Uncle Hickory liked to fish. In fact, he liked to fish so much that he had a hard time waiting until fishing season opened – a real hard time. It was only a week before the big opening day, so he was sure it wouldn’t matter if he snuck some fishing in early. Of course, breaking the law is no fun alone, so he convinced Norman to go along – besides, Norman had a car. Norman was more than a little nervous about the escapade, but the thought of living on the edge made it all the more exciting for Uncle Hickory.

They prepared everything: food to eat, lots of worms, plenty of tackle, and, of course, a bit of beer. Getting off work early, in the pleasant hours of the evening, they made their way up country to a beautiful stream, twenty miles from the nearest point of civilization. At Norman’s suggestion, to avoid being easily detected, they decided they would hike over a high ridge and down to the stream on the other side. There they assumed it would be much harder for a Fish and Game officer to find them.

The undergrowth was rough, and the pine and jagged rocks took their toll on the lawbreakers, ripping their clothes and skin. It took them over an hour just to reach the ridge of the mountain. They slid down the other side only to find themselves along a thirty foot cliff overlooking a mountain stream that was swollen from spring melt and was running like a river. Not about to be beaten after their trek through the woods, they decided to fish from the high edge of the cliff.

The water was so turbulent and muddy that the fishing was worthless, but Uncle Hickory didn’t care. The fish may not be biting, but the beer was. With each beer, his cast was getting wilder and wilder. Finally, one cast thrown wide hooked into Norman’s fishing vest, and, when Uncle Hickory threw it forward, he watched as Norman tumbled headlong over the cliff into the raging stream.

Uncle Hickory rushed to Norman’s aid. Down the mountainside Norman tumbled with the water, while Uncle Hickory crashed through the brush trying to reach him. Finally, the cliff sauntered its way down to the stream, and Uncle Hickory was able to reach out a long branch and pull a sputtering, less-than-grateful Norman to shore.

Norman was soaked and sullen and the sun was dropping fast in the sky. They had caught no fish, not even a bite; they lost their poles, their food, and their sanity. Defeated, they turned to head back to the car before it was too dark to find their way. They struggled back through the brush and finally reached the peak of the ridge just as total darkness fell over the countryside.

But what they found waiting for them cast a fear over Norman that made all events to that point pale in comparison. Down where their car was parked they could see headlights. Norman was sure, in the darkening shadows, that he could make out the ominous sign of the Fish and Game emblazoned on the side of the vehicle.

Uncle Hickory reassured Norman that all would be well. They would just wait until the fish and game officer went away, which he surely would do if they waited long enough. They watched hour after hour as the lights continued to glow, until, finally, exhausted from their great exertions, sleep overcame them.

When the morning sun arose, they could see no sign of the feared defender of the law, so they made their way down to the car. There the full impact of their great adventure was realized as they found their car battery dead from its lights being left on all night.

 

Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at [email protected]“>[email protected]; or visit his website .