The Farm Chronicles: The farmer and the fish

Back in July 1969, Dad had broken his leg a couple of weeks before we went on what had become our annual Myrtle Beach vacation with the Hefts’. Dad and I had went to an all-contest horse show and ignored Mom’s last words, “Carl, don’t you and Bill run that ribbon race.” It was the fastest timed event and the most dangerous. Two horses race around the arena with the riders holding a three-foot crepe paper ribbon between them. The fastest to make the run without breaking the ribbon wins. That day, we suffered the consequences of not heeding Mom’s warning. Dad’s horse slipped around the turn, fell on him, and we later found out Dad broke his ankle. And that impacted our vacation.

The first time we went deep sea fishing at Murals Inlet was a 25-mile trip in sunny calm seas. Good experience. ‘Caught literally dozens of black sea bass and red snappers. The Hefts and Wilsons ate fresh fish the rest of the week and even gave some away to guests at the Blue Surf beach house where we were staying. This year, we planned even a bigger adventure—a 75-mile excursion. We boarded the large boat with about 20 other people, Dad hobbling up the gangway in his knee-high cast. Little did we know that this was going to be very similar to the Gilligan’s Island adventure in a ship that actually looked like the SS Minnow. You see, unawares, we were entering into the makings of tropical storm Anna and, at the time, the most active Atlantic hurricane season since 1933.

Well, we got out into the ocean and it was rockin’. I stood with my pole straight up bracing my body against the ships rail and could almost touch my nose in the water as the little ship tossed among the deep swells of an angry ocean. We were being called into the water tight cabin by the captain because it was so rough, but Dad stubbornly resisted. He had a fish on the end of his line. And it was giving him a good fight with that boat bouncing around in the water. Standing against a strong wind and high waves, Dad hobbled in his cast around that boat for the better part of an hour trying to bring in that fish. Finally, the crew pulled it out of the raging sea–an unusually large 90-pound amberjack. This crazy farmer caught the biggest fish, the only fish, on a day that no one should even venture outside the safety of their home.

We were kind of like the story in Matthew 8:24, “There arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he (Christ) was asleep.” While Dad and I were far from asleep, we were oblivious to the boat tossing violently about the sea, and that all around us, people were sick and vomiting, crying out in fear that we were not going to make it back to land, praying that we would. We were so excited, recalling every detail of how he fought that fish on a peg leg, holding on for dear life as the boat rocked and the fish pulled. But by the time we finally made it to port, the sun was out and it was as if weather was never a problem. Then they told us that we couldn’t eat the amberjack because it had parasites. We took pictures to prove the catch and to this day the legend of the farmer and the fish is oft retold.

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Bill Wilson