Memories of outdoor adventures and misadventures could fill a book. I hope you are banking a treasury of them to savor at family get togethers. They’re priceless.
A favorite happened to us on one of those precious Indian summer days in early December that make us so glad we live in Texas -- clear, cool, calm, sunny and demanding that we spend it outdoors. I was even in a short-sleeved shirt. We had put in that Sunday afternoon after church at the Sandy Creek Park boat ramp near Jonestown on Lake Travis and fished upstream toward Jonestown. Our first Labrador accompanied us, having previously learned canoe ethics. Or so we thought.
We had caught a couple of small bass and were at peace with the world as the shadows began lengthening. Closing out a perfect afternoon together on the lake, we reluctantly began paddling back to the boat ramp, plugging the shore along the way. I had used several lures and was ending the day with a Bill Lewis “Spit Fire,” a topwater lure that emits fish-attracting splashes as it’s retrieved. Vicky, in the bow with “Choco,” provided paddle-power. She knew I would dawdle to extend a perfect day as long as possible.
The boat ramp was in sight. We were at the last point where a cove enters the lake and the No-Wake area around the boat ramp begins. I cocked my arm for my “first last cast.”
All Choco saw was my right arm flinging forward as she had seen many times before, launching a stick or a tennis ball. Then she saw a projectile in the air, followed by a terrific splash right at the shore as the lure hit the water. What happened next occurred in less time than it’ll take you to read it.
As I reacted to the vicious strike of a mature largemouth bass, Choco reacted as all Labradors would when a retrieve is possible. With a lunge that nearly capsized the canoe, she propelled airborne to the water in pursuit.
Thrilled by hooking a big bass, I didn’t react to raise the rod tip to protect the line. Choco swam right into it. With the bass frantically pulling on one end and me on the other with Choco charging in the middle, the line snapped.
Instantly after realizing it, I turned the air obscenity- blue and appeared to be trying to whip a swimming Lab with a limber spinning rod. Only a short paddle to the ramp, I heatedly told her she could just swim home. As I looked up, only then saw a man sitting on the shore with his young daughter. I embarrassingly apologized. An amused smile appeared as he nodded.
There’re a moral or two to this. A frisky Lab in a canoe is always risky. The other is that having such words in your vocabulary is a really bad idea. You never know when the Devil is going to provide a perfect time for one to blurt out.
John Jefferson is a lifelong outdoorsman, former regulations coordinator at Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., past executive director of the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and author of two books on Texas hunting.