Saving Damsels: a memoir

12 years earlier, at the beach (and obviously going to church) with my grandparents and my uncle. I must have been about one and have no memory of this trip..

From the time I was twelve till I started working at the age of sixteen, I spent at least two weeks every summer with my grandparents. These lazy summer days were spent doing odd chores around their house and yard, racing bicycles with the kids next door, and occasional going with my grandmother to visit relatives, dead and alive. Some were living and others were dead. She felt I should know where all my ancestors were buried. 

Every afternoon, my granddad would come home a little after five. Getting out of his truck, he’d yell, “Ready to go fishing?” Grandma had dinner ready. As soon as we finished, the two of us could take off to a lake, a beaver dam, or some farm pond where we’d fish till either a cloud blew up or the light had drained from the sky. Then we’d head home. Out back, under the floodlights by the porch, we’d clean our catch. Often, the next day, my grandma would fry up a mess of them for our dinner. 

It was wonderful to fish with my granddad, but he wasn’t much of a talker when fishing. Instead, he allowed me to have a bit of independence and freedom, as he’d go one direction and send me off the other. I valued the freedom, but now wonder if the real reason was my granddad’s belief that fish could hear you talking. To fish, one needed to be quiet.  

On this one evening, we fished in a rather large pond downhill from a house that belonged to people my granddaddy knew. They were not home. We drove around the house and my granddad parked his truck by the dam. With his fly rod, which is now one of my prize possessions, he fished one side of the lake. I crossed the dam and fished the other. I used a spinning rod and a Rebel, a top floating lure that when pulled fast would dive to about a foot under the surface and wiggle in a way that sometimes drove bass crazy. 

After a few minutes of casting and coming up without a strike, I heard the muffled cry of a woman calling for help. I looked, but didn’t see anyone. The voice seemed to come from behind my grandfather, yet he didn’t seem fazed. When the cry came again, I shouted at my grandfather.  He waved, said it was okay and that I was disturbing the fish. Well, it certainly didn’t sound okay and if someone was in peril, that should take precedence over fishing. When the cry came a third time, I knew someone was in trouble.

I dropped my rod. Checking to make sure my Kabar knife was safely stowed in its sheath on my belt, as I ran as fast as I could around the dam and up the hill. I kept yelling for my grandfather to join me., I couldn’t believe his hearing had gotten so bad, yet granddad didn’t budge. Instead, he yelled, “Come back here.” But I kept running. In my mind I had an image of saving some beautiful damsel in distress. I topped the hill, near the house, and started looking around frantically. 

There was no woman in peril. Instead, there was peacock. Its feathers were displayed like the NBC logo. I didn’t think much about it, except that it was strange. Peacocks are not native to the Sandhills of North Carolina. After a few minutes of looking around and seeing nothing, I walked back down the hill toward my granddad. About halfway down, the cry came again. I turned and saw the peacock up on top of the hill emitting that high pitched cry and heard my granddad laugh behind me. Feeling a bit foolish, I went back to my fishing. 

It’d have to wait for another day before I could make my debut as the new Lone Ranger.

Click here for another memoir piece of fishing with my grandfather.

12 Replies to “Saving Damsels: a memoir”

  1. What wonderful memories with your grandparents. I am sure that fishing time was special to all of you. 🙂 I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when I was little and I cherish the memories. Lots of time outdoors with them enjoy nature.

    1. Thanks, Jess. I was blessed with 9 grandparents when I was born (4 grandparents and 5 great grandparents). And I was 59 when my last grandmother died. There were lots of good memories.

  2. Reding about your memories reminded me of the memories my mom shared of the times she and her siblings would go to her grandparents’ cottage during the summer and fish and go boating. 🙂

  3. I didn’t discover the joys of fishing until I was in my 40s. I grew up in a boating family, but the boats were speedboats.

    I’d say the little one in that photo is closer to two or three years old!

    1. I may have been 2, as I don’t remember. I would expect if I was three, my brother who is a year and half younger than me would be in the photo.

  4. I had much of the same summer experience except my grandfather and I mostly fished from a small john boat on a lake.

    I suspect your grandfather and mine, both told us the fish could hear us talking, just to keep us quiet and so our grandfathers could fish in peace.

    1. My grandfather also had a small jon boat and we did often take it, but this pond was mowed all around so it was easy to fish from the bank instead of fishing from a boat.

  5. I wish I had grown up fishing. Or rather, I wish my family were a fishing family. There is so much quiet, generational wisdom passed through fishing. Mind you, I have plenty of other wonderful legacies from my parents. But I’m envious of those who grow up fishing.

    Peacocks: one of the farmers on my drive to work used to keep a peacock – beautiful, but always startling.

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