The morning came all too soon or so it seemed as far as I was concerned, but none-the-less, I rose, started the coffee and walked back to Jed's room to awaken him. I'd promised to take him trout fishing this morning and teach him the fine art, if there is such a thing with my techniques, of enticing, hooking, and netting the brook trout found in our area streams and rivers. This morning we were going to fish the stream which cut across our property before emptying into the lake. With his Aunts and cousin arriving the on the morrow, I thought this would be not only a good opportunity to teach him to fish, but, if we were successful, smoke a few for a recipe I wished to try.
Jed's bedroom door was ajar and thinking he was awake, I cautiously peeked in. He was up alright, but not awake. Sleeping in the nude, as I did, his teenage manhood was signaling the start of a new day or, at the very least, he had to pee and the result was a very pronounced stiffness pointing toward the ceiling. I stepped back into the hall, knocked lightly on the door, and called softly, "Jed, are you awake?"
I received a very sleepy, non-descript answer, so I waited a moment, knocked again, and asked if he was ready to go fishing. This time I received a very distinct, "Yeah, Dad; I'll be out in a minute."
Smiling to myself, remembering my own youthfulness and inability to keep it down for very long, I returned to the kitchen, poured myself a cup of coffee, and gathered a couple of apples and oranges from the refrigerator for snacking as we fished. If the fish were biting and if we were skillful enough, we could have trout for breakfast when we returned. However, the old saying, somewhat changed in our family, "If wishes were horses and beggars could ride and horseshit was gingerbread, we'd eat till we died," could prevail. I hoped we'd be more successful than that.
Jed came into the kitchen, all dressed for the day. He opted for a cold soda rather than coffee or juice to start his day. We each took a spinning rod, the smaller ones I used for fishing brushy streams, with an open-faced reel from the rod holder on the porch, sprayed ourselves with mosquito repellent, grabbed a container of worms, placed extra tackle in the creels, and started down the path toward the stream using the walking sticks I prepared for us the night before to keep us from stumbling. I decided we'd use live bait on this trip rather than artificial lures since I wanted Jed to have a better chance of success.
The five foot wooden walking sticks were handy for keeping our balance on the narrow path and really necessary when wading through the rocky, uneven bed of the stream with swift flowing water surging up against our legs. I was concerned how Jed, with his prosthesis, would handle the hiking over the irregular terrain and the rocky creek bottom. I shouldn't have been concerned; he was so adept with his balance and use of the prosthesis, after having it all these years, little deterred him.
The morning was bright, cloudless, with the morning sun breaking through the dense over-forest of pine and deciduous trees limiting its penetration in spots, darkening the path and surrounding woodlands. The morning was ideal for a father and son or anyone, for that matter, to go fishing or just be together. It was an experience I'd shared with my own father, fishing for catfish in the small rivers not far from our home in Southwestern Wisconsin, on numerous occasions. Grant didn't have the opportunity to do so until he met me and we became a couple. The only contact with outdoor adventures he had previously was through the vicarious experiences of reading or watching movies concerning them. After we bought our property and built our home here, he and I shared this same walk many, many times, discovering something new and different each time we made it.
I felt so comfortable, hiking along with Jed listening to his excited banter, and answering his questions as he'd hear a new sound, see a different tree, or watch a bird flitting about in the trees or bushes. A whole new world opened for him in less than a week and he was taking to it like a duck to water, absorbing every detail, committing them to memory for use in the future. Grant just had to be smiling as Jed and I giggled and laughed our way, traipsing the deer path to the trout stream.
A half-hour of walking, ending with a stop in a clearing near one of my favorite fishing holes, Jed was treated to his first look at the twirling, swirling, fast-moving stream as the water cascaded over and around rocks, forming small waterfalls and rapids in its tumbling journey toward the lake. Stretching before us was a deep, clear blue pool of water, formed as the water cascaded over a series of rapids formed by rocks in the stream, slowing where the current scoured the hole from the gravel deposited there. There were any number of these pools or holes, both up and downstream, where the current slowed and where trout were likely to lurk. It was in those spots we'd fish, hoping to catch a trout or two.
Slipping a worm on the small hook attached to his fishing line, readjusting the split shot lead weight to about six inches above the hook, explaining how to bait and why, I demonstrated how to cast; how to place the bait where the current would wash it into the lair of a hungry trout, if there were any there and if they were biting. I pointed out a couple of places he might try, helping him learn to "read" the stream.
Rather than casting out for him, I handed him the rod, and said, "Give it go!" and he did. My son was a natural; one cast placed his baited hook alongside a large boulder at the head of the pool. The current swept it past the rock and swirled it in the eddy just downstream from it. The line twitched, not jerked, and twitched again signaling a bite.
"Strike," I said quietly, "give a small jerk to set the hook."
By all of the gods on Olympus, he indeed hooked his first trout! Patiently instructing him to keep his rod tip up to lessen the chance of the fish "throwing" the hook and how to work the fish into the shallows, where I prepared to net it. Jed let the rod take all of the strain, as he should, allowing the fish wear itself out pulling against the rod and fighting the current as well. The twisting, turning, frantic actions of the fish as it tried to rid itself of the encumbrance in its mouth, attempting to escape the pain in its lip, leaping several times, each time brought a "wow" from Jed's mouth. He carefully brought a very nice fat, twelve inch, speckled, brightly colored trout to net.
If he thought I was pleased with him in his first attempt at trout fishing, he should've been witness to the huge grin and hear the giggles of laughter I saw and heard that morning. Clearly, Jed was pleased with himself, but more, I really think he was just overjoyed and proud that he'd pleased me. That first fish was all it took for him to become hooked as tight as the trout. That first fish was not the only one we caught that morning, but kept only the larger ones. I did very little fishing, preferring to spend my time netting fish, assisting Jed in improving his fishing skills, teaching him to "read" the stream, and generally, just enjoying his presence. We kept eight fish, none under twelve inches. This would give us a couple for breakfast and the rest for smoking.
We arrived back at the cabin, wet, hungry and tired, but happy. Stripping to our boxers on the porch, leaving the wet clothes there so I could hang them out to dry, Jed headed to the bathroom to shower first. I hung up the clothes, washed the trout to clean away the remaining blood and dirt which may have collected on them in our creels, and placed them in the refrigerator to begin cooling. Noticing a creepy-crawly, little bug which I identified as a wood tick, working its way toward the waistband of my shorts, I immediately pulled them down and started a visual inspection of my body, seeking any more of the blood-sucking little bastards. Sometimes, they can be the very devil to extract, once they've latched on with their blood-sucking mouths, especially if they've buried their heads in your hide and began feeding in earnest with their bodies swelling as they become filled with your blood.
I found a half-dozen, picked them off, crushed them with a fingernail, and tossed them in the garbage. Jed would have to check my back when he finished showering to see if any of the little critters lodged in places I couldn't see. I'd hoped the insect repellent would've kept them at bay, but evidently the wet foliage we paraded through dampened its effectiveness.
The bathroom opened and I heard the familiar thrumming of Jed's crutches hurrying toward the kitchen. I turned to face him and found myself looking at a very naked, still dripping, fourteen year old, balanced on his crutches, his missing limb wicking the water from his torso, drip, drip, dripping on the kitchen floor, forming a little pool near his still intact right leg. A look of fright, no, more a look of terror consumed his face!
"Dad," he squeaked, eyes big, "I've got bugs on me!"
Indeed he did! I surprised myself at being able to see them so quickly since they're brown in color and one would think difficult to spot on a brown-skinned person. I realized I'd adapted very quickly to having a bi-racial son in the house. It's all a matter of perspective; sunburn, wood ticks, or anything else is just as visible on brown, black, white, or yellow skin as any other; it just depends what you are used to looking at.
I counted about a dozen on him. After explaining what they were, how we picked them up and where, and assuring him they weren't permanently attached, I began plucking them from his body. He stood patiently while I worked, removing them from his back, stomach, arms, and legs. None left any marks or abrasions, so I didn't feel it necessary to disinfect, although I probably should've.
Stepping back, I looked him over and announced, "There, I think that's all of them."
Jed hesitated, swallowed hard, and said, "You missed one."
"Where?" I queried, giving his body another quick scan.
"Down there," he answered, raising a hand and pointing a finger hesitantly toward his crotch.
"There?" I asked, receiving a nod in response.
"Please, Dad," he pleaded plaintively and closed his eyes.
I knelt in front of him, a position I'd assumed many times with Grant, but for different reasons, moved his penis aside, cupped his balls, lifted them and sure enough, right behind the left gonad, attached to his perineum, was one of the nasty little devils. I stood, went to the medicine cabinet in the bathroom and returned with a pair of forceps. Assuming my former position, moved his penis and gonads aside, and grasped the wood tick with the forceps and pulled it loose. I thought he would be embarrassed to death, having his father ministering to his most private parts, but he wasn't. In fact, once I was done, he opened his eyes, smiled, and asked,
"Any permanent damage?"
"Not one bit," I assured him as we both laughed.
After I showered and we both were dressed, we fixed a breakfast of trout and eggs, coffee, juice and milk. Jed cleaned up and did the dishes while I put the remaining trout in a salt brine solution to soak for a couple of hours before I smoked them. The next couple of hours were spent cleaning house in preparation for my sisters' visit.
Just before lunch, I started the small charcoal smoker near the outdoor furnace, rinsed the fish, let them air dry for a few minutes to set the cure, and placed them in the smoker.
"Those should be done in about three hours, just before happy hour. That gives us time to do some laundry. Your aunts would be all over me like white on rice if there was any indication I'm not taking care of you the way they think I should," I commiserated to him.
Jed laughed and giggled as only a fourteen going on fifteen year old lad can. God, it was so good to hear laughter in our house again. I hadn't realized how much I missed the sound.
Laundry done, house cleaned, fish smoked and now cooling, it was almost time for happy hour. I set one fish aside for Jed and me to snack on and deboned the others. It was my intent to fix, as one of the dinner dishes for my sisters and cousin a variation of a smoked salmon carbonara recipe a friend in Switzerland sent me. I'd been anxious to try it. The recipe calls for smoked salmon, but I'd be substituting smoked brook trout. Wild garlic or "bear garlic" is used in the recipe but wild garlic is not native to our area and wild onion or "ramps" are, so I'll use a combination of wild onion, domestic or garden garlic, and a touch of chives. According to him, it's a dish that must be prepared quickly and served hot to be most tasty.
I looked over the recipe to see if there was anything else I needed to purchase, but I had the fish, the parmesan cheese, eggs, garlic, onion, chives, salt, pepper and pasta. All I'd have to do, once the pasta was cooked, would be to mix the grated parmesan cheese with the eggs, salt and pepper to taste, add the garlics and smoked trout, and mix thoroughly into a paste and fold the mixture quickly into the hot pasta. It sounded delicious.
Placing the remaining trout on a plate, surrounding it with crackers, I placed forks beside it, mixed myself a brandy old fashioned sweet, poured Jed a soda, and we sat back to relive our fishing outing and the days' work. As we sat, Jed kept absent-mindedly scratching his forearms as if something bothered him or itched.
I finally asked, "Something bothering you or do you have some sort of affliction I'm unaware of?"
"Yeah," he answered, "my arms itch," presenting them for my inspection.
Much to his consternation, I began laughing.
"What's so funny?" he demanded.
"Well, Jed, so far today you've experienced just about everything except stepping in bear shit. Caught your first trout, gathered a plethora of wood ticks, now poison ivy. You must've encountered some this morning while we were fishing or on the trail. Sit still, I'll get some calamine lotion from the medicine cabinet to relieve the itching and help heal it."
I brought the bottle of pink lotion out to the porch and, with some hesitancy, wondered how much I dare tell him and how explicit I should be concerning Grant's and my first encounter with the noxious weed here as I applied the lotion to the blisters formed on his arms. Sighing to myself, I thought what the hell he's a big boy now so here goes.
"Grant and I did basically the same thing; we both ended up with poison ivy on our backs, butts, crotches, and arms from being a 'little too frisky' in the woods without being very observant of our surroundings – if you know what I mean," I said with raised eyebrows.
Jed's eyes twinkled mischievously as he snorted, "You mean you two were fornicating in the woods, all naked and rolled around in it, don't you?" and he laughed, not just a laugh, but a deep, belly-slapping, loud gut-busting howl of mirth.
Do you think that son of mine would stop there? Oh, no, not Jed – he continued, "How did you manage to apply lotion to each other's pieces parts without a repeat performance?"
Now it was my turn to be embarrassed. Jed knew very well what went on between lovers, gay or straight, and was clearly able to accept it with no inhibitions or derision. He continued to laugh off and on all evening. I could still hear him chuckling to himself when he went to bed.
Before I went to bed, I walked over to the desk, picked up Grant's picture as I was in the habit of doing, looked at it and said aloud, "Grant, what are we going to do with that son of ours?"
I could swear I heard Grant answer, "Love him, Parker, love him."
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