Good news and bad news at the Bardwell”s. The bilge pump stopped working on the fishing boat, and that was the good news. Working on the pump revealed the boat was taking on water, a lot of water, maybe 20 gallons or so. That was the bad news. Sam emptied the water and looked for the breach.
Underneath the boat he discovered a 2-foot gash; it was a sad day in the prairie. Panic set in as I looked at Sam”s face and remembered the crappie spawn. The implications were disastrous; the timing couldn”t be worse. Imagining Sam without a fishing boat was like imagining Sam without arms. What now?
“In 16 years the boat hit one too many stumps,” he said. In the back creeks and sloughs stumps lurk underwater. Sam knows most of them, but new ones appear each spring, this year one too many.
On the other hand I thought, what if the boat had swamped? Kevin Forrester said spring waters are cold and don”t have to be freezing to cause hypothermia. It can easily happen in 50 or 60 degree water. That was something to worry about; that and 7-foot alligators.
“So who do you call in a boating emergency anyway?” I asked. “911?”
Sam said call Jimmy Dolan or Goober Guyton. They know the fishing holes. While I was planning search and rescue, Sam was planning critical boat repair. I suggested duct tape as a possibility.
Sam called Glenn Miller, and he suggested a compound that would seal the boat. It wouldn”t be pretty but who needs pretty on the bottom of the boat? The crappie spawn waits for no man.
The next hurdle was how to work on the underside of the boat while cradled in a trailer. In a jiffy Sam and Chuck Younger had the boat wrapped with thick yellow webbing attached to a hook. The boat was hoisted into a tree in the front yard. I thought we looked like Noah expecting the big one.
In two days the boat was fixed and ready to go. Sam was off to fish the crappie spawn and test the sea worthiness of the boat. I had my phone numbers ready. I nipped at his heels, “Got a paddle, a dip cup, a life jacket?”
A few hours later Sam reported, “The wind is fierce but the sun is warm and the fishing is good.”
He caught about 30 spawners that day and the biggest one ever, maybe 2 1/2 pounds. But the best news was the boat floats and the bilge pump works. It was a hallelujah day in the prairie.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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