The soft “whirring” noise made by the black electric motor as it pushed the twelve foot aluminum boat toward the center of the hidden lake slowed and eventually faded to nothing. A second passed with the only noise coming from the water passing beneath the boat, quieting too as the boat lost momentum. I twisted the tiller handle a few times, hoping to squeeze something from the motor. Nothing. I turned to look at the guy in the front of the boat. I didn’t really know him that well. We said nothing to each other right away. Disgust started filling the air. I just shook my head and looked again at the sides of the boat where oars would have been if we had bothered to bring them. Josh just smiled a little and finished tying a spinner bait to his line.
“Uhhhh, I thought you said the battery was charged,” Josh finally said.
“Well…” I said. “I thought it was charged. Hell it should be, I stole it out of the lawn tractor.”
“You did what?”
“I took it out of the lawnmower.”
“Have you used the lawnmower yet?”
“Uh. No, there isn’t any grass to mow yet.”
“Then what made you think it was charged up?” Josh said through a deepening smile. Bits of laughter jumped up in his throat.
“Quit picking on me,” I said. Trying to hold back.
Josh nearly fell backwards out of the boat laughing.
“Hey, I needed a battery.” I started to laugh. Soon the walls of budding trees surrounding the small, cold lake were echoing with deep laughs rumbling through chilly spring air.
“Well at least we thought far enough ahead to toss the oars in the boat before we left,” I said.
“Oh yeah,” Josh added, “ good call there too.”
“Oh, shut up and fish you big baby.”
We may have not known each other that well but at least we talked and acted like we did. It was weird but Josh and I just seemed to form an instant friendship. Maybe we were both looking for buddies? Who knows how we ended up in that little boat that day?
About half an hour later, I came up with a brilliant plan. All we needed to do was get back to shore. We could then hook up jumper cables to the battery and run the truck, thereby recharging the battery and away we go again. The small problem of getting back to shore was the only thing that was stopping us.
“So… Who’s going swimming,” Josh asked.
“Uhhhh, well, I ain’t so good of a swimmer,” I said, looking back at him as if to say he was it.
“Well, I sure as hell ain’t going to do it. I’m betting there was ice on this lake not more than a week ago. You got us into this mess.”
“Me? Like it was all my fault. I seem to recall you being there as we loaded up.”
“So… you could have thrown the oars in the damn boat, they were sitting right there.”
“Well, why didn’t you do it then?”
“I had other things on my mind. You shouldn’t have rushed me.”
“Rushed you? Sheeeet. Quit your whining,” Josh said.
“You rushed me… Now get swimming so we can get this done. I‘d rather not spend the rest of my life stuck on this little lake.”
Josh’s steadfast refusal to go swimming in the cold spring water forced me to come up with a different solution. After ten minutes of fussing and wondering what to do, I noticed that we had two small landing nets in the boat.
We forgot to charge our battery and we forgot to throw in oars and I might as well tell you that we also forgot to take along life preservers, but we had landing nets. Because two accomplished fishermen such as ourselves would undoubtedly catch the largest fish ever caught out of a lake and therefore have deep need of quality landing nets. And not just one, mind you, we would need two. One for each end of the small boat because you don’t want to have to look for your net while you are fighting the biggest fish ever caught out of a lake. Well I hit upon the idea of wrapping the extra netting around the hoop of the net and using it as a makeshift paddle.
“What? That is a dumb idea,” Josh said.
“You got a better idea at the moment?”
“Uh, no, actually, hand me a net.”
One might think that a landing net would make a poor paddle. And that would be a correct assessment. It took us almost an hour to get back to the shore, which wasn’t that far away. We probably would have been much farther ahead to use our hands but that just didn’t occur to either of us.
As we reached the shore, Josh hopped out and pulled the boat up on the bank.
“Hand me the battery,” he said.
“All right, grab the jumper cables out of the back of the truck too.” I went and started up the truck while Josh looked throughout the back.
“Uh, and just where were these jumper cables?” he asked.
“They were right there. My mom used them last week to start her car.”
“Well I don’t see them. Did she put them back?”
“Said she did… Let me look.”
As can be expected, there were no jumper cables in the back of my truck. Did this stop us? No way. Well… it did for a while.
“Well, I don’t know what to do,” I said.
“I don’t know about you but I’m fishing,” Josh said. He grabbed a rod from the boat and walked down the shore.
“Right behind you.”
I grabbed a rod and the night crawlers and followed. We had been at the lake for nearly four hours all totaled. Finally we had the chance to relax a little. We cast a couple of lines out, the bobbers rippling the mirror surface. Just past the casting ability of our fishing gear, fish jumped and swirled the water. The other side of the lake that can only be reached by boat seemed to teem with life. The monster fish that we would have undoubtedly caught had we gotten over that far teased and humiliated us every now and then.
“Next time we come here, we catch some of those fish.”
“Next time… make sure you bring the damn oars,” Josh added as we both laughed some more. Suddenly, Josh got up and asked me to keep and eye on his pole. He had an idea and went off to rummage through his tackle box.
“Hey man, get your ass over here,” he shouted.
“Just do it and don’t bitch.” I set my pole down and ran over to the boat.
“What’s the plan?” I asked.
“Just start up the truck and I’ll show you.” I got in and started up the motor. I could see Josh doing something so I got out to investigate.
“We’ll let the truck’s alternator charge up the battery,” Josh said as he undid the battery cables.
“Will that work?”
“Why not? Well it should anyway.”
“Uh Ok, I guess.”
Somehow the truck remained running and Josh got the smaller lawnmower battery hooked up. We let the truck run for over an hour, even driving it up and down the road for a few times to make sure. At least we had enough sense to not use the truck battery to run the boat motor. There is an old saying that adversary brings out the greatest in people. Who would have thought that it would apply to fishing? One thing it did do was bring out the friendship between Josh and I.
We hooked everything back up and Josh once again shoved us off and into the lake. I twisted the tiller handle on the electric motor and it sprang to life, thrusting the little boat out and across the lake.
“Well now, this is much better,” Josh said.
“Oh yeah, let’s go get us some fish.” I really enjoyed fishing with Josh. He was going out with a friend of mine at the time and she had introduced us. He was fairly new to the area and we seemed like we’d get along.
It helped that when I walked into my freshman composition class at the community college, there he was. We started hanging out right away. One day in the spring, a plan was hatched to go on this fishing trip. I kept talking about this great lake I knew way back while I was in High school. “Monster fish,” I’d say. Well Josh would say something to the effect of “let’s go,” but you know how it is with people who don’t know each other that well but act like they do. Saying that you’ll do something and actually doing it are two separate things. With this guy, though, I actually believed him that he wanted to go fishing with me.
I should have known that Josh and I would end up being friends that first day we had class together. It was nearing the end of winter and the college had its classes in a building on the shores of lake Cadillac. It was cold that year and the ice was quite thick even in March. After class we went to the parking lot and I started toward my Mazda. Josh headed for the lake and only then did I notice the lime-green Buick that he drove, parked on the lake.
“Why in the hell did you park on the ice?”
“Oh… I took a short cut across the lake and there wasn’t anyway to get off the lake.”
“Did you worry about it going through?”
“Hell no, the ice is twelve inches thick.”
“Cool. I’d even fish on that.”
“What do you think I was doing all morning?”
“Fishing out of the car?”
“Hell yeah, fastest shanty on the lake,” Josh boasted.
How could I not be friends with a guy who fished out of his car?
While I was reflecting on how great it was to have a new friend, I noticed the boat was slowing down. Not that we were flying along with the electric motor but we were definitely slowing.
“I thought you said the battery was charged?” I said.
“I thought it was… Damn it.”
I handed Josh a landing net as the motor faded and died. I at least got us turned around and pointed back toward the truck. A half and hour later we were back on shore.
“Well, should we try it again? I mean it did work?”
“Dude, I think we should just throw in the towel on this one,” Josh said.
It only took us a few minutes and we had the boat loaded into the truck along with our gear. We took one last look at the lake and saw a few more fish jump on the opposite shore.
“You’re buying dinner,” I said.
“Sure, what do you want to eat?”
“Uh, I know a great little restaurant, all-you-can-eat fish.”
“Ha ha, let’s go.”
“There is a bright spot to this whole little fiasco.”
“And what would that be?”
“No one was here to see us,” I said.
“Yeah, maybe we should keep this one to ourselves.”
“But you have to admit, it would make for a funny story.”
“Only a cautionary tale.”
“Yeah, ha ha, but they can’t always go this bad… right?”
In the ten years since this fishing trip took place, we have never gone fishing together without one of us bringing a landing net.