basstracker

In the late 1970s when I was about 8 years old, my father brought home a brand-new shiny Bass Tracker. He received the boat as a gift from his boss in recognition of his hard work managing a sod farm. Hauling the Bass Tracker behind his pick-up truck, my father drove up to our house and paraded around the boat with a self-congratulatory strut as he showed it off to my mother and me and my brother Will, who was about 10 at the time.

Will’s eyes grew wide with excitement when he saw the boat, a veritable redneck dream for any Florida boy who loved to fish.

A short while after unveiling his glorious Bass Tracker, my father covered her up with a beige tarp and carefully backed her into a spot under the pole barn off the front yard of our house.

“When can we take her out on the lake, Daddy?”

“When I get my work caught up, son.”

Days and weeks went by and Will pleaded with my father to take him fishing in the Bass Tracker, but the answer was always the same. “I will. When I get my work caught up.”

As my brother grew into a young man, he became an avid fisherman, spending countless hours out on the lakes of Florida’s West Coast and participating in bass and snook tournaments. Incredibly, twelve years passed and the Bass Tracker remained parked under our pole barn, still covered with a tarp that was turning green with mildew. The boat’s motor had never been cranked; its hull had never touched water.

At 22, my brother finally asked my father if he could buy the Bass Tracker from him. My father agreed and transferred the title to Will. The title showed a sale price of $1,000.00, but my father never took Will’s money.

In the years that followed, Will got loads of enjoyment out of the long-neglected Bass Tracker, taking his young wife and friends and brothers-in-law out fishing whenever he could. Sometimes, Will would call up my father and invite him to go out on the lake. “I will. When I get my work caught up,” was my father’s standard reply.

Today, my father is an old man. He has been retired for over a decade and lives alone in the same house where I was raised. The pole barn is still there, peeking through the tall weeds that were once our front yard.

I wonder if my father ever looks out his front window at that pole barn and thinks about the Bass Tracker that was parked under its tin roof during the formative years of my brother’s youth. I wonder why my father never took my brother fishing and wouldn’t even allow him to use the Bass Tracker for twelve long years. I wonder, too, if my father felt ashamed when his only son, as a full-grown man, offered to buy the Bass Tracker from him and then, showing immense grace, offered to take him fishing.

Most of all, I wonder if my father will ever realize, before it’s too late, that life is precious and finite. Will he ever set aside any time to spend with his son and his grandchildren before he departs this earth?

I have a good idea what my father would say.

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