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I wrote this story sometime in 2010, before my dad died in November of 2011, my son is now 36+ years old. I only say this to explain the timeframe of the writing a bit better as to when I wrote it and to the timeframe as to when the story subject occurred. This was published in a collection of stories in 2014, but I’m happy to share it (cutting into my huge sales profits! ;)) because this forum has so many new folks that really know squat about me and I’d like to see this place flourish again. We’re facing difficult times in this nation and we need to pull together as countrymen/women, so it never hurts to have contacts, friends and resources outside your close sphere. I’ve made many friends on this website and I think that will continue if folks participate and help others with questions about not just Smith and Wessons, but cars, boats, fishing, house repairs, gardens, landscaping, evading ex-wives/bill collectors, whatever it might be, we have a good group here, let’s take advantage of it and enjoy our freedoms! I hope you like the story! :)

Chapter 3: Fishing in San Felipe

I called to talk with my old dad last night, his health has been poor lately and we all pretty much know his days are running short, so on the advice of all, I’m calling him more often while I have the opportunity. We don’t really do much but talk about old times and laugh, plus of course he wants to know the latest about his grandson, always offering up police tips for him, which I faithfully pass along. This man isn’t just my dad, he’s also my best friend and with that comes the responsibility of taking care of all his affairs once he’s gone and he takes great comfort in knowing I’m there to do it. Not to sound maudlin, during these calls we go over exactly who gets what, what he wants done with this or that, etc. Well yesterday the topic had to do with all the old fishing gear. He was prepared to give it all over to the Cano’s our adopted family and friends until I noted that I’d like to have the deep sea gear, which tickled him to death to hear! The light tackle they might use, however the larger stuff has more sentimental value to me from fishing for flathead catfish in the canals and river around the Yuma Valley, but more importantly down in the oceans of Mexico.

Years ago as a teen, my dad and I joined our close neighbors and friends on a trip to the Pacific side WAY below Ensenada Baja CA, south of the small town of San Quintin. We spent a week on the beach eating our catch along with some purchased lobster; one of the rods and a couple of reels that I got from dad were on that trip. Most of our deep-sea fishing though was in the Sea of Cortez, a.k.a. Gulf of California, either on the sandy mainland western beach coming south from the Yuma AZ direction or on the Baja peninsula facing the eastern waters. When on the peninsula side, it was generally at the more popular and urban setting of San Felipe, but I was fortunate as a boy to travel further south to what was then a simple village, Puertecitos, however with the popular Baja road races passing through, the area grew over the years with many private owned properties that make it hard to fish or camp in today. Anyway, the location spawning this particular writing occurred in San Felipe; the crew being my son, me, my dad and both Clint and Pete, dads fishing buddies.

The trip took place in 1994 or 1995, can’t remember for sure, but I clearly recall my son was young and resolute in his dissatisfaction with hearing he had to wear a life jacket (the only one doing so on the boat and at my insistence) even though he learned to swim young and was a strong swimmer. Yeah, he’d have been 10 or 11 at the time, pre-teen. Last week it was all over the news that a large boat capsized in these very same waters and many are either dead or presumed dead, so I’ll be sure to point it out when I talk to him tonight because I’m certain that with a stubborn streak running through him, he’s probably still a little mad about the life jacket!

Now these aren’t big vessels, 18 to 20 ft. at best, simple open boats with outboard motors which could carry 4 to 5 passengers max, along with the guide/coxswain/fisherman. Well on this trip, it was our crew plus the Spanish speaking boat guide, no strangers. This particular fisherman was the son of a man who had literally been taking these old guys (dad included) out fishing for nearly 40 years by that time, we had made all arrangements the night before, settled into the motel for fish tacos, fireworks and cervezas, lots of them! As to any potential language barrier; my dad’s Spanish is passable, but Clint and Pete were raised in Gadsden AZ, farmed the area for a generation and even built cotton gins in Mexico for a number of years, they’re fluent. Me? I can today safely order off the menu…..

Up early we went, loading all our gear into a clearly beached (???) boat at least 150 ft. up onto the sandy shore. The way it works is we’d be pulled out into the water by one of those famous Mexico fuel-driven-monstrosities; part truck, part tractor and what seems to be the lower hull of a boat, bolted together and ready to overcome any beach obstacle by way of sheer horsepower and HUGE tires! Final inventory: Fishing poles, tackle, water, snacks, BEER and bait; check, check and check! Off we go, gliding through the sand, the old guys already rigging their lines, my son frowning to a point of risking permanent facial damage; me wondering exactly what in God’s name I had just signed the son and I on for! In those days’ folks, I wasn’t riding a desk impersonating someone who works; I really did work, overseeing the construction and maintenance of commercial communications sites in the electric utility business, sometimes dangerous work. Safety was something that I lived and breathed on the job and this trip so far had already demonstrated so many safety related dangers that I had long since hit overload condition, deciding to simply lay back, keep my eyes open in case I needed to do something quick to snatch my son out of danger, along with everyone else if possible. I fought the fatherly urge to tighten the straps on the son’s life vest, but thought that since we were still navigating over fairly calm sand, he might just hit his limit and actually throw me out of the boat! Finally, we were in the water and under the power of the outboard, time to buzz out to deeper water, yeah baby!

Yep and buzz along we do, with no possibility to ask the obvious question due to the engine noise, but where are we heading? The reason I wanted to ask is that except for a single far away island, there is no landscape, no swell of the water, no visible flocks of birds, and no neon sign flashing “Fish Here!”…., nope we just buzz along until the guide suddenly stops the engine and starts cutting bait, hmmm, I guess this means “we’re here”. As I anticipated, the three old timers already have their lines in the water before I even get the son’s line rigged, but soon he’s in and fishing too, I’m the last to make it in. Even the Mexican guide has his line in the water (no pole of course, they do it by hand) and right on cue, they start pulling in fish; Pinto Bass, Corvina and some Croakers, all in what appears to be plain open water. Well, that can’t be the case so I ask now that my hearing is returning and it turns out we’re over a sunken ship that acts as a reef, okay, makes sense. Here come the fish now; everyone, including the son is yanking them in about as fast as bait can be applied and the occasional eel that has to be cut free. Yeah, the fish are just coming in like crazy, except for one guy on the boat, me, humph.

My lack of fish production had apparently gone unnoticed by everyone for a good while, until one life-jacketed little fisherman who would one day make noting detail part of his career, blurts out, “My dad hasn’t even caught one fish”! Well now, let the fun begin! I failed to mention that my old dad and his band of cohorts were masters of teasing and cajoling less successful fishermen, having had more than one ‘thin-skinned’ crew member in the past get red enough in the face to try and walk back to the motel, except they were on water; I was not to be spared. The upside is I have very thick skin (actually it’s more a layer of thick fat underneath the skin, but it works just the same) and I just smiled and kept on baiting up. Heck, even the Mexican boatman was riding my butt in Spanish and I’m not sure it was so much cajoling, but driven by his confusion as to how I simply couldn’t be catching anything at all; we’re using the same rigs, same bait, our lines aren’t 5 ft. from each other in the water, but I’m the only one not pulling in a catch, amazing! Other boats had begun to show up near us and before it was all over, our boatman had called over to his compadres to bring their boat loads’ of stranger ****** fisherman up near alongside so that they could all laugh at me too… I’m serious! Well, eventually I think my dad and the Coxswain begin to feel badly for me and we went to another location where I actually did catch a few fish and the others weren’t nearly as golden, but without a doubt, a story had formed amongst us that would never go away.

Those two cool old brothers have since left this realm, don’t know about the boatman, I heard later he got into trouble with the law (drugs were more profitable than fishing it seems), my old dad as I’ve said won’t long be with us, but we sure as hell laughed about that trip last night when we talked; he repeated that he’d never seen anyone be as ‘cold’ as I was that day in the boat and told me how proud he was that I took it so well, being more like my uncles on my mom’s side with good humor and didn’t get mad by their relentless ribbing. That means a lot to me actually, we were there to have fun and we did. Like most fishing stories, it will soon be down to “two liars left standing”, me and the son. He got some shots in on his old dad that trip, fueled more I’m sure by his anger of having to wear a life jacket for his safety than by his abundance of caught fish versus my weak showing, it’s all good though.

Speaking of the son, he had a good night according to his 7AM call as he was heading to bed this morning; a high speed pursuit, bailout, foot pursuit with two perps apprehended (one hiding in a trash can), drugs, cash, stolen gun and a suspect on an unsolved homicide now in custody. He’ll call tonight as he’s got a few well-deserved days off, I’ll remind him of the San Felipe trip and suggest he call his grandpa while he can. I will also point out that even though I didn’t catch near as many fish as he did (or anyone that trip), the last laugh is on him: he now has to wear a “life jacket” every time he works, but it’s much heavier than the one I made him wear in that boat! Nope, I’m soon to be the ‘old man’ that was on that boat trip; good advice is to never screw with them old guys, they’ll figure a way to come out on top when all is said and done!
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