My family owns a lake house on Lake Livingston. This is where my family comes together every year for our reunion. Some come from close by, and some come from Louisiana. Everyone is scattered about like pins on a map, so as a child I enjoyed it when we all congregated at this one place. It gave me a wonderful sense of togetherness and endless adventures.
The year my family calls "The Year of the Great Appaloosa" I was ten years old. On the car ride to the lake house, I persistently nagged my mother, "Are we there yet?" Eventually we pulled into the neighborhood of houses on stilts. The long curvy roads were blackened with tar and glistened in the sun, unlike last year and the years before when it was just gravel. I could not wait to ride the two-seater bike with my cousin on the new roads, but being the tomboy I was, fishing with my uncles was my first priority.
Upon arrival, family members who were already there came out to greet us. As a very young child, the steep stairs to the front door always frightened me. This year, I ran up and down those stairs a million times. When I opened the front door, the house smelled stale, like people had not been in it for a very long time. Besides, my uncle E.C. had not arrived from Louisiana yet to fill the house with the smell of his homemade etouffee.
Although I was very eager to get on the boat and fish, I had to settle for playing in the game room with my cousins until all my uncles arrived. The game room had a green felt pool table in it. But the pool sticks were missing tips, and there were even balls from the rack that had been lost over the years, so we settled for playing the first Nintendo that had ever been released on the small television in the room. When we heard another car pull up, all the children rushed out of the room to meet and greet.
As soon as the fishermen in the family had arrived, we were on the boat running trot lines. I loved the boat ride to our fishing spot. I told my uncle to go "faster, faster!" and he did. He even let me drive the boat that year because the water was so smooth, like glass. I remember feeling so special that I was the only girl on the boat, and my uncles seemed to love the idea of teaching me to fish. It is never an easy job to run these lines, and one has to be extremely careful. My uncle Bobby said, "If you aren't paying attention to what you are doing, this line could pull you off the boat and into the water." With those words in mind, I carefully baited the hooks on the line while hoping that because I helped we would catch something great.
After running the line, we came back to the house. This time it smelled of crawfish etouffee and my aunt Pattie's home-made biscuits. After stuffing myself with the most amazing Cajun food I have ever had, it was back to playing with my cousins since we had to wait until night time to go back on the water to check the trot line. I especially liked playing with Tiffany because she was just my age. We pulled the two-seater bicycle out of the garage and brushed the cobwebs away. We rode it all the way to the pier and then went for a swim in the warm, murky water. We also had a contest on the swings in the yard to see who could go higher; she won. Then night finally came.
While everyone else was getting ready for sleep, the fishermen were back on the boat again. The stars were shining brightly, and my uncles said, "The stars and the moon will directly affect our catches." I was filled with anticipation. We found our line because it was marked with floating plastic bottles. Slowly we started pulling it up, hook by hook. The first few hooks had nothing on them. Then we released a few very small catfish that were on some of the hooks. As we moved farther down the line, it got heavier, which made it harder to pull up. We knew we had something on the line but did not know exactly where it was or what it was.
Every time my uncle Leroy strained to pull up the hooks on the heavy line and the hook was empty, he knew we were getting closer. As he pulled up the next to last hook he asked my uncle Bobby for help. I knew there was something great on the line as I watched two grown men struggle to bring it up. As I looked over the edge of the boat, I saw it coming to the surface. It looked like a monster of some sort, and it started thrashing around as my uncles tried to unhook it and throw it into the boat. I remember screaming, What is it? with no care that there were other lake houses on the shoreline with sleeping people in them. It was an Appaloosa catfish, the biggest one our family had caught over the years of reunions. But we had to wait to know exactly how big it was until we got back and weighed it.
The boat ride back was so exciting I felt my heart pounding in my throat. I could not wait to show my family what I helped catch. It was the first time I felt like I was getting to feed my family for a change. My sense of accomplishment was so great I believe I even matured some that year. When we got back to the house, everyone had waited up for us to see what we were going to bring back. They were all amazed with the beautiful specimen they saw as we pulled it off the boat. I do not remember how much the beast weighed, but I do remember it fed our family throughout the next day. It was the tastiest fish I had ever eaten because I helped catch it. To this day when I go fishing, I remember what my uncles taught me. And that reunion remains the most memorable to me because it was the last time everyone was able to make it to the lake house at the same time.