The sun is on the rise. Water pours shhh from a fountain hidden in the cold fog. And, a veritable fleet stands ready to ferry folks of any shoe to their own kind of paradise. There are ski boats, bass boats, barge boats, stacks of 10,12, 14, 15 and mo’ boats. Nitro for wrestling fans. Tahoe for folks who want their cars and boats to be twinsies. And, Panfish 16 for folks who cannot abide by the word twinsies, ever.
“Ahoy,” calls a girl’s voice. Nearby a guy in a Ducks Unlimited cap approaches his darling boat, eyes downcast. I dub him “DU” and he pets her outboard, pats her transom, and peeks at the tag dancing burlesque on the breeze. He mouths his best lines and charges the bow, eyes screaming I can, I must, I will have you.
The wind spins the tag. He recoils and his eyes yelp Um, I wasn’t ready yet.
Another “Ahoy” summons ancient mariner spirits for DU and his eyes again tell the tale.
I loved you immediately. And, I know you’re a coast girl and I’m a river guy, but we can visit your folks—not every weekend. The tag trembles. I mean that’s asking a lot. The wind rises with his desperation. I’m just a simple man. I can’t offer you riches, but love. Not everyone gets that. The wind snatches the tag away.
I want to tell DU the good news, but it’d be weird for one furry man to whisper comfort to another at sunrise.
I do feel his pain, though. Anyone who doesn’t has a back turned to God and country. Yes, Mr. Putin, all Americans are exceptional. And our boatfolk are exceptionally exceptional: Washington, Twain, Jean LaFitte, Jimmy Buffet, the Perfect Storm lady captain, Papaw and the rest too – all charmed. The sun casts them in unending glamour shots. And when they smile – God! – it’s with a child’s purity and a drunkard’s joy. And, they speak pure seduction. “Come out on myyy boat, we can go to Petit Bois, or another place you’ve never been and I always go,” they say. We hear “Free boat ride, Friend.”
Take Lyle Lovett. He wrote one boat song and seduced Julia Roberts. Of course, she abandoned ship once she discovered pony boating is a sure fire way to get stomped, drowned, and eaten by sharks. He got her, though, because boatfolks are irresistible. Thank goodness, too. How many of us would be here if Noah had built a giant hot air balloon? And, speaking of antiquity, who’s to blame for our boat note dilemma? The Greeks. They put a coin, Charon’s obol, on the tongue of their beloved dead. Pay the ferryman, they said, or roam the muddy banks of the River Styx for eternity. So, yeah, Greeks contributed some decent art and one fine salad dressing, but they also gave our collective unconscious something dirty to suck on: Fear of the postmortem boat note. And, DU can taste it.
But, I want to tell him I too had a dreamboat (a 21’ flats boat with a 150, raised console, jack plate, and a double axle trailer– F I N E fine!). But, off she ran with another man. So, I did the boat guy unthinkable. (No, I didn’t walk somewhere, vote Nader, or put a sweater on my dog.) I spent a tear-soaked $500 on a kayak. I think I’ll tell him.
“Another sobber by the party barges,” barks the intercom, “Drown him out with more pour on the fountains!”
Yeah, I’m not going over now.
Snoopy pole, whole
But, the kayak changed my life. I’d been shin deep in shore mud elbowing grandpas and snapping Snoopy poles for a little room here to cast at hardheads; and at docks, I peeked at power trims and savored wafts of salt and 87-octane like a lover’s Chanel. Now, I troll past with trout doubles, waving in unison with my backup dolphins. And, I wrestle bulls from skinny water while that man in my Bahia hangs on oysters, swearing.
DU slips a hand slowly down her gunnel until she drops away. He gives one last look back before he leaves to remember her that way, forever.
DU should know, though, that the kayak killed my boat note boogeyman. Yes, I will get my Bahia one day; but right now, I’m off to the Lighthouse Lakes.
Oh, you don’t know where that is? Well, it’s amazing and I always go there.
Originally published in my Last Cast column in GAFF Magazine. Read on-line at no cost.
Once you get your kayak, this will help you figure out where to take it: Paddling Texas.