Few who know Earline accuse her of having an overabundance of patience. Earline herself still remembers her kind, forbearing mama saying, “Sister, you have got to learn patience!” Earline loved her mama, she really did. And she wanted to please her. But some things just weren’t possible. What happened on a south Florida Tami-Ami Trail fishing trip back in 1959 shows how far she still was from developing that particular virtue.
Fishing figured largely in those southern Florida months, and not only for Earline and Betty’s weekday trips. Weekends, Earline, Bob, Betty, Al, Bruce, Carol, and Susan sometimes headed down to Key West, but most often out on the untamed Tamiami Trail. Some said that name came from a contraction—“Tampa to Miami Trail,” referring to the paved road across the wild Everglades. But Earline and her sister didn’t care much about the name; it was the fishing, picnicking, and occasional camping there they loved. (p. 98)
On the particular day in question, we were all fishing, and we were all catching a lot of fish. Each of us felt glued to our favorite spots, as was Earline—a little way down the bank from the rest of us. She’d been catching so many fish, she’d used up all of her bait.
Desperate to continue the thrill of the catch, Earline yelled, “Hey, somebody bring me some bait. I can’t leave this spot for a minute!”
Nobody moved. Not a soul even acknowledged her plea, each intent on pulling his or her own prizes from those bountiful waters.
Earline called out again. No response. Good grief! What was wrong with everybody? She needed bait, and she needed it now.
Looking around her for possibilities, she spied a smaller fish she’d caught—a bream. It had been lying there on the bank for a bit, so it was a little sun-dried. Swooping it up with her hand, she raised it to her mouth, bit off its tail, and presto, she had bait, and she used it.
Years later, I asked her how it tasted. “It wasn’t bad,” she said. “Kind of sweet and flavorful.”
A fairly positive response from someone who shudders at the very thought of sushi. And a practical one from one whose patience has its limits.
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