I suppose a lot of people wouldn’t consider spending time fishing as a way of making memories with your family. If that’s true, then I suppose I must just be different than most people. Back when I was in my teens and then into my 20s, we seemed to spend a lot of time fishing at Robert’s pond. Robert and his family were neighbors and friends of ours when I was growing up. He always allowed us to fish at his farm pond whenever we had the time and inclination. I guess he knew that we would always close the gate so his cows wouldn’t get out and we would give him some of the fish we had caught anytime he wanted some of them.
Dad got so he just left his old aluminum boat over at Robert’s pond and that way he didn’t have to haul it over there every time he decided to go fishing. A lot of times, I think Dad would ride over to the pond by himself just so he could spend some quiet time alone. I know it would have been hard for him to have any quiet time at home as long as the four of us children were still there. That also gave him a chance to talk with the Lord about anything that was heavy on his mind. You see, my Dad was a real prayer warrior who took all of his problems before the throne of grace. There’s no better time to pray than when you can see the beauty of nature all around you and there’s no one else around to interrupt your chain of thought. Of course, it didn’t hurt any that Dad almost always brought home some fish to eat.
For several years after my husband and I got married, we lived around the Ellerbe area so we could just ride over to Mom and Dad’s and we’d all go over to Robert’s pond and “wet a hook.” Most of the time, Mom and I would fish from the bank and the guys would take the boat out. I’d love to be able to remember some of those conversations Mom and I had together but I’m afraid my memory is just not quite that good. We probably mostly talked about my work, my brothers and their families, and I’m sure we sometimes talked about food. You see, back then I was always asking her about how she cooked this, that or the other.
When I first got married, it seemed like I just couldn’t cook a complete meal without burning something. If I didn’t burn the pork chops, I’d burn my finger instead. I think a whole lot of the problem was I just wasn’t used to having some type of meat for every meal. Mom almost always cooked some type of beans and potatoes, along with cornbread and tea and that would be our meal. We just didn’t have meat at every meal like my husband was used to having. As long as I was at home, too, I didn’t usually have to cook everything by myself because Mom would fix most of it and I’d just help out. Sometimes, we’d cook up some of those fish we’d just caught at Robert’s pond. That’s when fish always tasted the best to me — fresh, not out of the freezer — with French fries we cut up ourselves, a pan of hot cornbread, and some slaw. Yum, yum!
I remember one day when my husband and I went fishing at Robert’s pond, we took our little aluminum boat. Dad and Mom took their boat out and were fishing at the other end of the pond. We had decided we were going to leave because it was getting late and we had to work the next day. I left my line out and was just letting it trail along behind the boat as my husband was paddling us towards the bank. About that time, something grabbed my hook and almost pulled my rod out of my hands. I shouted “Stop. I’ve got a bite.”
My husband stopped paddling and that fish pulled our boat around so we were headed in the other direction. I was trying to reel in that fish but he was pulling us around the pond instead. My rod was bending almost into the water but I was holding on because I didn’t want to lose that big fish. About that time, Dad hollered, “Hang on, girl. Get him in the boat.” Just about the time I thought I was finally getting it a little closer to the boat, my line broke and the boat just stopped dead in the water. Oh, what a disappointment. A monster bass had just broken my line, so we were definitely not going to have him for supper!
Dad paddled their boat over closer to where we were so we could talk about “the one that got away.” I was talking about a mile a minute when Mom spoke up and said, “It was probably just a big turtle anyway and I don’t really like turtle meat, do you?”
Leave it to your Mom to put you in your place, right?
When I look back at the times my family spent at Robert’s pond, it’s not really important whether or not we caught any fish. What is really important is the time we spent together just enjoying nature and one another’s company. Oh, to be able to get back some of those bygone days with my Mom and Dad!
Azalea R. Bolton is a resident of Richmond County, member of the Story Spinners of Laurinburg, and member of the Richmond and Anson County Historical Societies.