Sometimes the good Lord puts us where we’re supposed to be – not where we want to be.
Good morning, brothers.
I was sitting in the church pews with my boys this last weekend – all 4 of them – and their very patient mother. Sitting in church is a good thing. Even in a non-spiritual sense. It helps you slow down, because you have to be still. Be quiet. Listen. Be patient.
It’s not unlike fishing.
Our day-to-day hustle & bustle is the opposite. When I was a kid the difference was not as extreme, but with everything we have these days – all the convenience, instant answers to everything at our fingertips, a plethora of 6-second video clips to satiate our “boredom”, cheap little dopamine hits nonstop… it’s a stark contrast.
My two oldest sat to the right, one of the middles on my lap, the youngest sitting with Mama. I started to think about how lucky I am to have this family, to live in this country (warts & all), and to do what I do for a living.
None of it was planned, and all of it is a blessing.
It’s far better than anything that I could have dreamed up myself.
Somehow, on more than one occasion, God has put me in the right place at the right time, to do something that I wasn’t prepared to do. It reminded me of a story from late last season…
I was Fishing for Largemouth in a Small Pond…
It was fall. The air was cool, and the pond I was fishing sits next to a playground that is usually empty. For whatever reason, on this particular afternoon, it was alive with kids. They were crawling all over the slides & swings, running, screaming, drooling, falling, whining, arguing, laughing… all of it.
I love kids, but was happy to move away from the noise and over to the nearby pond to focus on some fishing.
Some days you’re lucky and you get to fish remote wilderness, other days… you gotta do what you can with what you got!
I was using a heavy spinning rod to avoid backlashes since the shoreline was loaded with sticks and cattails and all sorts of snaggy items, throwing a Z-Man Bang Stick (floating, green pumpkin & blue mix) on a 2/0 Trokar Pro-V with a 1/32 ounce black bullet weight and Texas rig. (Check out the Eagle Claw Storefront to see what they have listed at this time.)
In about 20 minutes, I caught 2 small fish.
After a few more minutes, this little kid wandered over by me.
Nice kid… maybe 4 or 5… he was sporting some messed up hair and had random food speckled all over his face.
“What are you doin’?”
“Fishing. What are you doing?”
“Can I fish too?!”
“No buddy, but you can hang out with me if you want… where are your parents?”
“Mommy brought me here but I don’t –
As I pulled a small largemouth bass up over the bank full of tall weeds, the kid shrieked with joy.
“IS THAT A FISH!?”
“Haha, yeah buddy it’s a little –
“CAN I TOUCH IT!?”
“Well sure you can… but… I mean where is your mama again?”
I held the small slimy fish out towards the boy, while he carefully, timidly, poked and prodded the bass, I scanned left and right as quickly as I could, hoping to find his parent(s)… but all I could see were groups of children under the close surveillance of their folks. No sign of anyone looking for my new little buddy here…
“Does he bite? Does he have teeth??”
“Uh… oh, no, he has some tiny teeth but he won’t hurt you. Here pop your thumb out I’ll show you how to hold ‘im…”
I laughed loudly, it certainly wasn’t the first time I’d seen a child object to putting their thumb in the mouth of a fish – so I tossed it back.
“Hahaha, no worries buddy – you let me know when you’re ready to hold one.”
“Can I keep fishing with you?!”
“I mean… yeah I think you better…”
Again, I scanned the area. This kid had been next to me for 20 minutes now.
We walked over to the right a bit, around the side of the pond to a little concrete platform. He was everywhere, running circles around me. Any hope I had for stealth was long gone. He picked up sticks and swung them around, hooted & hollered.
Just a kid.
I moved to the left of him in case a rouge hookset came flying free – didn’t want to snag him. In fact, the longer he was with me, the more I felt the need to protect him. Then it hit me –
What if I was a creep?
What if I wasn’t a harmless fisherman. What if I was a pedophile. A kidnapper. An opportunist… any number of bad, bad, bad things – what then?
Then this kid would be in a very different situation right now.
I shuddered at the thought of what this day could have been for this poor kid…
Another hookset. SOLID FISH. She flashed sideways and I could see the GIRTH. Big girl.
“Hey do you have a fish is that a fish A FISH A FISH BIG FISH FISHFISHFISHFISH!?!?!?!”
“I… uh *grunt* yeah bud just lemme focus on –
Slack in the line.
The big girl that would have made it one heck of an afternoon just came unbuttoned…
Fortunately, I didn’t have much time to be sad, as my new buddy jumped left and right and 2 mothers with 4 children approached us. The kids ran over to join him, all 5 picked up rocks… and every single one started hurling them right where we had been fishing.
Guess I’m done.
No matter, at least I’ve finally found this kid’s mom.
“Oh hey there, sorry they’re being a little noisy! Tee-hee!”
“No worries, I’m just glad he’s back with his friends.”
“Oh we… we don’t know who he is… we thought he was with you??”
Rocks continued to fly through the air and crash into the pond. All 5 children were laughing and screaming – it was impossible to be mad even though my afternoon of fishing was clearly over.
“I don’t know who this kid is or where his parents are.”
“Oh no – well, we haven’t seen anyone looking for him on the playground…”
“Hmmm… well, I’ll keep him with me until we figure it out – hey buddy, let’s go for a walk!”
My little friend came scampering over.
It had been just under an hour by this point.
“Are we gonna CATCH MORE FISH!?”
“Heh, no big man, I think the fish are all hiding under logs after it rained rocks on ’em – let’s go look for your parents.”
We walked back to the playground.
Back to the pond.
Back to the parking lot.
Back to the pond.
Lap after lap after lap.
“Yeah I know buddy but I’m not really sure what –
“Billy?! BILLY?!?! WHAT THE FREAKING HELL!!”
There was mom. Phone in hand. Pajamas. Filthy old slippers. Running. Screaming. Looking for her son… who had been with me – a stranger – for well over an hour.
“It’s my mom – I gotta go – HI MOMMY!”
He hollered and started to run towards her.
“BILLY, YOU ARE IN BIG TROUBLE. YOU ARE GONNA GET IT. I AM SO MAD. YOU MESSED UP BIG TIME!!!”
… was it… was it the kid’s fault he was left alone at the park for over an hour?
Was mom watching TikToks in the car while he was left to wander alone?
Hmmm… hard to say… suppose we shouldn’t assume anything.
“Hey miss, he’s ok, he wandered over to me about an hour ago when I was at the pond. Been with me the whole time – we didn’t know where you were but I’m glad he’s with you now.”
This woman turned and glared at me like I had 3 heads.
Didn’t say a word.
Looked back to Billy and started in again – reaming him – it was all his fault, you see. She hadn’t done anything wrong, but Billy boy… Billy was gonna get it.
4 or 5 years old.
She grabbed his arm, jerked it way too hard, and pulled him towards whatever car was hers.
He started to cry.
And that was it.
That was the last time I’d ever see Billy.
I stood there with my fishing rod in my hand. Bothered.
So much could have gone wrong for little Billy on this afternoon… and yet… none of it would have been his fault. I was relieved he had ended up with me – just a normal dad and fisherman putzing at a city pond – but at the same time, I was bothered to see him being yanked off like that.
It was wrong.
In terms of fishing, my afternoon had sucked…
But as I quietly loaded my gear into the truck, one thing was very clear to me:
Sometimes the good Lord puts us where we’re supposed to be – not where we want to be.
I didn’t want to spend the afternoon fishing a lame little pond instead of a remote area.
I didn’t want to entertain some random little kid.
I didn’t want to listen to a noisy playground and watch rocks get thrown at my bass.
But I was supposed to be there this afternoon.
My hope – no, my prayer – was that little Billy’s mom realized how easy it would have been for someone to come along with bad intentions, and wander off with her son… I pray that she realizes she dodged a bullet. I pray that it never happens again. That this was a wake up call.
Maybe… maybe not…
Either way – I pray that God continues to put me where I’m supposed to be… and brothers… pray He does the same with you as well.
His plans are always better than our own.
Tight Lines & Godspeed, Patriots.
Thank you Readers!
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AJ You are one fine man. Parenting today must be so hard. Maybe that’s why so many don’t!!! Heard from a good friend who’s comments I trust explicitlly….The cartels are switching to sex trafficing more than drug running because the money is better. So sad and disgusting. Keep you children close, safe, and talk to them every day.
Hey thanks Brother Ron – I appreciate that – and as much as I appreciate your comment, I would be willing to bet it’s always been hard to be a good parent, but the challenges today are just… uh… different. I’m sure you faced challenges I’ll never have to and vice versa – that’s why it’s important for men to talk, gather, and build one another up – for the good of the colony!
Also your comment on the cartels would not surprise me… unfortunately. Not much does anymore :/
Thanks again and talk soon my friend.
You done well AJ. Great story on your part…poor mom on her part.
Thanks Brother Gary – it broke my heart. I hope it was a wake up call for her and the aggression was misplaced frustration with her own mistake. Lord knows I’m far from the perfect parent…
Hey buddy. BWW here. Reading that story took me through all the emotions, giddy that you were catchin em, twitchy cause the chillens was pitchin rocks on fish heads, sad that the little guy was runnin loose, mad that the parent (not gonna use mom here cause real moms aren’t that negligent, or mean, or selfish), happy that the parent finally showed up, especially glad you’re a good guy, a bit wacky, but good, then deep in contemplative thought as I wondered how much punishment the little man endured for her negligence.
Ugh. Glad you are who you are. We’re all blessed by you. And the Big Guy.
You are very kind, Brother Wiggle Worm. Too kind. I felt those same things as I went back and wrote all of the events from the day. I had scribbled this story shorthand on a piece of paper – but when I went back through it all, it kind of came back to life. Sounds crazy, I know, but I hope that everyone involved that afternoon came out the other side a bit better & smarter. We gotta look out for one another – I know you already believe that. Have a great week & talk soon!