For a dozen or so years now, Brian, his brother Steve, and their good buddy Tom, take a summer fishing trip together. The few days spent on one Hoosier lake or another, and in recent years, Raccoon Lake in Parke County, are more than what it seems on the surface of the water or even into its depths where the fish are (hopefully) biting.
The trip is discussed all year long. On a frosty January day this year, in fact, we passed through the area and stopped beside Raccoon Lake to take photos and text them to Tom. Also about January, they decide the particulars of their reservations.
For a few days, fishing may be the official reason they get together, but the real reason has more to do with seeing each other and a designated stretch of laughing so hard—yes at each others' expenses—like goofy schoolboys, that hospitalization is a real possibility.
When Tom was a newlywed a few years back, his lovely bride enthusiastically suggested that the spouses be included in the annual to-do. I said that would be a to-don’t. “They really need their guy time,” I told her.
And I totally get it. If we blew in on them, the dynamics would change, the fishing trip fall apart. It would be like the guys showing up at my women’s life group and settling themselves between friends on the sofa, as they listened to our stories and plans. No!
Brian’s specific fishing-trip prep gets under way days or weeks before the trip. He gets his poles out and sees if they need adjusted. He rifles through his late father’s and his own tackle boxes looking for – something. He talks about (more than once) and finally prints his fishing license. Trips are made to town for supplies. It’s four days. And it’s a big deal.
The first year they took a fishing trip, I started what has become a tradition. I get them gifts that somehow relate to fishing. This can be a loose relationship, mind you, like the year I made each of them canisters of homemade chocolate-chip cookies using Brian’s and Steve’s late mother’s recipe. Who doesn’t love chocolate chip cookies, true, but these were really for Tom, who had a special love for these treats of Mary’s. So the loose relationship here was that they ate them while fishing.
Lanterns, T-shirts, novelty fish lighters, coffee mugs, caps, fishing or general interest books have all been prizes wrapped up and shared when they get to the lake.
This year was no different. “Have you got our gifts?” Brian asked weeks before the trip, adding that the guys would be disappointed if I didn’t come through. I think that means he would be too.
This year, as in several years past, I found the surprises at Cracker Barrel. There they were lined up on a shelf – three of them in fact –insulated beverage containers with fish motifs on the outside, lids included. Done! And a bonus by getting them at Cracker Barrel: free gift wrap.
I also made some homemade Chex Mix. Days before they left, Brian had everything all boxed up. He rolled west on a sunny morning and I felt happier for him than for myself when I get to do something special.
This morning, the fishing trip is over for another year. I think they should get together more often. I think they should take more fishing trips than one a year. Among the three couples involved, some are retired, some are working full-time, some part time and all have full, busy lives.
But no matter how busy, one thing doesn’t change: the annual fishing trip when these three best buddies get together and catch more than fish. They catch time together. And that is priceless.