“I Can See”
Don Burhts is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or wilsoncountynews.com.
When I became aware of the existence of God, I reminded God of my existence, with prayer. And as we all do in our first conversation with God, I came to my knees. "Dear God," I prayed, "Please give my eyes to my father so that he can see. Let me be blind instead, it will be okay with me as long as dad can see."
I didn’t know until much later that God had granted my prayer and gave my father abilities I couldn't see.
I spent a lot of time as a young boy exploring the banks of rivers, lakes and streams while dad fished. Dad enjoyed his fishing. He’d rather fish than eat, mom would say.
One Saturday morning I was listening to little bits of the gravel road ping at the undercarriage of our car as mom stopped the car just this side of the Alum Creek Bridge.
Mom was dropping dad and me off by ourselves to fish in the creek for the day; she would be returning just before dark to do a little night fishing with us before the three of us went home. Mom fetched dad's two fishing poles from out of the trunk of the car, and handed them to him. Dad felt around into the trunk with his hand and located his tackle box, the bait and his small wooden chair. I tried, but couldn’t reach into the trunk far enough to get the water jug or my fishing pole, so mom handed them both to me instead. I slid my fishing pole and the water jug under the guard railing and crawled under the railing to the other side. Dad with his tackle box, bait, and his small wooden chair in hand stepped over the guard railing with little effort. We would walk a path just at the edge of the farmer field until we reached the cutoff. There we would walk between the trees until we reached the decline leading to the creek.
It was mid summer and the weeds had already grown higher than the top of my head. I looked back at dad. The weeds were almost shoulder high to dad. Following behind me on the well worn path, dad could hear my foot steps and the sound of the creek’s flowing water. When we came to the cutoff path the trees shading the area had transformed the dry brown dirt of the path into a slightly squishy almost black substance on the slippery slope ahead. We were twenty feet or so from the water, and I was fearful dad might slip and fall as he made his way down the slop. I was taking little steps and as I looked to see the water bubbling over the rocks in the shallows ahead I was saying,
"It’s not slippery," when my left foot, as if having a mind of its own, took flight up into the air in front of me and my butt hit the ground and slid all the way to the bottom of the slope.
“Are you ok?” Dad laughed.
“Yep,” I replied, both of us laughing.
When dad got to the spot where I fell, his shoes did slip, but instead of falling he balanced most of his weight on his right foot directly beneath him while at the same time stretched his left foot out in front of him lightly touching the ground and he sort of skied his way down the slop. When he came to a stop on solid ground he said,
“I thought you said the slope was slippery," laughing.
I had mud caked on the left butt cheek of my pants.
The creek bank consisted of softball size rocks, with a few bigger rocks and smaller rocks about. At the edge of the water Dad stacked rocks into two piles to keep his fishing poles off the ground.
He sat on his little wooden chair with his reels carefully located on the ground. Dad attached dough balls to the hooks of his first fishing pole and cast the line into the water to the front of him. I watched the line drift downstream a few yards before the line sank out of sight. With his foot pressed lightly onto the handle of the first fishing pole, dad began baiting the second pole with night crawlers. That line he cast a little to the right. It also drifted slightly down stream before it sank. Now he was ready to fish.
The lines coming from the reels in each hand were pinched between his index finger and his thumb. When a fish tugged, dad would feel the tug and catch him a fish.
Once he got situated, in fun, dad sang one of his little rhymes,
"Fishy, fishy, in the brook, come and bite on daddy's hook."
If it were a lake, if it were a river, if it was a stream, dad had a funny little jingle for it no matter what type of fishing it was.
I left my fishing pole lying on the ground and was off to play. Down the bank I found a land locked pool of water forty feet long and ten feet wide. The creek had raised a couple of feet out of its banks during the last rain. When the creek returned to its normal flow, a school of minnows had been trapped in the land locked pool.
The minnows darted from one end of the pool to the other, responding to the shadows of my movement along the pools edge. I felt sorry for the trapped little fish. When the water dried up the minnows would die.
I though if I could dig a trench into the rock bank from the pool to the creek, the fish would be able use the trench to return to the creek. I began the trench at the edge of the pool lifting a football size rock from out of the rocky bank. Water from the pool flowed into the empty space and after several hours of pulling up rocks I had a trench running from the landlocked pool to the creek. The water from the pool had flowed into the trench and then on into the creek but all I had accomplished was to drain the water out of the pool lowering the pools depth.
I saw a part of an old screen door with half of the screen torn away from its frame laying further down the creek. It was easy pulling the rest of the screen away from the rotten wood frame. I striped down to my underwear and armed with the two foot by three foot screen I walked from one end of the pool to the other chasing the minnows.
By keeping the screen deep in the water and herding the fish to one end of the pool I was able to get the minnows above the screen and then raise the screen up quickly, catching four of the little fish.
The old coffee can I had waiting was half-filled with water. It took me at least an hour to scoop up the remainder of the minnows, twenty two in all.
The minnows were as lively as can be, jumping up in the can, a few even jumped out of the can as I was putting on my pants. Minnows can live out of the water for quite a while, so being out of the can for such a short time was okay.
I was proud of my capture, but before I released the little fish into the creek I wanted to show dad. I made my way next to dad as he was winding in his line to check his bait. When I told dad what I had in the coffee can, Dad reached his hand into the can to feel the size of the minnows.
“Just the right size to use for bait," and lifted one of the little fish out of the can and ran the hook on his line clean through the side of the little fish and cast his line with the squirming minnow back into the water. “Leave the can here; I’ll use the minnows for bait."
I was off gathering fire wood with plans of building a big fire after dark. Mom, being a little afraid of the dark, would like the big fire. She would be carrying a flashlight down the path, but the light from the fire will help her find her way to us. It was dark and I was trying my best to get the fire lit when suddenly dad called to me,
“Come over here.”
I could tell from the sound of his voice that something was wrong. When I was standing next to dad, he said,
“Someone is coming.”
I looked in both directions and could see no one, and nothing I could see or hear was out of the ordinary. I listened for every little sound.
Several minutes passed and fumbling around I accidently kicked a rock making a little noise and said,
“Hush, and don’t make any noise. It’s a man and a woman, and a small boy,” Dad said in a low voice.
I looked and listened in the direction dad said they were coming. I couldn’t hear a thing. A few more minutes passed. Then I heard the snap of a twig. Then I heard child's laughter. A man holding two fishing poles and a red tackle box stepped from the path into the clearing. A little boy carrying a fishing pole and a coffee can about my age followed the man. A woman came next wearing a bright yellow dress and she had mud clinging to her high heel shoes. She was half whining, half crying, while at the same time swatting at bugs in front of her face.
“Are you catching anything?” the man said.
Dad replied, “Haven’t gotten as much as a nibble.”
The man said, “Well good luck to you.”
And the three of them entered the path on the other side of the clearing and walked out of sight.
I was constantly amazed as to how well dad's hearing was developed. He'd say,
“Can you see that fly walking over there?" pointing off in the distance. I’d say,
"No I can’t." He’d jokingly reply,
“I can’t see it either, but I can hear his foot steps."
Another one of his jokes was to say that the soles of his shoes were so thin that he could step on a dime and tell you if it were heads or tails. He really could feel a coin with his left index finger and tell you what side of the coin were up.
Dad and I went fishing a lot; I did my best to describe to him our surroundings. He would say to me,
“You are my eyes, tell me what you see."
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