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142 Days Later #10: Earl the Fisherman

Updated on August 13, 2015

Horseshoe Pier

Concrete and steel replaced wood after Hurricane Floyd {the part of Horseshoe Pier is played in the photo by Johnny Mercer's Pier in Wrightsville Beach, NC - the pier I practically grew up on.}
Concrete and steel replaced wood after Hurricane Floyd {the part of Horseshoe Pier is played in the photo by Johnny Mercer's Pier in Wrightsville Beach, NC - the pier I practically grew up on.} | Source

Teased By A Pin Fish

Though the pier was busy Jack was able to find a spot about two-thirds of the way down on the south side. He wound up casting into the wind and had to keep a close eye on his line as it didn’t take the wave action long to bring it back close to the pier. Every five minutes or so Jack would reel in, check his bait, and cast back out. He didn’t mind. It kept the evening from getting dull.

Fish were getting caught further out on the pier and closer to shore but none seemed interested in biting along the part of the pier where Jack was sitting. Since he didn’t plan on keeping anything he caught - Jack was a big proponent of Catch, Photograph, and Release fishing - not getting bites didn’t bother him much.

Jack settled back on his bench, and said to his fishing pole, “Brandon would have a fit if he could see other people catching fish and he wasn’t.”

His fishing pole responded by jiggling a couple times, indicating something was nibbling at the bait, before settling back down. Jack shook his head and reeled in his line. Sure enough, something had taken his bait.

“Bet it was a pin fish,” Jack said to the empty hook. He carefully skewered another piece of shrimp onto the hook and cast the line back out. He settled back on his bench and watched, with a patient smile on his face, to see if the culprit would try to snatch more of his bait.

How To Catch A Pinfish

No Hurry When Pier Fishing

Letting pole rest before re-baiting
Letting pole rest before re-baiting | Source

You Gonna Keep That

It wasn’t long before the pole began to jiggle again, only this time it didn’t stop. Jack picked it up and tightened his line using slow, deliberate turns of the crank until he was sure the fish had taken the hook. Then he pulled up on his pole to set the hook and cranked the reel to bring the fish in.

Instead of the pin fish he’d expected, Jack reeled in a decent sized spot. He’d seen a few other spot being pulled in along the pier so wasn’t really surprised that he’d caught one.

As Jack removed the spot from his hook the grizzled older black man on the next bench asked in a voice made rough by decades of cigarette smoking and salt air, “You gonna keep that?”

Jack shook his head. He’d planned on throwing the fish back but gladly offered it to his pier neighbor. “You’re welcome to it. I didn’t bring my cooler tonight.”

“Huh,” the older man grunted. “Never saw a point to going fishing if you weren’t going to keep what you caught.”

The old man opened the top of his well-used blue and white Igloo cooler and Jack dropped the spot onto the ice inside.

“Time spent fishing, even if you throw them all back, beats time spent doing just about anything else,” Jack said.

The old man gnawed on his lower lip for a moment. “Guess there’s something to that.”

“You’re welcome to anything I catch,” Jack told the old man. “If it’s something you’d want to keep.”

Spot

You can see why they call it a Spot
You can see why they call it a Spot | Source

Jack meets Earl

“Much obliged,” the old man replied. “What’s your name, son?”

Jack smiled at being called “son.” “I’m Jack,” he said.

“Jack,” the old man repeated. “I’m Earl. Pleased to meet you.” The way Earl said it, it sounded like Pleased t’meechyew.

“Ain’t seen you around here before,” Earl said. “Down on vacation.”
“Just moved to the island, actually,” Jack said. He rebaited his hooks - the second hook on the double rig and been stripped of shrimp, too - and cast back out. “Moved into my aunt’s old house a couple days ago.”

“I live about a mile the other side of the drawbridge, on the mainland,” Earl said. He turned the crank on his reel a couple times to tighten up his line. “Grew up there, bought it from my momma after my daddy got kilt. Raised four kids and said good-bye to a fine woman in that house. My youngest girl and her family live in it now. They fixed up garage as in-law apartment for me.”

“That must be nice, having your daughter close by,” Jack said. He sat up when the rod dipped, but realized it was just the wave action and settled back.

“She’s a comfort,” Earl said. “And my granbabies are something special. You got any kids, Jack?”
“Two,” Jack replied. “A girl and a boy. Meagan, she’s at Duke. Gonna be a lawyer. Brandon’s going to VMI. He’s gonna be a general some day, or so he thinks.”

“You don’t mind my asking,” Earl said, “how long ago you lose your missus?”

A cold chill swept over Jack and he turned his head slowly to look at Earl.

“I may just be a retired electrician,” Earl said. “But I can put two-and-two together.” He pointed to Jack’s right hand.

She's Gone

Taken Quickly

Source

They Left It For Others To Do

Jack took a deep breath and stared out at the ocean for a long moment. Then, without turning back to Earl, he said, “About five months ago. Car accident. Trucker fell asleep and wrecked into her on the highway.”

“That’s mighty tough,” Earl said, shaking his head. “A massive stroke took my Loretta, not a year after I’d retired from the power company. One minute she was standing at the stove making dinner, the next, she was lying on the kitchen floor dead. Doctor said she went so quick she prob’ly never felt a thing.”

“They said the same thing about Cheryl,” Jack said. “That it happened so quick she probably didn’t suffer.” He turned and looked at Earl. With a hitch in his voice, Jack said, “They left us to do all the suffering.”

“They did that,” Earl said. “But we had to make a choice. Go around feeling sorry for ourselves or go on with living. I’ve been going on living for twenty some years now.”

Jack didn’t say anything for a long time. He sat on the bench and looked out at the waves rolling by on their way to the beach and thought about what Earl said.

Storm Clouds Reflect Stormy Thoughts

Source

Left Alone With His Thoughts

Earl’s daughter’s oldest daughter came to fetch him around eight o’clock. Before he left, he spoke to Jack.
“Nice meeting you, Jack. Maybe I’ll see you out here again.”

Jack stood and took Earl’s proffered hand. “Thanks, Earl. I’m really glad I met you.”

Earl’s granddaughter smiled and Jack before taking her grandpa’s arm and saying, “Let’s get you home, Paw-Paw. Momma’s waiting supper for you.”

“All right, girl,” Earl said, patting her hand. “Jack, this is my granddaughter Zakera. She’s an honor student at Hanover Academy.”

Jack wasn’t sure what Hanover Academy was, but judging by the way Earl was boasting about Zakera being an honor student there, Jack figured it was a big deal.

“Well, how about that,” he said. “Good for you, Zakera.”

“Thank you, sir,” Zakera said. She bent over and picked up her grandfather’s cooler.

Earl picked up his tackle box and rod. He nodded once more at Jack. “See you next time.”

“I look forward to it,” Jack said, with a respectful nod in return. “It was nice meeting you Zakera.”

“You, too,” Zakera said.

Jack watched as they disappeared down the pier toward the pier house. Once they became just another couple of people in the crowd closer to the pier house, Jack sat down and checked his rod. His line had drifted nearly under the pier. He quickly reeled it up and checked his bait. It was gone. Jack shook his head and smiled before putting two more pieces of shrimp on the hooks and casting back out.

Fish Here of Fish There

My favorite kind of fishing is...

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    • DWDavisRSL profile imageAUTHOR

      DW Davis 

      3 years ago from Eastern NC

      Thank you for your kind words, Missy. This story will continue as there is a lot more to tell about Jack as he learns that life can go on even when it seems it shouldn't.

      As for Earl, he is based on a man my father and I used to see and talk to an the pier we fished on often when I was growing up. I don't remember the gentleman's name after all these years but I can still hear the way he talked.

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 

      3 years ago from Florida

      This was such a nice story. Living in Florida, I have gone fishing off a pier a couple of times. I haven't been in a long while though, this story made me miss it.

      I loved that Jack and Earl seemed to bond, and you go away from the story knowing that they will meet up on the pier again.

      Jack seemed like he was about as lucky at fishing as I am. lol...Although, like Jack, I never went to catch for the fish fry, I just liked the peace and quiet of the moments and the sound of the waves. Serenity!

      I loved Earl's accent, very common talk for us southern folk. lol...

      This was so enjoyable to read, you are a very, very, talented writer. :)

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      I've not been salt water fishing.

      Interesting read.

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