“Um, where’s your pole?” Spiegel asked.
Peter carried a twelve pack and no fishing apparatus. “I don’t need one,” he assured Spiegel.
It was Saturday afternoon. Spiegel had pulled up to Peter’s mobile home hauling the jon boat borrowed from the reserve center. They intended to make the most of a weekend without a drill, without a color guard, and without any other duties at work. Brown arrived a few minutes later with his fishing pole and tackle box. He didn’t comment on Peter’s lack of the same. After loading their equipment and supplies in the back, the trio of jarheads climbed into Spiegel’s truck for the ten-mile drive away from Broken Arrow. The cooler was loaded with the alcohol that would be consumed until it was replaced by the fish they would catch.
They arrived at Spiegel’s super-secret fishing spot. Once the jon boat was on the lake, Peter popped the top of a brew and took a sip. Brown and Spiegel cast their lines into the water.
“Damn,” said Brown half an hour later. His line had become tangled in debris and had snapped.
“Can I have that?” asked Peter, pointing to Brown’s broken line.
“Whatever,” Brown replied, handing him the thin strand.
“Do you have a hook I can borrow?” Peter asked Spiegel.
“Sure.” Spiegel dug in his tackle box and then passed one over. He eyed Peter as he carefully put down his beer to spear a minnow on the hook. He dropped the line, hook, and bait, held only in his hands, over the side of the jon boat.
Five minutes later, Peter felt a tug. He pulled the line out of the water to reveal an eight-inch fish wriggling on the hook.
“Holy crap!” said Spiegel. “I’ve got to try that.” Spiegel set aside his pole and copied Peter’s method. Fifteen minutes later, Spiegel hooked a six- inch fish.
“How did you learn to fish like this?” Spiegel demanded as Brown decided he was doing this fishing thing all wrong, too.
“Dude,” Peter replied, “I grew up near Lake Erie.”
Peter grinned, took another swig, and thought back to his childhood. In a house with five kids to feed and clothe, chores were done “because I told you so,” not to earn an allowance. There was no spending money offered for luxuries like a fishing pole. By age eleven, Peter had his first job. By twelve, he was paying rent to his dad. The shores of Lake Erie were his tackle shop. He collected lures, lines, and hooks that washed onto the beach. He fished without spending a dime.
“I don’t know why I bothered buying a pole,” said Spiegel as he snagged another fish.
Peter swallowed his beer and replied, “Man, you’re just wasting good beer money.”