Emotionalism

Well, it’s only the second day of the Every day in May challenge and I’m already having problems. This does not bode well.

The subject is Home Waters and it should be a relatively easy topic for me to write about but I’m having a hard time putting how I feel into words. This is probably because it’s an emotional subject for me, as was what I wrote about yesterday, and honestly I’m not one for… sharing. Not real emotions anyway. I’m fine with bitching about things. Most of my agitation is mock agitation and I’ve always thought of ranting as a sport, but I try to stay distanced from anything that elicits any sort of poignant feelings. Yet, when thinking of the rivers, creeks and bays I fished the majority of my life it gets me a little verklempt. Being relatively recently removed from these waters I guess some deep feelings are to be expected, though I didn’t expect it to feel so close to mourning.

I’ve lived farther away for longer periods of time but I was younger with more money and fewer children and making trips back to what I’ll always consider my home was no big deal. If I was desperate for the reel screaming pull of a big redfish (which in my heart of hearts will always be a spottail bass), the smell of pluff mud or the taste of shrimp that were caught within hours of when they were eaten, I could make plans and be where I wanted within a week or two. I would often make the fourteen hour drive from Brooklyn to Charleston just to spend a long weekend. Didn’t even think that much about it.

Now I live three hours away and planing a trip to Charleston is akin to making a shuttle launch; everything has to be just right. How much do we have in the bank account? Is everyone feeling well? What needs to get done at home before we can leave? Is anything else scheduled? Where we going to stay? And god help me if I try to head down to do something that involves timing the tide and weather because, so far, it’s proven impossible.

I guess that’s why I get emotional about my home waters; they’re so close but still so far away.

Missing

I wanted this post to be entitled My Triumphant Return to the Lowcountry. I was going to talk all about the fish I caught, the deer I killed, the fresh sea food I consumed, the palmettos, the marsh, the salt air and basically everything I consider essential ingredients to a story all about a trip back to my homeland, coastal South Carolina.

Instead this was possibly the worst weekend of my life…

A lot of the things I write tend to focus on how my family life interferes with my fishing and hunting. I’ll probably be moving away from that theme due to my children and mother-in-law going missing this weekend.

Don’t worry, I’ve got them back, but for twelve or so hours of my life, because of the combined incompetence of a hospital and the Charleston SC city Police, I had no idea what had happened to my kids. The details of what did happen aren’t important. What is, is that I have an over active imagination and a taste for the macabre and these are not good qualities to have if your children are missing.

I can say, without a doubt, that during that time if I could have given up fishing, hunting or even going outside again just to know where my children (and I guess my mother-in-law) were, I would have. And now that the ordeal is over and everyone is home safe and relatively unharmed I am really glad I didn’t have to do that, because it would have sucked.

Home Waters

Driving home the other day from a failed fishing trip I passed a van that was selling shrimp. This in its self isn’t unusual, shrimpers selling part of their catch out coolers from the back of their vans and pickups is one of those things you get so use to seeing here in coastal SC that you barely notice them.  This particular van wasn’t anything special; bamboo held up an old sheet as a makeshift awning, blue and red coolers were placed were ever shade could be found and the signs were all hand painted on pieces of weathered particle board. This was a pretty typical setup for what it was.

For some reason (probably having to do with the 20oz Red Bull I chugged) I noticed this one shrimp merchant and tried to imagine what it must look like to the tourist passing through on their way to the island resorts further down the road.  I was sure there are a fair percentage of people that are turned off by the idea of buying seafood from the back of a 1980′s panel van, but there are probably more that think of the scene as quaint or picturesque. I, being from the area, know that nothing involving shrimpers can be called quaint, due to the fact that most shrimpers are one apocalypse scenario away from being full on pirates but I could totally see Marge and Bob from Ohio seeing the van parked under stately live oaks with its lemonade stand like presence stopping to take pictures and talk to the “colorful locals”.

And why shouldn’t Bob and Marge stop and check out the local roadside stand?  These shrimp stands are almost always manned by people who have been in the area for generations.  It’s rare opportunity for many people vacationing in the area to get to talk to someone who’s not paid to be nice to them, not to mention real life natives.  Its something I would do, something I have done, in a foreign place.  And to a person from anywhere else, the area probably seems pretty foreign.

Coastal South Carolina is basically nothing but a mass of barrier islands separated by rivers, creeks and marsh from the Grand Strand (the beach part of Myrtle Beach), south. All of the water between these islands team with shrimp, crabs and baitfish.  This area also acts as a nursery for game and food fish.  This all adds up to make a giant buffet for larger fish looking for a meal.  Redfish, speckled trout and flounder can be caught all year long if you know what your doing. In the summer tarpon, jack crevalle, lady fish and cobia can all be caught.  And if you want to soak a piece of shrimp on the bottom, well, I don’t have the time or patience to list all the fish you might catch. What I’m trying to get across here is that my local waters, the places I’ve fished my entire life, where I was born and raised, is a paradise for people who love to fish.

Not all that long ago I spent some time on a friends dock with my oldest son who had just turned five. We were only there a few hours but still came home with a bucket full of crabs, a couple of pounds of shrimp and a few fish to fry.  All of this off a dock in a creek that is only a foot deep and four foot wide at low tide.  This wasn’t, at the time, a big deal to me.  Coming home empty handed would have been a big deal. No shrimp, no crabs, no fish, that would have been unusual.

And yet, here I am, with the bounty of the sea at my finger tips, day dreaming about chasing bonefish and tarpon in the keys; fantasizing about catching salmon in Alaska; envisioning myself tangling with peacock bass deep in the Amazon, while I could catch all the fish I want right in my back yard.

I guess that’s one of those things about fishing and probably life in general. You don’t always appreciate what you have until you know your about to lose it.  So good-by Charleston, hello Rock Hill.