Many years ago, when preparing to give a speech on ethics at a Rotary International District Conference, I ran across a story that was reported to have been published in Reader's Digest. I don't recall how I found it or even the format it was in but I remember it was titled, "The Catch of a Lifetime". It was a sweet, maybe bittersweet, story of a father and son in the throes of teaching and learning life-lessons. This poem, along with my own embellishments, is based upon my recall of that story. I am grateful for the inspiration of that anonymous author.
Skip sure liked ridin’ cow ponies and ropin'
Cattle tendin’ and feedin' weren’t bad at all
So he had a good dose of cowboy in him
Yet there was something with a stronger call
He grew up happy on his family's ranch
Which was blessed by a large lake nearby
The fish in it steadily siren-called to him
He was purty much powerless but to comply
The lad was a mere eleven years old
But he never missed a chance to go fishin'
And when he couldn't have a pole in hand
He spent most of that time fish-wishin'
He and his dad were out dock-fishin'
The night before opening of bass season
Catchin' perch and sunfish with worms
Sharin' sweet time shuckin' and breezin'
Skip tied on a flashy, colorful lure
And set about to practice casting
Dad said he should always hone his skills
And dad's instructions had a way of lasting
The lure struck the water makin' ripples
Then suddenly his little pole curl-bent
He knew he'd hooked something big
That fish fought him real hard 'til spent
His proud father gladly helped him to
Set the gill-flexing fish on the dock
He was a magnificent beauty but he was a bass
And coupla' hours early according to the clock
“You'll have to release him back son”,
Spoke his dad softly with a shoulder-pat
“But look at him flopping around!", Skip cried
"He's a beaut and so huge and big and fat!”
“There'll be other fish to catch", Dad said,
"Another day when the catchin' is right”.
“But never one so outstanding as this”,
Skip begged, vainly protesting for his fight
The boys neck twisted left and right
Scanning all ‘round the lake for spies
“Who’s gonna’ know Dad? Ain’t no one around”
“You will son. It's right there before your eyes”
His dad was steadfast, firmly unyielding
So Skip gently placed the bass in the lake
And watched him slowly swim away
Leaving a broken-hearted boy in it’s wake
That boy eventually grew to be a man
Cattle ranchin' the same spread as his dad
Years later, he was still right of course
He never again caught a fish like he'd had
But he'd seen that fish many times over
Like when it came to an ethical choice
Should I throw our brand on that maverick?
Might be when he'd hear Dad's clear voice
A man must own a strong moral code
Though the application thereof can be real tough
Integrity guides behavior in the dark or when solo
It's what steers you when allure calls your bluff
But where does a person get such a code?
Who teaches, early-on, such moral behavior?
It best comes from Mom and Dad straightaway
Ingraining the goodness modeled by our Savior
Now Skip takes his own sons and daughters
Lake fishin' regular at that same spot
Kinda' amazing how that moment in time
Has passed along for doin' right or not
This is how dads have profound influence
For I believe on that long ago night
Dad planted integrity for generations
Teaching his family to just do what's right
by Rik Goodell
© 2022. All rights reserved
Jack Sorenson's nostalgic talent takes me back to kinder, simpler times. I'm not positive they ever truly existed but I want to believe so I thank Mr. Sorenson for the reinforcement. And I thank him for encouraging me to use his very special work alongside my poetry. See many more of his inspired paintings at