Bellfishin’ And Rock Kickin’
Marilyn Young Ford
“To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while.” — Josh Billings
A small brass bell attached to the tip of his fishing pole,
the pole seated in a hollow spike at water’s edge.
Daddy loved bellfishin’ at Grenada Lake, especially in the Fall.
An occasional ting of the bell put Daddy
on alert. But the high pitched, frantic
ting-a! ting-a! ting-a! ting-a! urgency indicated
one thing: the pulling of a fish on the line.
And Daddy would spring forward from
his aluminum lawn chair — the ones
he and Mama rewove when the weave
wore threadbare — and run, leaving
the campfire, morphing into a barefooted boy,
leaping through boundaries between grass then rock,
rock, rock, rock, rock, then water, where
the bell rang on the height of the fishing pole.
Spillway water lined with boulders – marbles
for Titans—and that manboy fearlessly
lunged and plunged like a ship sinking
beneath the horizon. We watched as his
hips, torso, shoulders, head disappeared
in mad pursuit of hope: a fish.
One afternoon scrambling down the rocks, Daddy
stumbled, jamming his big toe, rolling it under his foot,
and splitting the skin open across the knuckle;
splitting it wide open to the bone. I sat by the campfire
and watched him hobble back up from the bank, but only
after checking the fishing pole.
I don’t remember if he caught the fish;
I can’t swear I saw any blood. But I do know that
my Daddy kicked a rock that day. And I do remember
Mama had to take him to the hospital for stitches.
I waited with my aunt and uncle and then watched.
As soon as they returned, undaunted,
he went right back to bellfishin’.
Marilyn Young Ford, a 52 year old veteran of many things, loves words and cats, hates injustice and the word scab, and relaxes with her husband and Queensryche. Her circle is small but intact. She has lived overseas and on the East Coast, but still calls Mississippi, with all its failings and glory, home. New Orleans – a place she visits frequently, but not frequently enough – calls her daily, and she hopes to retire there so that she can eat at Coop’s at least once a week.