Fishing With Fletcher

by C.J. Kirkland

When my husband was nine years old he went on a Father/Son Cub Scout fishing trip to Cane Creek Lake in Arkansas. His father could not go with him that day so his grandmother went instead. She was the lone woman present at the all-male event. He won the trophy that day for “Biggest Fish”.

Whenever my husband retells the story of his Big Day, the vivid memory of his catch is accompanied by the equally vivid memory of his father’s absence.

I thought about this story while shadowing Fletcher one day during his outdoor lesson with some of the MMS students. While the students sat on the water’s bank Fletcher taught them about catching fish. He demonstrated with his fishing rod how to throw the line. He talked about patience and persistence in waiting for a fish to take the bait. Fletcher told them how a quiet atmosphere will yield a good catch. The students listened intently to every word and simultaneously watched the water for any glimpse of action. They were all so excited to be there and so enthralled with the day’s lesson. As I watched the all-boy group interact with each other and with Fletcher, I began to feel a bit outside my element. There was some sort of male-bonding thing going on and frankly, I just didn’t quite fit in. That’s when I realized that there was more to a father/son fishing trip than just a father and son going fishing. And for some sons, for now, sitting on the bank with Fletcher is the closest they will get to that fishing trip.

Some of our MMS fathers can’t take their sons fishing because their work carries them hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles away. These fathers sacrifice physical presence so that their sons have a solid roof over their heads, a full plate on the table and an education at a top-notch school. Some fathers are off protecting our country, for months on end, ensuring that the very streets their sons walk to school every day remain safe and protected.

Some of our boys at MMS don’t have fathers who can take them fishing because “like a comet blazing ‘cross the evening sky, they’ve gone too soon”.

Some of our boys’ fathers cannot take them fishing for reasons too complex, too intricate for me to make any attempt at explaining.

My husband’s grandmother did not take the place of his father. She just gave him the chance to throw out his line. He walked away with a trophy engraved with “Biggest Fish” and a lesson in perseverance. Fletcher does not take the place of any of our sons’ fathers. But he gives them the chance to throw out their lines and learn lessons along the way.

Fletcher Golden is the Outdoor Guide at The Maria Montessori School in Harbor Town.
C.J. Kirkland is a freelance writer currently based in Memphis.
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