After an exhaustive search through our rented hotel rooms, the dining room, the bar, the parking lot and the swimming pool, Wrong Will finally located Doc at the end of a long weathered pier extending well out into the Gulf of Mexico.
Doc was comfortably ensconced in a folding canvas chair, bracketed by a cooler on one side and a radio on the other. A single rod leaned over the rail with a long length of monofilament disappearing into the fairly clear water.
"Whatcha doing?" Willie leaned on the rail and stared toward the distant horizon.
"Relaxing," Doc responded from under the cap tilted sharply over his half-lidded eyes.
"Getting any bites?"
"Good fishing trip."
"Whats that out there?" Willie pointed.
Doc raised his cap and looked in the direction Willie indicated. "They call that nervous water down here."
Willie perked up. "That means fish are feeding. Hey! It bet its a school of speckled trout!"
Willie levitated as if the dock had been suddenly electrified. "Fish!" he turned and ran toward the hotel and the Hunting Club lounging on the fourth-floor balcony. "GUYS! The fish are biting!"
He disappeared into the hotel lobby.
The boys immediately gathered up rods, reels, tackle boxes and coolers. They thundered down the hallway and experienced a brief, exciting moment at the discovery of how difficult it is to get ten-foot surf rods into the small elevator. It looked like a charge of lancers when the doors opened and everyone spilled into the lobby.
From there it was a stampede past the sparkling swimming pool where a tackle box full of lures fell onto the deck and exploded into the water. After many apologies to the sunning guests, and ten dollars to pay some kid with a diving mask to retrieve all the sinkers and non-floating hooks and lures, the boys thundered down the narrow pier like cattle running onto a rail car.
I watched most of the action from my perch on the balcony, declining the opportunity to fish.
Doc jolted awake as they swarmed around his chair, plopping down coolers and rigging rods and reels.
Loud discussions about who was fishing where.
Enthusiastic discussions utilizing base languages about the proper lure to use.
And suddenly Fate smiled upon the anglers and it became on of those legendary days all anglers dream of. The specs were thick and underneath them, the redfish worked their way past the boys.
Tangled lines and shouts.
Accusations regarding lost fish.
A cap yanked from a head on a particularly enthusiastic backcast.
The aforementioned tackle box takes a final, unretrievable spill into the gulf.
Shouts, laughter and full stringers.
Measuring devices appeared and many fish were returned to the water, eyes bulging in wonder at what had just happened. Stringers of specs and a wandering sheepshead or two were proof of a successful evening.
"Howdy boys." The game warden suddenly appearedg behind the assemblage. They turned and beheld the wide grin of a man happy in his work.
As the sun settled below the horizon, the catch was examined and approved. The game warden finally blessed the endeavor with a grin and turned to Doc. "Can I see your license and fish?
Doc produced the license, but no fish.
"How come youre not having any luck?" he asked the Elder of our group. "These guys are tearing them up."
Doc looked at the glorious sunset and reeled in his line. On the end, nothing but a weight dangled, spinning. "Im on vacation," he said. "But these boys now will have to clean all those fish tonight. So I think I came out ahead."
"I thought you said you were fishing," Willie accused, suddenly realizing the chore ahead.
"Go back up to the top of Revs column when he writes it," Doc said. "Youll see where I said I was relaxing, not fishing."
He collected his fishing gear, waved to the balcony and walked slowly, peacefully and we sat well into the evening, watching the Hunting Club Members clean fish under a harsh light bulb.
It was the perfect end to a perfect, relaxing, vacation day.