San Luis Obispo, California – Our last day here began with giant blueberry pancakes at the Apple Farm across the street from our hotel. Complimented by fresh orange juice and coffee. After breakfast we drove back down through the coastal hills to the Holland Ranch, where the wedding was held the day before, and helped to clean up. The Edna Valley wine country is close by, dotted with vineyards and wine tasting opportunities, so we spent a few hours nosing around, sipping, eating French bread, sausage and meatballs. Edna Valley wineries are noted for their light grapes and we bought a couple fine bottles of what that produces, and if Wilson doesn’t beat them to death, they will come home with us.
Sal’s brother Arnold, told us to meet him and the clan at the San Luis Pier, so we found that. He wasn’t there, and neither was Sal or anyone else. No surprise. The entire family is no doubt afflicted with the same missing “misdirection deficit.” Camille and I walked to the end of the pier, bought a dozen fresh oysters from a fisherman, who put them on crushed ice so we could take them to a seafood bar/café and have them shucked. They were cool and moist, but I’d forgotten how much larger and Pacific oyster is than its Atlantic cousin, so two of them went to waste. I ate eleven though, since he’d sold me a baker’s dozen. A month from now, when I’m sitting in oysterless Minnesota, those two oysters will no doubt loom large in my imagination. Arnold never did show, or call. Camille says they’re trying to ditch me. Imagine that.
There was a boy about twelve fishing on the end of the pier. He seemed to be alone and was using light tackle. It doesn’t do to annoy someone who’s fishing, even if it’s just a kid. Most people who fish like to do it alone, and have good reasons for being by themselves, so for a time I didn’t say anything to him. I did notice he barely got the lure in the water before he’d reeled it in again and nothing was following it. The lure was one I’d often used for Northern Pike or Bass. Not an ocean rig, since that usually requires live bait. The distance from the deck to the sea was a good forty to fifty feet, so I thought maybe half his line was used up just to get the lure to the surface of the water.
Finally I said, “Anything biting?”
He ignored me, reeling in fast.
“I do a lot of fishing myself,” I continued.
Keeping his eyes on the lure as it clanked into the end of his pole, he said, “I thought I saw something that looked like a bass.”
“No. Bass bass.”
“That would be found in fresh water,” I instructed.
“Yeah? Well, they came up a minute ago before you got here and a whole swarm of them just kicked butt across the top of the water and followed my special lure until I reeled it up, but they wouldn’t bite.”
“They like this lure because when it’s in the water it looks like a big white bug that’s swimming and puffing its sides out, stroking along and trying to escape.” His next cast barely touched the water.
“Give it a little more depth,” I said.
He sighed and let the lure drop several inches below the surface.
“It’s pretty deep here,” I explained. “Let out some more line.”
His gaze wandered out across the Pacific. “I like to fish alone,” he said.
There was no sign of a parent or other adult. “Not from Iowa, are you?” I inquired.
“Never mind. I’m just out here to eat fresh oysters. Saw you fishing.”
He jigged the pole a bit. “Good luck when you get back to Iowa. Do they have an ocean?”
“They don’t have anything but corn and pigs.”
“Figures,” he said. “That’s why you don’t know how to fish, I guess.”
So I left him alone and we walked back along the wooden pier, took a few photos of boats coming and going, as the bass jumped in the bay like porpoise.
My dad took me fishing before he owned a boat motor. Before most people did. He would row. I wedged myself into the bow of the old 18-foot, handmade Long Prairies that plied the waters on lakes in those days. Farmers often owned the adjoining land and rented boats for 50-cents an hour. You picked up the oars in the farmer’s yard and paid when you brought them back. Time was usually kept in a dirty notebook or even on the door jam of a boathouse. My dad had to buy a pair of oars once when he teased a giant snapping turtle. The turtle snapped one of them off like a stick. Dad said it was worth the money just to see a snapper do that.
The kid on the pier maybe had a dad somewhere who took him fishing. Wasn’t alone there because he had no other choice. That’s what I like to think anyway.
Tomorrow we start home.