It’s probably my favorite picture. It’s a photo of five scraggy looking guys in front of a little fishing boat. The five were my daddy, L.F. McPhail, my nephew, Joey, my brother in law, Danny, his father, Toggie Tart, and me. That rough looking crew, which also included my uncle, Clifford Parker, who took the picture, were spending the weekend fishing along the river near Edenton.
The picture, which sits above the desk in our kitchen, was taken around twenty years ago. My father has passed. So have Toggie and Uncle Clifford. But what makes the picture so special to me today is that it reminds me of a time fishing with my father. And Pa loved to fish.
Daddy never played golf, and quit hunting when I was a very young. But he loved to fish. He was too busy working and raising a family to do much fishing when I was growing up. He would occasionally go floundering with Uncle Rudolph down at Snead’s Ferry, or find a pond nearby to fish with one of his buddies.
In his older years, with more available time, fishing became a hobby that Pa enjoyed more and more. Whether it was with Uncle Clifford, Uncle Bambridge, Toggie, or another of his buddies, going fishing was something L.F. McPhail looked forward to. And also having the company of those buddies.
And we looked forward to it, also. Because, if Pa and Uncle Bambridge or Uncle Clifford caught a bunch of fish, there would soon be a fish fry. After they had dressed the fish, a time would be set for everyone to get together to eat. Often, I would pick up the slaw and we would head down to Clement for the meal. The men would go out to the barn to help Daddy fry the fish and hush puppies. When everything was ready we would sit down at the long table to feast, joke and laugh, and enjoy each other’s company.
And, of course, the fishermen would tell their fishing stories. There was always a competition about who caught the most fish. Uncle Bambridge would always joke with Daddy about the number of fish Pa would catch. Pa never liked to throw a caught fish back into the water, no matter how small it was. If there was a mouthful of meat there, and you could scale it, he saved it and fried it. So he would count it as a fish caught.
Back to the photograph with the five haggard looking fishermen from twenty years ago. To be honest, I wasn’t too thrilled about going. There were other things I could be doing. Going fishing was alright with me, but I never really got into it like Daddy. I just didn’t have the patience for it. The idea of camping out in hot weather wasn’t too thrilling. Getting up real early, and riding all the way to Edenton just to fish wasn’t that exciting, either. But it was a big deal to Daddy, so I went.
The place where we were supposed to camp and fish didn’t work out, so we had to look elsewhere. We ended up camping behind a bait shop near a boat landing, which ended up being good, since we could go inside, get a snack, and cool off in the air conditioning. As Daddy and I maneuvered in and out of the nearby creeks and inlets on his two-man boat, we caught some fish, but not a lot. I didn’t sleep much that night in the tent, so when Daddy was ready to go back fishing early the next morning, so was I.
It was the highlight of the trip for me. Instead of going back into Pembroke Creek, we went out more toward the open water of Albemarle Sound. We fished near the bridge going into Edenton, as we watched the sun gradually rise over the horizon. We didn’t catch many fish, but it didn’t really matter. We were fishing. It was a beautiful morning. And we were doing it together.
Now you know why that picture is so special to me. I hope you have a picture like that. If not, hopefully you still have time to go out and do something special with a loved one. And remember to take a picture.