The alarm goes off at 5 a.m., and my cat looks up at me in surprise. Her name is Pooh Kitty, and she’s nestled in against my side, chin upon my shoulder. Pooh can tell time better than a watchmaker, especially in the morning, which is feeding time.
You’re two hours early, her look says. You must be going fishing.
“I was,” I tell her. I had plans to meet my older brother Grumpy at the Sheetz on Route 18 at 6:07 a.m. (my brother is precise when it comes to meeting times.)
We planned to ride together up to Jamestown and spend the morning at Pymatuning on his pontoon boat. “But listen to that rain,” I said. We had left the screened-in bedroom windows open that night, to enjoy the cool air.
Pooh and I can hear the downpour pounding on the roof and showering the yard. We get up and walk into the garden room to watch. It’s raining cats and dogs and elephants out there, torrents and monsoons. “I wonder why Grumpy hasn’t called yet and canceled,” I tell Pooh.
But I’m like the golfer with a tee time, the baseball player on game day. I go through the motions of preparing, just in case, but I know our plans will be ruined. I get dressed, feed the cat, and prepare my own breakfast. Then I gather my gear, walk out into the deluge of falling waters, and hydroplane my Jeep to Hermitage. I pull into Sheetz at 6:05, two minutes early. Grumpy’s already there.
“Hey, Earl,” I call out. I never call him Grumpy to his face.
“Hey, Earl,” he says back. We called my younger brother Earl, too, before he passed away. It was Powser’s given name, and we all turned out, unfortunately, a lot like him. If I were to introduce us at a party back in the day, I’d say, hi, my name is Earl, this is my brother Earl, and this is my other brother Earl. It’s a completely original humorous line I made up myself.
“You ready to go?” my brother asks.
“Heck no,” I say. “Are you kidding? Can you see this rain out here?”
Some days you go fishing; other days you just talk about fishing. This day is one of the latter. We go inside Sheetz and buy coffee, then stand out under the overhang for an hour and talk and watch the normal people bustle in and out for coffee and newspapers on their way to work.
“So,” I ask, “how’s the fish-catching going this year?” I know he fishes regularly with his sons Tom and Steve and keeps good records.
“Well,” he says, “it’s a little slow, but we only count bass and walleye, never the panfish or trash fish, and we only count bass 12 inches or longer and walleye 15 inches or longer. Anything else is not a picture fish.”
“Not worthy of a photograph, you mean.”
“Right. And we’ve caught 53 picture bass and 14 picture walleyes so far.”
“In how many hours of fishing?” I ask.
“214,” he answers, and I’m not in the least surprised that Statistical Earl knows the exact number. I run out to my Jeep and get the calculator I keep in the glove box just for the purpose of conversing with my brother.
“So,” I ask, “how many fishermen are typically in the boat?”
“Almost always two, myself and either Tom or Steve,” he says. “But three times I went alone and four times we had three in the boat.”
“Okay,” I say, pecking my fingertips at the calculator. “214 times two is 428, plus six hours for the extra three-man days. That’s 434, divided by 53 and by 14 . . . so you catch one bass for every 8.2 fisherman hours and one walleye for every 31 hours. I’d have to stay out all day to catch a bass and all week to catch a walleye.”
Grumpy doesn’t say anything. “Right?” I ask.
“But we catch other fish and smaller fish in between,” he says.
“But they don’t count. Or you would have given statistics on them.”
Grumpy mutters something about the slow bite this year and looks away. We finish our coffee and head for home. I watch the rain pummeling my windshield as I drive and feel a little sad. I wanted to spend the morning fishing with my brother in his boat on Pymatuning. And I hoped to get a newspaper story out of the experience.
I guess neither will happen now.
Don Feigert is the outdoors writer for The Herald, the Allied News, and the New Castle News. His latest book, The F-Troop Camp Chronicles, and his earlier books are available by contacting Don at 724-931-1699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Browse his web site at www.donfeigert.com. Or visit Leana’s Books at the mall or in the Grove City Outlets.