Sons’ catch dinner
Dad keeps his word
A fine morning of trout fishing at the White River below Beaver Dam is a cure for summertime no-fish blues in more ways than one. Fishing has been good this summer, as it was on a cool clear dawn at the end of July. Rainbow trout were eager to bite small black or brown jigs. The water is ice cold. That makes early morning fishing refreshing when little wisps of cool breeze come off the river. There’s a fine fish dinner at the end of the day. Catching those fish and the evening feast reminded me of an unexpected trout dinner many moons ago when my brothers and I were little kids. Our parents were great about taking us on fun summer vacations, mainly out West. One summer we had our pop-up camper hitched to the station wagon, bound for the Black Hills of South Dakota. Mom and dad pulled into a little campground tucked away in a grove of sweet smelling pines. They set up camp while my brothers and I trotted off to explore our little home in the forest. There were boulders to climb and trails to see. What really got our attention was the little lake that was the centerpiece of this camping paradise. The water was clear and cold with a rocky bottom, perfect for rainbow trout that prowled the depths. Back at the camper, mom and dad were relaxing in lawn chairs. “Dad, dad!,” we hollered, running into the campsite. “Can we go fishing?” He looked at my mom and sort of chuckled. “Sure you can go fishing. Tell you what. You guys catch some fish and we’ll have them for dinner tonight. If you don’t catch anything we’ll go out to a nice restaurant.” Visions of that nice restaurant danced through my mom’s noggin because we’d been camping three days straight and eating my dad’s cooking every night. His idea of campfire fare was a can of beans and hot dogs any way you like them, long as it was burnt. “Don’t worry honey,” my dad surely piped as we hurried off. “They won’t catch a thing.”
My two brothers and I got to the lake shore and cast our lines. I don’t recall if we used lures or bait, but we weren’t catching a thing. A ways down the shoreline was an older gent relaxing in a lawn chair. A stringer led from his chair into the water. He must have some fish. We went to investigate. Turned out he was using that magic trout bait — whole kernel corn. Looked like a Jolly Green Giant on his tin can. “Here. You boys take some of this corn. Now go on back down the bank where you were and fish there,” our new friend said. Corn instantly became our favorite vegetable. It was hot as a firecracker for catching trout from this little mountain lake. Pretty soon we had a fine mess of rainbow trout on our chain stringer, the perfect size for eating. Oh how happy our parents will be when they see the fine dinner we’ve caught. We took turns dragging the stringer of trout across the pavement on the road back to our camper. You could almost see the color leave our folks’ faces when we showed up with dinner. We were so proud and my dad could see it. He didn’t want to spoil the moment so he heaped the praise on thick, congratulating his fine fishing sons. Mom went into the camper and cried. Dad never let on that he’d rather be cutting into a T-bone instead of cleaning a half dozen trout. Good to his word, he cooked them up fine right there on the campfire. On this particular evening, we brothers were the proudest boys on the planet. Even my mom was smiling and didn’t mind dealing with the bones. We boys did the dishes. I do believe that was the last time my dad ever promised to cook fish. Mom got her dinner out the next night at a nice restaurant in town.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWAFlip