A love of fishing is what club members have in common

Group sheds tears over death of mutual baseball icon
‘We forbid political arguments here because it makes enemies of people who ought to be friends...’ — Trickle the rich guy

While meandering among the bargain bins at Big Buck’s Big Box Bait and Tackle, I bumped into Stoney Brokium, who seldom has two dimes to rub together. That’s why he shops the bargain bins. I was there to buy myself a Father’s Day gift even though I’m not a father.

I’m not sure I’m worth spending much money on anyway. I feel okay telling you that, but do me a favor and don’t tell anyone else.

“Why and when did they change the name of this joint?” Stoney asked, not expecting me to know but I knew.

“Big Buck bought out Big Box. They called it a merger,” I told Stoney. “See all the Big Box branded items in these bargain bins? Not long after they’re gone, the name will be changed again to just Big Buck’s.”

Stoney said he bets they’ll drop that apostrophe and just call it Big Bucks to celebrate higher prices.

As you can see, Stoney’s not as optimistic as most of us fishing-doers.

“I hope we don’t get skunked today,” he’s likely to say at the docks where most of us are imagining the big ones that won’t get away.

“Shut up and rig up,” Trickle the rich guy is likely to reply. We call him the rich guy because he owns a boat that he doesn’t call a yacht even though it is. Trickle tries too hard to not appear pretentious.

That would risk alienating the plebeians in our club, the Fish or Cut Bait Society. Trickle the rich guy and Stoney Brokium are steady fishing partners. Some of us guess they’re rehearsing for a warm, fuzzy movie that will be replayed on television for the next thousand Christmases.
Sure, there already are movies like that but maybe you noticed none of the characters are fishing-doers.

“Speaking of plebeians, most of us are, even though most of us can’t spell it,” Stoney likes to say when a lot of us are here.

“How do you spell it?” Trickle asks him, and Stoney spells ‘plebeian’ letter by letter. If I’m here, Trickle makes a show of asking me if that’s correct. I make a show of affirming it. Then, surreptitiously, I look it up to make sure.

“You have a dictionary app in your phone, don’t you?” Trickle says in the accusing tone of cross-examination. He says it makes me look pretentious.

Some of our fellow fishing-doers consider the dictionary app a sign of weakness. They like taking wild guesses and they hate being told they guessed wrong. That’s another sign of weakness, they explain — like using your car’s turn signals, only worse.

Headwind is reading over my shoulder.

“Where are you going with that?” he asks. I tell him I’m pushing the spirit of brotherhood through the parable-like fishing partnership of a rich man (Trickle) and a poor man (Stoney).

“That’s risky in an election year,” Headwind says. “Consider telling instead about the police-wanted burglar who tried to escape in a sailboat. A Florida man, you can bet.”

I asked him if that really happened. He said it did, in Halifax Harbor, near Holly Hill. Don’t feel bad; I never heard of it either. It’s near Daytona Beach.

“The guy had a cooler full of stolen haitches some in boldface caps and a lot of lower-case ones,” Headwind pretended to recite from a news report. He was kidding there.

Bob Windward, who’s chairman of the investigations committee, urges me to mention that he had eight recent reports of short dolphin at Fort Lauderdale and uncountable reports of fishing-doers coming back from the Bahamas with skinless fillets of reef fish.

“All of those were busted by FWC enforcement patrols in just one week of June, so you can bet there’s a lot more of that still going on,” Windward said.

Tiller, who’s chairman of the steering committee and has to think too much, said that indicates that this may be a bad summer for catching big dolphin: “A dolphin only has to be 20 inches long to be a keeper. If fishing-doers are keeping shorts at the risk of getting a ticket, there can’t be as many plus-size fish out there as we’re used to at this stage of the summer.”

Someone suggested climate change might be why. “No politics in the clubhouse!” Tiller yelled.

I’m trying to get back to the odd-couple fishing partnership of Stoney Brokium and Trickle the rich guy, but Bob Windward won’t let go of my ear.

“Another fishing crime that’s going around is guys bringing back skinless fillets from the Bahamas,” he just said.

“What’s wrong with that?” Tyro the new guy wondered.

Windward explained that without the skins, fish and wildlife officers trying to enforce fishing regulations can’t tell what kind of fish you have. Theoretically, if you have out-of-season red snappers on ice you can tell the officers those are yellowtail snappers and they won’t know the difference.

On another hand, Bob Windward said, dolphin fillets are easy to tell apart from other fish but even so, you can’t skin them before you go ashore.

Stoney Brokium said it seems to him that if all those violators pay fines, the FWC will have enough money to give its underpaid fish and wildlife cops better salaries.

Trickle said instead of enriching the working classes it would be better to reduce taxes so rich guys like him can invest in the economy and raise the tide that lifts all boats.

“Shots fired,” a few of us murmured. Tiller leapt into action.

“Break it up!” he hollered, landing between Trickle and Stoney and shoving them into corners before Stoney could articulate a counterargument.

“We forbid political arguments here because it makes enemies of people who ought to be friends,”

Tiller scolded. “These are fragile relationships, with love of fishing often the only thing we have in common. It’s the glue that binds us as a civilization. If we let political disagreements come between us, all is lost.”

The clubhouse fell silent. Tiller glanced over at Stoney, and then at Trickle, and we all glanced and saw that they were chastened.

Tiller beckoned both to the center of the room. Trickle sniffled. Stoney hung his head. Then they fell into each other’s arms, sobbing and apologizing while everyone else applauded — some sincerely.

Enormé Barrigón, who is chairman of the beer committee, thought that was a good moment to open a discount window.

“Premium beer at club cost!” he yelled, and everyone rushed to the big fridge where he handed them out. Stoney Brokium and Trickle the rich guy were still locked in an abrazo, apologizing and wiping their eyes, as we gathered ‘round singing Jolly Good Fellows at them and waving our beers like bandleaders’ batons.

An odd thing happened then. A cell phone was being passed from man to man, with the singing and waving unrippling down until the clubhouse was silent again. Faces were wet from the eyes down.

“What is it?” Tyro called out. “What happened?”

I handed him the phone. The screen looked blurred to me now, but Tyro could read it.

“Willie Mays died,” Tyro said, choking. “Ninety-three.”

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