Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Laura's Fishing Story

Laura Swan
Readers of this blog will recall Laura Swan's previous story Brag, Brag, BRAG as being wickedly delightful, and one of the most frequented of all the posts to this blog.

"Laura's Fishing Story" is another journey into the long ago, and if anything, it's even MORE of a delight (though Possibly a tad short of "relentless")

You'll also enjoy the photos, which were retrofitted and mostly shot by an old friend of Laura's, Janeen Miles, who volunteered to travel to the actual old fishing site to recreate the vision for Laura's readers.  And hang on for some of Laura's gorgeous art photography at the end.  And you can see more of Laura's work in her BetterPhoto.com gallery


Thanks for stopping here to see the latest post. I'd love to know what you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. If you enjoyed this week's tale, I would greatly appreciate it if you left a comment (at the end of the post) for our author. And please email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog or anything else you'd like to share.

Also, to increase the blog's readership, sharing the link with your friends, family, and colleagues would help a great deal.

If you have a story you would like to share on this theme, contact me. And be sure to take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you! Thanks again!

Michelle Alton


Laura’s Fishing Story  by “Baby Boatman”

Once upon a time in a faraway place, (the San Francisco Bay Area), two brothers were born and raised side by side.   One was named "Night" and one was named "Day."

Okay, alright.   It was my Dad and his younger brother, Jake.

They could NOT have been more different from one another.   One was politically on the right wing; one was totally left.   They were outspokenly staunch about it all and family holidays at my Grandparents’ house got VERY, VERY tricky and sticky at times for us all--we little cousins included.   “Tense” was a nice way of putting it when they'd start in.   My Uncle was an atheist and Dad believed in God.   These clear-cut differences ran through every area of their lives and those two just could NOT get along.

Yet they shared one thing in common  that consistently kept them both trying to tolerate the other--and no, it wasn’t their love for popcorn!   And not even their love for fishing; but the “glue” that kept them together was brotherly love.

By the way, my Daddy used to go deep sea fishing on the Red Sea when he lived in Arabia in the 50's. He'd fish right off the pier where the huge ships would come in and out.   He and his best friend Alan both lived in Arabia at the same time and fishing was something they enjoyed doing together very much.

Uncle Alan with Deep Sea Clams
Dad was quite a boatman as well.  He knew how to sail and run inboard or outboard motors. He pulled many-a-water skier, and understood how to ride the waves even in the roughest of seas and lakes.  If it involved the water, my dad was there.

Well…Dad’s brother didn't fish.  He was busy being a Lawyer back in California and had no time for those things.

Several years later and living back in California again, Dad made another attempt at friendship with his brother.   Dad and his best friend Alan ( I have called him "Uncle Alan" all of my life) decided to go fishing off of the BIG HUGE TALL Berkeley Pier and invited Uncle Jake to go, too.

Jake accepted!!

Well, I was about 17 years old at the time.   I ran around enjoying life driving my little VW BUG.   I worked every day after school for five hours each evening, having some fun on my days off.

Just Being Young
It was a Saturday morning and I had been out.  I stopped back in at home and Mom said, "Laura, your Dad is down at the Berkeley pier fishing with Uncle Alan. Uncle Jake is along with them, too.  Can you be a sweetie and go take them this huge batch of popcorn and break the ice if they are not getting along? Make them laugh a little honey and stop them from talking politics if they are doing that? "Oh, great”, I thought, “Thanks Mom!”   We all knew what it was like when those two got together...(As my mother would often say, "GANGBUSTERS!")

So I said, "Sure. No problem." We lived on top of a huge hill and so I rolled on down to the bottom, got on the Bayshore freeway and headed to the big humongous tall Berkeley pier to find Daddy and rescue them all!

Our Very Steep Hill

Well, I get there, and just as suspected they are nit picking and arguing.  I see it from 100 feet away. I put on my happy face and carry the big tub of popcorn closer and closer to them!

The Berkeley Pier was used to ferry people and cars across the bay from San Francisco to Berkeley and back before the Bay Bridge was built
They didn't recognize  me at first because they were absolutely not expecting to see me show up there.   This was Guys’ Day Out--a day where no girls were allowed, which meant that they could come home and brag about fish and tell tall tales of the big one that got away and such.

They all looked so cute in their fishing duds, huddled in the cement fisherman’s booth, bickering about bait and hooks and technique.

The Pier is approximately 3,000 ft in legnth. In 1926 it had been 3.5 miles long.  Golden Gate Bridge is seen in the background.
When I got within about 30 feet away, Uncle Alan saw me and his face lit up!   He stood up and shouted, "WELL WHAT DO YOU KNOW!” (As if to alert the others).  “LOOKS WHO'S HERE! IT’S BABY BOATMAN”!  (That was Uncle Alan’s pet name for me since I was the youngest of the three children).

Well, all three of them grew big smiles and showed me their best faces so I wouldn't know they had just been bickering.

I told them Mom had sent me with popcorn and I gave them all a big warm hug! (And likely kisses on the cheeks, too!)   They had so much gear there and a huge bucket filled with salt water  for all of their fish...but guess what?


Well, I pointed downward jokingly into the big five-gallon bucket with water in it and raised my eyebrows as I smiled.  My face revealed what I was asking them!   It was so comical.  They looked embarrassed!   They'd already been there for hours, and between them they hadn't caught a thing!

Immediately they all starting spouting out excuses. They each had their own; better than the others’. "Unfortunately Your Daddy brought the wrong type of bait, kiddo," Uncle Alan said.  Dad said, "No. We have the right bait. The water is just too choppy! They aren't biting"…Uncle Jake said, "Well I have no excuse.   I don't know how to fish!  I'm just with these two guys that don't seem to know what they are doing!"

We all laughed.   The ice had been broken and they were glad I was there.   I opened the popcorn and we all had a few hands full

Sharing Popcorn Together

After a few minutes I felt a little out of place (like a fish out of water? - editor) and said I was going to get going so they could get back to "fishing."   Uncle Alan said, "Would you like to try your hand at fishing, Laura?" Well, I don't often pass up a challenge but I was about to.  Me? Deep Sea Fishing? In a Dress? Hmm…

So humor kicked in and I said, "Sure! Hand me a pole. I will show you guys how it's done, but I have to do it my way! No instructions!" Well, they thought this was very amusing! Indeed!

I said, "Watch and learn boys. I'm going to teach you a secret that I have never shared with anyone else!" (Of course I was winging it and had no secret except for a wacky idea that had JUST come to me! HA! But being the entertainer that I learned to be from my father, I had them all waiting to see what I had up my silly sleeve!)

I reached my hand down into the bucket of popcorn and got a big handful and threw it right over the railing of the pier.  Popcorn flew through the air gently floating down, down, down landing atop the green bay waters. The popcorn looked so tiny you could barely see it way down there.

A Long Way Down To The Fish
I threw a second handful over!

The men were gasping at me! "WHAT ARE YOU DOING???"  They all seemed to say at once"! My Dad was probably thinking I was wasting food, Uncle Jake (the Lawyer) was probably wondering what LAWS I WAS JUST BREAKING and Dads best friend Uncle Alan just shook his head and said; “You're a nut!"

We could hardly see it way down there
I said, "Hey! Think like a fish! They are tired of the same old things to eat.   Give them something new! They probably know what hooks and bait look like shining away in the water and they know it's you and won’t take your bait!  LET THEM HAVE SOME POPCORN!”  I said with authority.  “Once they see there are no hooks involved, they will eat it up like crazy.  Then I will bait my hook with popcorn, lower it down and catch a fish. That fish won't even know what happened!”

And so I did.   I have to stop here and tell you that these three grown men were so taken back that they just smiled and watched me as I confidently taught them how it was done.   (In a very joking way).

After brief instruction from one of them on casting, I released my VERY baited hook filled with popcorn and down, down, down into the bay went my hook line and sinker!  (And my red and white bobber of course).

Today's way of fishing at high tide
It wasn't five minutes before I felt something on my line.  Was it the currents?  A shoe?  Seaweed?   No!    It was tugging!!

I summoned my Father to help. “DAD! Do I have something on my line?" I handed him the pole.   He said "You're damned right you do. Take this back and reel in your catch!"


I tugged and reeled, tugged and reeled.   TUGGED AND TUGGED and reeled.   Alas!   A fish came flying up out of the water and I reeled it in as fast as I could!

“I CAUGHT A FISH! I CAUGHT A FISH!”  (I am pretty sure I was screaming a little!)

Well there it was.   A fish!  A big one, too.   I didn't know how to unhook a fish and wouldn't have wanted to so I kind of swung it over to my Dad.

"HOT DOG LAURA!   Look what you did!   And with POPCORN!"

"Well I'll be damned", said Uncle Alan, leave it to “Baby Boatman”! 

Uncle Jake said, "Well Laura Emily, you sure did show us how it is done!   These two guys could learn from you!"

We laughed some more and I said, "Well I TOLD you I had a good secret and now YOU know the secret to catching fish!"

Then I said, (because I love perfect timing), "My job here is done boys.   I gotta get going now!   It was fun!!!!"

I turned and walked back down the long pier with a big smile beaming on my face.  I was leaving them (and myself) stunned but happily amazed.

Dad told me later they had caught a couple minor little fish after I had left but nothing like mine.

  The End

About Laura Swan

For the last two decades, I've lived near the Rocky Mountains of Canada.  But my roots are in the San Francisco Bay Area in California where I was born and raised. I have so many wonderful memories from those days and this story was just one of them.

I hope you've enjoyed my little fishing tale of three relentless men trying their best to outdo each other, where catching fish off a long pier was their platform that day, for competition.

That afternoon is a fond memory for me. I wonder if it was for them, too?  Being outsmarted by a young woman could have been "no fun" for lesser men.  I'll let you be the judge! . Thanks for having some fun with me today. I really enjoyed the writing of this tale.

Special Thanks to a great photographer friend of mine in California, Janeen Miles, for taking all the wonderful photos of the pier and seagull for me so you could enjoy this little fishing story even more, and many thanks to Michelle for making it all come together!

  Laura Swan

Bonus Photos by Laura



Kiki Kjaer said...

Hi there, "Baby Boatman".
You know I'm your biggest fan, don't you?
You're a born story-teller and artist and I enjoyed this story so much and of course your artwork and the images to go with the story too.
The smile will never leave my face again, I'm sure :)
Your devoted fan and SSister, Kiki Kjaer.

Rebecca said...

This is a great story. I just love that you caught a fish with popcorn.

Dave said...

Wonderful story! Great photos!!

LauraEm said...

Thank you so much for commenting. Your feedback is a joy for me to read!

-Laura Swan

Terry Cervi said...

Morning Ms.L! When I saw that you had added a contribution to Michelle's blog, I had to come over to read it. I'm also a big fan of yours and I knew I would HAVE to enjoy anything you wrote. And of course, I did!! A terrific and entertaining story, Laura!

Lorna said...

Hey Kiki ... You got it wrong ... I'M Baby Boatman's biggest fan! LOL! :D Okay, okay ... We're both her biggest fans! :)

Laura ~ You should be a writer! You have such an amazing way with words! This story was fantastic ... as were the beautiful pics that accompanied and followed it! Was it true? ... or just a "Fish Tale"?! Either way, you got me smiling too! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Sis
A great FISH TALE...
Leave it up to a creavtive gal like yourself to 'reel' in the men..
Great reading my friend!
Smiling With You,

Kalena said...

BB (Baby Boatman), I thoroughly enjoyed your story & couldn't wait to see how it ended! You are truly a great story teller...as well as an "ice breaker" for tense moments! Such a special person to us all!

Well done!!!!!!

Laura said...

Hi Emmy!
What an amazing, funny and truly heartwarming memory that you will always remenber. You are a very talented story writer. Thank you for sharing this wonderful tale and beautiful pictures with us. I hope to read more! Great work as usual my dear friend. Laura Lee

Doug Perry said...

This story is just too cute. One never knows when a memory will be created. It is these memories of people and places that makes us who we are and makes sure the people in our lives are never forgotten.

Michelle Alton said...

Bob Cammarata was unable to get his comment to "stick" here, so I'm posting it on his behalf--(Michelle Alton)
As one who's been known to wet a hook or two, I can truly appreciate a good fish story!

This was a very well written account of a treasured reminiscence...one which will likely remain with you always.

Thanks for posting this Laura. I hope to see more."

Bob Cammarata www.cammphoto.com

If you can pass this on, I'd appreciate it.

LauraEm said...

What a treat reading your responses. Thanks so much everyone!! You know I'm smiling right now don't you! :D

I'm so happy you liked my story. I agree that memories like this keep loved ones fresh in our hearts.

This came from MEL SCOTT to me. I think he had a hard time posting a comment for some reason so here is his. :)))

* * *
Nice story, and really nice to see the pictures from that era!!! Boy do I remember the bug - didn't I crack the windsheild once hitting my head on it?

I remember the bug!!!

* * *
Note: I had to tell him no he didn't...HeeHee. A lot of us had VW's back then. Some of it is a blur! Ha!

Anonymous said...

Great story and very well written, Laura!! I loved the intro (Night and Day) and the popcorn bait tip. I inherited the family '63 VW bug and later the family '67 VW van. That bug had 275,000 miles on it but still ran great...

Robert B

Joe DiGilio said...

Laura, I enjoyed your story & I've always enjoyed your photography. Interesting how you demonstrated to the atheist & monotheist that karma is more important than the type of bait used & and that there is something to be learned from others, even those who you think are less knowledgeable than you.

LauraEm said...

Hi Robert! Thanks for the great comments! Isn't it funny how cyb's can grow up in the same home and be total opposites? And yet because of love they try and find common ground? :D I hope you will give the popcorn a try! It has worked for me more than once!! It's great to use on a lake in a quiet cove. Give them a few freebies THEN lower your popcorn baited hooks! Ha! Got-cha! Yes...VW's! Mine ran forever once I learned to carry little fuel filters with me and learned to change them on freeways! Ha!

LauraEm said...

Joe, I always love your witty comments, too! Yes. Karma is what it is all about. My Mothers favorite saying was, "Kindness is always appropriate." And Dads was, "Keep your eyes open and your gun powder dry"...Such different points of view and yet the true meanings of Karma were not far from their hearts! I have read your stories, too, (And Roberts!). You two are fine writers as well! Thanks again!

Sharon Day said...

A wonderful story, Laura! Who would have guessed fish would bite on popcorn??