North Dakota summers don’t last long.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again as I take notice of the days getting a bit shorter, the grass a bit more golden, the heat a little more dry and nights that cool us all down.
Today the kids of my community will be packing up their book bags and climbing on school busses and I will have the feeling I always get as summer winds down as fall waits around the corner.
I will miss my favorite season before my favorite season is even over.
I will wonder where the time’s gone, why my skin isn’t more tan, why the work isn’t finished, why I didn’t pick more wildflowers, why I forgot to plant cucumbers and why my requirements of summer have not been adequately fulfilled.
I think husband was thinking the same thing as last week drew to a close. He’s been spending every waking minute hammering nails, wiring something, tinkering with plumbing, sawing, planning and wondering if we are ever going to eat a meal before 10 pm again…
Because while my requirements for summer include a sun tan, evening walks to hilltops, numerous cocktails on the deck, floating in the lake and popsicles, most of the men in this area only have one summer dream…
And husband was wondering last week if that dream was ever going to come true.
Up the gravel road a ways my friend has her own husband with his own fishing dreams, but it turns out he’s a little more serious about them.
Because he has a boat.
So on hot summer evenings she has found herself sitting alongside her dearly beloved as he trolls through the waters of Lake Sakakawea searching for a monster walleye to bring back to the ranch and fry up for supper.
And while he scours the lake, she quietly hones her own skills, innocently and unexpectedly pulling in nice sized catches off of the back of the vessel.
While her husband theorizes about bait and tackle and the relationship the two choices have on his ability to catch a trophy fish, his wife chooses the prettiest lure, attaches it to her pink fishing pole, drops it in the water and pulls out a giant northern.
And then a walleye.
And then a bass.
And another northern.
And another walleye.
And another bass.
Her husband finds this amusing at first, until the tenth fish begins to inhibit his ability to concentrate on his own catch.
He re-baits his line to match her concoction: “A purple lure, one minnow and a half a worm.”
He drops his line in the water.
She yells “Oh, yep! Yep! Got one.”
He grabs the net, she reels in her catch and the cycle continues until the sun sinks down below the horizon and casts sparkling light on the waves of the big lake.
I’m not sure this story would have been told this way had I not seen it for myself this weekend when our friends offered to take us along on one of their epic fishing trips. Husband was glad to oblige and I quickly loaded up our Cheetos and cooler of beer while he dug around the graveyard of lonely and unused fishing tackle to find the poles we last touched on our unsuccessful May catfishing excursion.
We were happy to leave our work behind and glad to have friends willing to take us on out on the water.
I was prepared to lounge in the boat, soak up some sun, drink a few cocktails and probably not catch a thing.
Husband was prepared to do the same.
But three minutes into the fishing excursion, two minutes after we baited our hooks, my friend started her roll.
“Oh yep. Yep. Got one!” she hollered off the end of the boat just as I dropped my line in the water.
And she reeled in a great big northern.
I opened the bag of Cheetos and she caught another.
I took my first drink of beer and she reeled in her third.
We all changed our lures to match her sparkly green one.
And then we put on one minnow and a half of a worm.
And as her husband steered the boat along the banks of his favorite spots he worked to set the hook on his first nibble as his lovely wife reeled in her fourth catch of the day.
My husband got a bite.
She got another fish.
I got a snag.
My friend caught a bass.
Her husband caught a tree, my husband caught some bait…
and my friend caught another walleye.
I cracked another beer and her husband suggested that perhaps she should give it a rest so the rest of us might have a chance.
Oh, somewhere in there I caught a few fish of my own and so did the boys.
But really, despite the jokes about luck and timing and never taking his wife along again, it wasn’t about the fish at all, except I couldn’t help but hold my breath every time my friend dropped her line in the water. Because the excitement that flew out of her lungs with each nibble was bouncing off the buttes and energizing the water surrounding us. All I wanted was for her to catch more fish.
I think we all felt the same way.
Because the season is short and fleeting around here, the sun doesn’t shine forever and the fish don’t always bite. But watching my friend squeal as she reeled in fish after fish gave me something to keep in my pocket for those days when December feels like years.
So I think our neighbors have it figured it–that summer isn’t about the time, but how the time is spent…
And it turns out you just can’t go wrong when you take the time to fish.