Fishing Boats

But a man likes to dicker. He will saunter around the item, frown at it, eyeball it, and ask questions...

It was several years ago. I was driving toward Geneva, Alabama, for two reasons. One: A funeral for my friend’s father. Two: I was going to buy a fishing boat.

You might as well kill two birds with one stone, that’s what I always say.

I arrived at the church, dressed in my decent clothes. I don’t have “nice” clothes per se. Everything I own is either halfway decent or reprehensible. The reprehensible stuff can be identified by the wrinkles, the paint blobs on the sleeves, and the coffee stains.

No man purposely stains his shirts with coffee. But when he has facial hair like me, the hair absorbs thirty percent of each coffee swig. Thusly, when the cup is removed from the mouth, the coffee drips onto the man’s chest, making him appear either senile or drunk. Sometimes both.

And ironing? I have not ironed a shirt since Theodore Roosevelt was elected.

So my clothes are not my best feature, which has been a problem in the past. I once got fired from a church for having a wrinkled shirt. This is totally true, and it’s still hard to talk about.

I was working part-time, playing church piano. One Sunday morning, I was playing “Old Rugged Cross.” I was wearing wrinkled khakis, a moderately crumpled shirt, and sandals.

I loved sandals because at the time I worked in construction. We wore boots all day long and my feet were always cramped. As soon as I would get home, I couldn’t wait to wear sandals and let the old dogs breathe. Sandals are like a Biloxi vacation for feet.

The pastor was horrified. I received my walking papers not long thereafter. Don’t misunderstand me, I do try to dress nice, I’m just saying that I know there’s room for improvement. Also, I try to bathe regularly.

When I arrived at the chapel where the funeral was held, I told my dog Ellie to wait in the truck. I trotted toward the church, tucking in my shirt. I sat in a back pew and paid my respects to a man I hardly knew.

After service, I shook a few hands then slipped out. I untucked my wrinkled shirt, kicked off my dress shoes, and put on sandals. Then I drove into Geneva to look at the boat.

I met the seller in a supermarket parking lot where he showed me all the features. It was an ugly boat. I kicked the trailer tires, sniffed the motor oil, and did what most guys do when buying something. There’s a male ceremony to this sort of thing.

I’ve purchased and sold hundreds of things from classified ads. There is a strict protocol men follow when buying. Women, on the other hand, don’t care about our pomp and circumstance. They’re easy. If a woman likes what’s for sale, she buys it. End of story.

But a man likes to dicker. He will saunter around the for-sale item, frown at it, eyeball it, and ask questions like, “When was the last time you waxed the serpentine injection regenerator distribution valves?”

And if the buyer is truly interested, he will pretend NOT to be interested. Then, the seller—if he is motivated—will practically beg the buyer to take the item even if it means he has to throw in a full tank of gas, a case of beer, and in some cases his own mother-in-law.

Other elements of the male purchasing process include:

—Sniffing one’s nose loudly for no apparent reason
—Clearing the throat
—Discussion of a major football franchise
—Signing the Bill of Sale
—Light cussing
—Counting cash
—Occasional scratching of private regions
—Dressing up and going trick-or-treating
—Coloring books

We are men. This is how we buy things.

But I was not in the mood to bargain that day. I had just come from a funeral. All I could think about was the old man in the casket and how he would never go fishing again. Never. As in: Not ever.

This did something to me. Which is why I bought the boat and gave the man more than it was worth. He actually tried to give me a hundred dollars back, but I refused.

My father would have rolled in his grave.

On the way home, Ellie and I stopped at a barbecue joint. I bought two pork sandwiches to celebrate. Then we crawled into the boat, right there on dry land. My dog ate her sandwich, I ate mine. We watched the sun go down together. I ruined my funeral shirt with barbecue sauce.

My dog has been gone for a while now, but I still have the boat. And this particular day stands out in my memory for some reason. Don’t ask me why.

I suppose that the biggest moments of my life weren’t the ones I thought they would be. When you’re young, you have this idea that the loudest, shiniest, giddiest moments are going to be the important ones. But that’s not how it works. It’s the small ones.

Sitting in a dilapidated boat. Sharing supper with a good dog. Kisses from a baby. Old songs. A cold drink on a hot afternoon. And oh, the boundless glories of sandals.

I will remember these things even after I die.

Ironed shirts. Who needs them?


  1. Carolyn from Georgia - September 21, 2019 6:57 am

    There’s nothing like memories of sitting in that boat eating bbq pork sandwiches & watching the sun with sweet Ellie Mae!! God bless her!!! ♡♡♡

  2. Jay Lawrence Giid - September 21, 2019 7:53 am

    Check out the Peanut Butter Festival in Brundidge come October. Great food and people, music, and it’s about as casual as can be. Cleanest dirty shirts are acceptable and a few barefooted younger folk carry one back to the days of youth. Roll Eagle!

  3. Steve - September 21, 2019 12:38 pm

    When I die, I’m going fishing with my Uncle Gary, my dog Jake, and the motor will always crank. Our reels are never going to backlash. We are gonna catch 10lbs bass all day long. At least that’s what I’m putting in the suggestion box.

  4. Linda Moon - September 21, 2019 2:52 pm

    I killed two birds at a church in Pintlala: you and the preacher. The main man I know has only given more money than necessary to purchase a Corvette, but never a boat. The boat is in the basement more than in the water, and the Corvette is gone. He will remember that Corvette in Glory and regrets selling it in the Here and Now. You have a good list of things you”ll remember even after you die, so enjoy them now!!

  5. Myra G. - September 21, 2019 4:57 pm

    LOL … you’ve totally nailed 99% of my husband’s wardrobe! I’m not much for fishing, but what you’ve said about moments that count? That’s gonna stay with me, ever after I die.

  6. Kathy - September 21, 2019 6:34 pm

    These are truly profound words:

    I suppose that the biggest moments of my life weren’t the ones I thought they would be. When you’re young, you have this idea that the loudest, shiniest, giddiest moments are going to be the important ones. But that’s not how it works. It’s the small ones.

  7. Jackie - September 21, 2019 7:02 pm

    I figure if the clothes cover the parts that don’t need to be showing and are loose enough to be comfortable they’re just right. Wrinkles, holes and colors that “don’t match” don’t enter into it.

  8. Tim House - September 21, 2019 10:57 pm

    Sweet reminisce. 🙂

    • Janie Gentry - June 25, 2021 10:54 am

      I started having some pain in my toes a few months ago and, to me, it was the perfect excuse to never put on real shoes again, unless the snow gets too deep to go out to get the mail in sandals.
      I splurged on a pair of Chakos (the current cool sandal) and I wear them everywhere. Even to church.
      Growing up in the Blue Ridge of Tennessee, I only wore shoes when necessary and I still hate having my feet restrained.

  9. That's jack - September 22, 2019 1:13 pm

    Enjoyed the read, but I cannot wear sandals, I guess I could but I just don’t like ’em. But I do like dogs.!

  10. Estelle - October 7, 2019 11:01 pm

    Loved the sketch of Ellie Mae. Our dogs never
    Do leave our heart. Some just make more impact than others. I love fresh caught fish. My dad fished. We cleaned fish together. One time we had a race in fish cleaning. He cleaned 22 and I cleaned 23.. great tasting Crappie. In later years my dad gave many fish away. Often to the people who lived on the land whose river he fished. Good fish is a welcome gift.

  11. Jim Bowden - October 14, 2019 2:55 pm

    Always fun to go to Brundidge

  12. Joe Patterson - October 14, 2019 9:39 pm

    L L Bean permanent press never need to iron wash them damp dry hang them up good to go

  13. Dean - June 25, 2021 4:33 pm

    Great column as usual. Love to fish


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