It is especially intended to give thanks and honor to those men like my Uncle Arturo that instilled the passion of fishing in us - a piece of them that will remain in us forever.

Growing up and hanging around my uncle was pretty neat because we never knew when he would get the itch to go fishing. If he didn't have it, it didn't take very much convincing to load up and gas up the International. I now know that fishing was also his passion, and I thank him for instilling that enthusiasm in me and to those around him. In the beginning of our angling years my uncle didn't have the resources or finances to buy us all a rod and reel combo so he taught us how to rig a soda pop bottle with monofilament and a leader tied to the end of it. For a year or two this was how we fished, or you could say "afford" to fish. Nevertheless, we caught enough fish during those lean years to keep our interest going. I recall at that age any fish caught was like "WOW!" Actually, now that I think about it; it goes to prove how spoiled we've become because as adults the catch tends to sway more towards numbers or size of the catch.

Back then the only fishing we could do was off the bank and our regular stomping grounds were places like the Brownsville Ship Channel on both sides, the mouth of the Rio Grande River, the north or south jetties, Boca Chica beachfront, and a few other places that were accessible by car. I still hold great memories of each of them.

Some I remember because a great fish was caught there, and some strike a chord for the silly mistakes we made as teenagers. Like the time my uncle took us fishing and the ground was still wet and muddy from a rain storm. We ended up getting the truck stuck so my uncle instructed us to stand on the back bumper so he could get more traction. He also mentioned that we were to jump off immediately as soon as the truck began moving. Well, my cousin Art didn't jump as quickly as the rest of us and he just froze there on the bumper clinging to the edge of the roof as the truck gained speed. Laughing as I write, I still vividly seeing him bouncing on the back of the truck like a cowboy riding a fierce bucking bronco. We laughed so hard seeing him bounce across every rut and crevice for a good five hundred yards and there was no way my uncle was going to let up on the gas pedal until he made it back to firm ground. Thanks to cousin Art we all got a good old-fashion lecture but the laugh seemed well worth it.

We thought the world of my uncle. In our eyes he was the world's greatest fisherman. We imagined he knew everything there was to know about fishing. When we were all together fishing, he always found time to share awesome fish stories of his past. I realize now that it's things like this that the world lacks nowadays with everybody moving at a faster pace, always too busy, never time to spend with kids outdoors and fishing. Unfortunately many important life lessons are no longer handed down through such storytelling.

When my uncle wasn't able to take us we struck out on our own to fish local freshwater lakes. Our routine was to wake up at 5:30 in the morning to go catch minnows in a drainage ditch a mile away. We would ride our bikes carrying a dip net and an empty milk jug through a dog-infested stretch of road. Our determination was so great that no mean dog was going to stop us from fishing that day. Even now I think those dogs had some kind of radar as they always knew when we were going fishing and never failed to show up and chase after us. The entire day was spent catching bass, catfish and gar until our arms ached. We had so many wonderful experiences growing up at the water's edge doing something we loved - thanks to my uncle.

My dad never really liked fishing, but the few times that I did get to fish with him were special. I will never forget the time we were fishing on the Rio Grande River and he asked me if I owned a reel. My answer was no, so he handed me a $20 bill to buy one. I proudly went out and bought a Penn 103 that lasted me forever. It's moments like this that will be engraved in my memory forever.

Yes, there are too many memorable moments to mention in this article, but for every one of them that still lives in me, I want to thank the men like my dad, my uncle Arturo, and others that have crossed my path and made me the man I am today. Thanks to all the dads and other father-figures that have given their time and effort to instill a passion for fishing and outdoors in children. May you keep your line wet for years to come and here's wishing you a Happy Father's Day.