“Fabulous Fishing Pole,” Friend, June 1991, 8
“It’s not going to work,” I grumbled to Leigh as I looked down at the workbench we were making for Dad’s Father’s Day present. There were bent nails sticking out all over, and the legs were wobbly and crooked.
Jordon, my four-year-old brother, scratched his head. “Are you sure this is what Dad wanted?”
“Something like this,” I muttered.
Jordon looked at the workbench a little longer, then sat on it. It creaked and wobbled, then crumpled into a pile of broken boards.
Jordon jumped up, his mouth open and his eyes big. He looked at me, then at the broken workbench. “It broke, David,” he bleated.
I was about to get mad, but I realized that this was the best thing that could have happened. “Don’t worry, Jordon,” I consoled him. “It wasn’t any good anyway.”
“So what are we going to do?” Leigh demanded. “Father’s Day is tomorrow.”
I shrugged. There just didn’t seem to be anything we could get for Dad. Then a great idea came! “I know!” I shouted, jumping up. “Ever since Mom ran over Dad’s fishing pole last spring, he’s been saying he needed a new one,”
“But we don’t have enough money to buy a fishing pole,” Leigh said.
“We don’t need to buy one,” I said, grinning. “We’ll make him a willow fishing pole. They’re the best kind.”
“Sure,” Leigh said. “Dad’s always telling us how he used to cut himself a willow, put on some fishing line, and catch lots of big fish. He said everybody ought to have a willow pole.”
We raced down the street, past the park, across the school grounds, and into the vacant lot behind the supermarket. There were some tall poplar trees there, and growing out of the trunk of one of the biggest trees were the best willows around. They were really shoots from the poplars, but everyone we knew called them willows.
We cut a long one, chopped off the top, and trimmed off the leaves and twigs. It was a beauty, about ten feet long—just the kind of pole a guy would need to catch a whopper of a fish.
We borrowed some of Dad’s fishing line, one of his hooks, and one of his floaters and got that fishing pole all ready. Then we hid it in the garage.
After church the next day, Mom wanted to have the presents after we ate dinner, but Jordon, Leigh, and I shouted, “No! Presents first!”
“Close your eyes,” Leigh told Dad as I went to the garage to get the willow pole. “It was too big to wrap,” she explained, “Don’t peek.”
I had a hard time getting the pole inside because it was so long. I knocked a lamp shade off the lamp and brushed the magazines off the bookshelf but finally got the willow pole into the kitchen.
“You can open your eyes now,” Leigh said as I pushed the fishing pole into Dad’s hands, banging the light overhead.
“It’s just what you always wanted!” Jordon exclaimed.
“Your very own willow fishing pole,” I added. “You always said they were the very best kind.”
Why, it took Dad’s breath away. He just looked down at the fabulous willow pole and grinned and shook his head. “Well, it sure does look like a fine pole,” he finally managed to say.
“If I had known that you were going to get your dream wish,” Mom said, “I wouldn’t have bought you what I did.”
She left the room and came back with a long package. Dad tore off the paper and ripped open the box. There was another fishing pole. But this was just a store-bought one, not nearly as good as our genuine willow pole. But Dad tried to act happy anyway.
“I could take mine back and get you a couple of white shirts and a tie,” Mom suggested.
“Oh, that’s all right, Vella,” Dad told her. “I’ll keep the store-bought pole—just in case.” He shrugged. “Well, a fisherman like me can always use two poles.”
Dad was really excited. “You know what we’re going to do tomorrow?” he burst out. “I’m getting off work, and we’re going fishing. The whole family!”
Monday was better than Father’s Day. Mom packed a good lunch while Dad and I packed our fishing gear. We had a hard time with the willow pole because it was so long, but we finally managed to tie it on top of the van. Then we were off. We sang songs and listened to Dad tell fish stories about when he was younger and he and Uncle Joe had gone fishing with their willow poles.
When we finally reached the lake, we piled out. “Hey, David,” Dad called, “do you want to carry the willow pole?” He winked.
I sure did want to, but I didn’t think that that would be fair to Dad. “No, Dad. This is your special day. You go ahead and carry the good pole.”
As we walked along the edge of the lake, there were a few people fishing already. All of them noticed Dad’s fabulous willow pole.
“Hey, where’d you get that fancy pole?” a man called out.
“Want to trade?” another man asked with a grin.
Dad gripped the pole, and his cheeks turned red. “I wouldn’t trade this for anything,” he said, shaking his head. “This is my Father’s Day present. A genuine, guaranteed-success willow pole.”
We found ourselves a private spot at the end of the lake, where the pine trees grew tall. Mom and Dad, Jordon, Leigh, and I found a big rock that poked way out into the water to fish from.
“I tell you what, David,” Dad said. “Why don’t you and Leigh try out the willow pole first, and I’ll struggle along with this store-bought one. They’re kind of tricky things.”
Well, I sure did want to try out Dad’s new willow pole, but I knew how much he wanted to use it, so I shook my head. “No, Dad, you’d better be the first to use the willow pole.”
“By all means,” Mom said with a smile. “Let the kids use the store-bought one. You enjoy the willow pole.”
It took a little work getting used to that store-bought pole with all its funny gadgets. I got the line tangled up a few times and hooked Leigh in the pants once and Jordon in the shirt twice, but before noon I had two fish.
At first, Dad didn’t catch anything, but he claimed he was waiting for a big fish to come along. He said he wasn’t going to bother with the little ones.
In the afternoon, Jordon and Leigh took the store-bought pole to another spot, and I slipped up next to Dad as he sat fishing on the rock. All of a sudden there was a little tug on the line. Dad got all stiff and sat up straight. There was another tug and then a huge jerk, and Dad jumped to his feet and started shouting and dancing around.
“It’s a big one, David,” Dad yelled. “That’s a granddaddy fish! Didn’t I always tell you that a willow pole was the best fishing pole in the world?” He shook his head. “Wait until I walk back to the van with this monster. Then we’ll see what they say about my willow pole!”
Dad fought that fish for a long time before he could start pulling it to shore. A couple of times that old fish jumped out of the water, and it was big all right! It was huge!
“Get me the net, David,” Dad ordered.
I raced back to the picnic spot where Mom was resting and grabbed the net. “Dad’s got a big one,” I shouted. “It must be the biggest one in the lake.”
I raced back to Dad with Mom right behind me. Dad was still dancing and pulling and twisting and yelling. I’d never seen him so excited. I handed him the net, and he began pulling that granddaddy fish right up to the rock. We were both looking down into the churning water, just waiting for that big fish to get close enough for Dad to slip the net under him. It got closer and closer, and Dad started to reach out with the net, when suddenly there was a loud crack and then a quick pop. The willow pole had snapped in two!
Dad lunged for the fish, tumbling into the lake head first. He still had the net in his hand, and he began whipping it through the water, hoping to catch that great big granddaddy fish. But it was gone.
“Can we swim too?” Jordon called as he and Leigh came running back. “We’ll even take our shoes off.”
“Just give me the other pole,” Dad gasped. “I’m still going to catch that fish?”
Leigh got a sick look on her face. She took a deep breath and said, “I think Mom got gypped.”
Dad wiped a piece of moss out of the corner of his mouth. “How did she get gypped?”
“Well, Jordon and I were fishing down that way.” She pointed down the shore. “I leaned the pole against a rock. Then Jordon and I went hunting crawdads. We caught one and ran back to show Mom. Jordon tripped on the pole, and I tripped on Jordon, and … and we both fell on the pole. And it’s not unbreakable.”
“Yeah, it broke in three places,” Jordon said.
All of a sudden I heard someone laughing. Mom was sitting on a log, holding her sides and laughing so hard that tears were running down her cheeks. Dad just stood in the water and looked at her.
“Don’t worry, Dad,” I said. “We can get you another willow pole. There are lots more where that one came from.”
Dad started pulling himself out of the water. “David, that’s the best news I’ve heard all day.”
“I think that next time,” Mom said, trying to stop laughing, “I’ll get you a couple of white shirts and a tie.”
“Do you think you’ll ever forget this Father’s Day?” I asked.
Dad looked down at me. Suddenly his face turned into one great big smile. “No, David, this is one Father’s Day that I’m going to remember for a long, long time.”