Florida summers were (are) brutal. It’s often said that Florida summers never end, they only take a short break. Want to experience the brisk chill of Fall? Enjoy that one day where it dips in to the 70’s! Winter? Ha! It could be 20 degrees outside and you’d still be drenched in sweat.
It would seem at first that there is no benefit to living in Florida during the Summer time. I’d almost agree with you simply based off of that assumption but here’s why I won’t:
I was born and raised in a town named Lakeland. Why? It was full of lakes! In fact, the majority of the city was a lake with occasional pockets of inhabitable land.
The beauty of lakes is the ability to use them. Modern technology (what a beauty it is) has given us such objects as: legs to propel ourselves through water, arms to keep us afloat, sunscreen to shade our pasty white flesh, and towels to dry ourselves off with. God bless America.
Florida blood runs through my veins. That very lifeblood contains an inherent desire to fish. I’m not really much of a fisherman and I never have been but there’s something about it. The warmth of the sun’s rays covering every inch of exposed skin. The gentle, yet harsh spray of the lake water careening up from the waves into your face. The momentary excitement of hookin’ what you thought was a fish but then finding nothin’ but trash, grass, and mud. Something about it indeed.
My Uncle Stacy taught me how to fish when I was a young boy. I remember visiting his house and finding childish fascination with the elongated pieces of wood hanging around his garage. I loved the feel of the fake fish bait: bright, eye-grabbing, soft. I would grab quickly on to the rod and reel, trace my fingers down the wire, and be softly, yet quickly reminded that there’s somethin’ sharp dangling at the end. A stern, caring warning would find its way to my ears “Careful, son. Those’ll get ya…”
My Uncle had always been a warm,welcome aura. There are three things I remember of my Uncle: He loved God, fishin’, and me.
One particular summer my parents had ventured to Australia for a month and left us behind (Not bitter or anything). We had our close family staying with us and taking care whilst our parents traveled, scoped the country, and preached the Gospel. My mother’s parents watched over us for two weeks and during that time my grandfather and my Uncle Stacy decided to hit the lakes to do a little fishin’. Guess who was the lucky boy that got to tag along? Yeah, this kid.
Early morning rolled around on that joyous day and I woke up easily, full of enthusiasm for what the day held. My Grandfather loved fishin’ just as much as my Uncle. Needless to say, all three of us were excited to hit the waters.
We gathered our gear, packed the car, and headed to Lake Gibson. By this time the sun had crested over the horizon providing the day’s first layer of warmth. Its orange-ish glow radiated over the calm lake and beckoned us to make a little noise. My Uncle joined us, helped lower the boat into the water, and hopped in to our water-craft right next to me. I scarce remember a time when he wasn’t smiling. This day was no different. All three of us were bridled with anticipation, ready to reel in our first catch.
We motored our way deep in to the lake and settled down. The process of baiting a line didn’t take long as we settled for using our brilliant fake-bait. Being the young guy on the boat I received a little extra attention. I wasn’t too experienced with casting a rod and I don’t believe either of them wanted a hook in their back. Each took careful turns explaining and showing me the proper process of casting. Toss it back, throw it forward, and at the right moment, let go of the button and let ‘er fly. It’s all in the wrists, my friends…All in the wrists.
When I had settled in to my routine they prepared their equipment and before long we were all fishin’. Two men with legacies that far outweigh words teaching a young boy how to do something of worth. I’m sure you can imagine why I remember this.
We didn’t catch any fish that day. In fact, all that we caught was a minor (major) case of Florida sunburn. We had spent all morning roasting in a tin boat with no reward to show for it. We decided to pack up and head back home. I have to admit, I was a little discouraged but both my Uncle and Grandfather were quick to remind me that it was ok. There was always next time! Indeed…Next time it is.
That’s the last memory I have of my Uncle Stacy. He died a few short years later. I miss him and I keep him close to my heart. His cowboy hat is in my closet. Pictures of him and I are found on occasion but the mental image of his smiling face forever remains in my head and heart.
RIP Uncle Stacy…We Miss you