Fishing Means Bonding for Mississippi Men
By Mary C. Fairley
When I was getting to know my husband, Buddy, he proclaimed, “I CAN catch a fish.”
Buddy lost his right arm as the result of an electrical accident in 2009. At his first orthotic and prosthetic appointment, he was asked: “What would you like to accomplish?”
“To hunt and fish,” he answered. This was his “life over limb” mentality.
An annual fishing trip for some members of my family is planned each year to the Mississippi Delta. Usually, the destination is Lake Washington, in Washington County.
This year, the destination was Eagle Lake, in Vicksburg. It’s a 4,500 acre old oxbow of the Mississippi River.
This year’s was a seven member men’s family and friends trip. Our son-in-law Christopher, a busy husband and father of three, made the arrangements. He and his father, John Wayne, were the owners of Rocky Creek Catfish Cottage and Collectibles, a restaurant in Lucedale. They knew fish. On this trip, they decided to all stay in a house that had been converted into four rooms.
Our son, Daniel, accompanied my husband Buddy. This year’s excursion was scheduled to depart on the day after Caleb’s wedding. Caleb was the baby of our family. Buddy asked him, “Are you sure you don’t want to come with us?”
Of course, it was a little too soon for Caleb to join them.
Buddy towed his boat to our hotel near the wedding venue. When asked which event made him more excited, fishing or the nuptials, Buddy said: “Both.”
Losing his arm had been a challenge for Buddy. Selecting tackle for catching bream was precise. Buddy preferred a six foot, medium to lightweight Ugly Stik fishing rod. Now, mind you, the eyes must not be too big. He required a long handle to comfortably hold the fishing pole under his damaged right shoulder. Buddy selected a Zebco 33 class, platinum reel and attached it to the pole so he could spin it with his left hand. He fastened a cork and two big leads on the fishing line.
“The lead can’t let the cork sink,” Buddy warned. “Corks cost 50 cents each.” A flexible, black, number 6 Mustad hook completed the setup.
A spring weather cold front with high winds brought three foot whitecaps to Eagle Lake at the time the men were there. Buddy and Daniel endured the choppy waters and caught 100 to 150 bream, ranging in size from 14 to 16 ounces, plus 12 catfish.
Daniel, an offshore electrician, husband, and daddy, said, “Dad and I don’t have much together time.”
The angling outing was needed. It’s was important, to both father and son. They turned mishaps — like getting fishing lines caught in treetops, and failure to drop the anchor — into laughs. Fishing was generational in Buddy’s family. Buddy and Daniel had cherished time, to share memories from Daniel’s childhood and lore about Buddy’s dad.
The guys celebrated Daniel’s birthday at Yore Country Kitchen in Vicksburg. It was a fitting way to celebrate not just a birthday, but the way fishing in Mississippi can help fathers and sons, and brothers, and friends, to re-connect.
And you know, Buddy CAN catch a fish. Maybe you, too, can go fishing next year, Caleb.
Freelance writer and University of Southern Mississippi graduate Mary C. Fairley is a wife, mother and grandmother. She may or may not be counting the days until Buddy’s next fishing trip.