The Fish Was as Big as a Chevy Suburban
So...about my fishing trip to the lake.
My friend I'll call Stella and her 26-year-old son Johnny, his girlfriend Kate and the son's huge mutt named Bug and I met up at a little town on Lake Buchanan called Tow.
Tow is pronounced like the 'tow' in towel, not like 'tow' as in towtruck.
On the 90-mile drive up, Stella asked me if I'd seen the appalling new trend on monster pick-up trucks: giant, soft plastic testicles hanging under the back bumpers.
"WHAAAT?" I asked.
"Yeah, these bubbas are hanging big sets of nuts on the back of their trucks now," she said.
"No fucking way," I replied.
"Yeah," she said, "I've seen them on I-10, all through town, and all over the place," she said.
Her news put me on immediate hyper vigilance. With every other vehicle on our route being a monster pick-up, I was determined to spot a set of balls on one of them.
I was all set to be offended, but my search was futile, at least for now.
Stella warned me in advance the cabin was "rustic," but since she's a gazillionaire I figured on Martha Stewart rustic, not meth lab rustic.
I figured wrong.
Stella and I arrived at the camp first.
As we pulled into the compound at Tow, I spied a dirt road dotted with several depression era shacks with tin rooves and asbestos siding. Each cabin featured exterior wainscoting made of scrap rock and odd slabs of polished granite from the nearby quarries at Granite Shoals. Very strange.
Strewn around the dusty grounds were abandoned outboard motors, machinery, oil barrels, old tires and other manly crap.
We parked outside the "lobby," which was an outboard repair shop/marine junk yard.
Our host Mr. Alexander let us know the key was on a hook inside our cabin, lucky number 22. Turns out the key was unneeded. The front door would barely close, much less lock.
We approached our cabin and noticed about a square foot of duct tape covering a corner of the glass in the front window. Apparently Mr. Alexander hadn't gotten around to repairing the huge hole.
Inside the musty cabin were three small, simulated wood paneled rooms with a double bed in each, a kitchen and bathroom.
On the wall in the main room was a mirrored Claritin specialty ad with key hooks at the bottom. On the hooks were a key with a crude wooden tag with "22" written on it in marker and a well-used, pink fly swatter.
Over the bed in the main room was a large air conditioner that served the entire cabin. I quickly chose that bed as mine, regardless of the fact that the grungy A/C cord swung menacingly over the pillows.
Our host had just barely turned on the electricity to the cabin as we had arrived, so the AC wasn't on and the refrigerator was hot and bore olfactory rememberances of many fish caught before us.
In that main room was a small TV. I turned it on, only to find station after station of fuzzy tweed patterns. I spied an antenna cord detached behind it, old and spider webbed from years of inactivity. The TV had a cable connection that clearly was still a virgin.
Stella, being the gracious woman she is and knowing of my TV fetish, promptly trotted to the "lobby" to inquire about the TV.
Mr. Alexander drawled, "Oh, that TV don't work right now."
By then, she and I were relearning the words to the TV theme, "Green Acres."
I sang the Eva Gabor part.
Soon the kids arrived, hungry and impatient.
I made some haphazard quesadillas on the little stove, then when they wanted more I suggested they make their own. Soon the hot little cabin got smoky and smelled of burnt tortillas.
Stella had been on an organic, sugar-free diet all week, but by then she was spotted swilling an icy Mountain Dew from the cooler she'd brought.
After a few hours of settling in at the cabin, their fishing charter was set to begin.
I accompanied them to the ramshackle fishing charter office, where we were met by an enormous bubba named Ken Milam.
Ken was white haired, had a permanent sunburn, jowls like Santa and fingers the size of Kielbasa sausages. His legs were like cedar trunks that just dropped into dirty old tennies, as wide as they were long.
As we entered the office, Ken told Stella & company that his assistant Goober would be their fishing master that day, "taking them out in a pontoon boat a ways up the road, since the lake was purty dried up here at my dock."
He raved about the fishing luck on that morning's charter. The crew had brought back six large stripers.
He said, "With the moon like it is, y'all ourghtta be bringin' back a mess o' good eatin'."
I turned to Goober, who was perched on a stool, dazed and swilling a long neck Budweiser.
"You think y'all will get lucky out there, Goober?" I asked.
"Mwell, ah thank it'll be a mrnwig blwtig wingbling," he replied.
Turns out Goober was sort of on the functional retarded side, so much so I dared not press him with any follow-up questions. I was just glad I had opted not to go.
While my cabin mates were off with Goober for their four-hour adventure, I relaxed a while and read. Bug the giant dog stayed with me, wet and stinky from being in the lake, and pesky from being only 7 months old.
Just to be on the safe side, I whipped up a salad and made a pot of fusilli with sausage, fresh herbs and vodka marinara, in case they failed to catch anything.
At about 7:30 p.m., I went out and lit the grill and read up on how to light a Coleman lantern.
As they returned, the coals were red hot and the lantern was brightening the dusk invitingly.
I was at the stove when they came in, and Stella, who is a femme on the streets and butch in the sheets, apparently appreciated the sight of my wifely duties so much, she murmured to me that I looked so cute cooking their dinner, she (insert semi-lewd comment here).
Stella is usually all made-up, neat and tidy, but the fishing trip had rendered her windblown, wrinkle shirted and tanned. I got a little buzz after her naughty remark, but quickly chalked it up to a brief moment in time and forgot about it.
Though Stella said she had a marvelous time on the boat, the son was cranky because Goober was a control freak who wouldn't allow any of them to cast or even hold any poles. His girlfriend was also slightly cranky, because she follows Johnny's lead in all things.
Turns out they caught only one striper, a 4-pounder that Goober had filleted for them.
Dinner began with the salad, then some delicious grilled corn, then the pasta. The fillet was still stewing on the grill in an aluminum foil boat containing a mix of butter, garlic and lemon.
Never having cooked or eaten striper before, I failed to realize that it was a rather tough fish with no discernible culinary qualities. The butter mixture added nothing to the flavor. Striper bass should be heavily rubbed with Cajun spices, then grilled at kiln temperatures until it surrenders.
We got through dinner and started talking about politics. Johnny, Kate and I are avid Democrats. Stella is, for some odd reason, a Republican. She remained fairly silent through the conversation and I can see why. Johnny allows himself to get way too revved up, and by the end of the political conversation he was standing up, flailing, wild eyed and angry.
He's a real piece of work, that boy.
While the kid walked along the darkened lake with Bug, I leaned over and asked Stella to kiss me. She did and I liked it.
The kids went to bed around midnight and Stella and I stayed outside talking until around 2. The Mountain Dew and coffee has made her wired and chatty. I loved it.
As I got into my bed, Stella went in for a shower.
As she emerged, the bathroom sent out a rush of the most glorious smelling soapy, perfumed mist. She looked clean, sexy and bright eyed as she went to her doorless bedroom about 4 feet from mine.
The cabin was pitch black, and I couldn't resist tiptoeing into her room and into bed with her.
For several minutes we writhed around, until I considered the consequences of Johnny catching me in his mother's bed and beating me to death, so I scampered back to my own bed, suffering a bit of coitus interruptis frustratilingus.
The next morning as the four of us sat around at the picnic table talking and playing dominoes, Bug saw Mr. Alexander near his giant red pick-up about 100 feet away and went after him.
We all called out to him but he wouldn't come, so Kate sprinted over to grab him. Mr. Alexander was obviously unhappy and we were all embarrassed.
Stella muttered that Bug was, "a typical male, ignoring us when we called."
Johnny, sitting next to me, called her an idiot under his breath.
I said, between clenched teeth, "Did I just hear you call your mother an idiot?"
It was then Johnny said she was a man-hater who liked girls, and that he figured I was a lesbian, but I was cool with him because I seemed to like men just fine.
All I could think of was that I might have gotten by with sleeping in his mother's bed the night before without getting killed over it. Damn the luck!
Before long, we broke up camp and left for the drive home.
On the way back, Stella and I stopped at a barbecue joint for a rack of the finest, smokiest babyback ribs ever. Seems Casey's, the barbecue joint, was once blessed with a surprise visit from then-President Bill Clinton. A photo display and a copy of his thank you note on White House letterhead was prominently displayed on the bulletin board. I loved it! Stella, not so much.
We finished the route home and I still didn't spot any pick-ups with truck nuts*. I was sadly disappointed, but not for long.
The moment we pulled into Stella's driveway, the skies opened up and drenched us with a huge, lengthy downpour. After a very long drought, it was a welcome blessing.
We sat on her patio and watched the rain as we cuddled under the awning.
I thought about staying, but it didn't feel like it was the right time. I felt tired and grungy from all that dust and dinge back at the camp.
But, as abysmal as it was, I'll always think of Tow and that cabin as a rundown, dusty, fishy, yet romantic little lakeside spot.
As for Stella, only the shadow knows.