I’ve written more than a few times about the great parents I had. My brother Stan and I grew up in the age of “Leave It to Beaver,” Father Knows Best,” and “Ozzie and Harriet”- TV shows that portrayed family life at its best. Unlike those shows, our dad was a blue collar guy who rarely wore a coat and tie and my mom was a full-time working woman – a secretary – but the warmth and happiness in our family unit was every bit as strong as any of them. My parents every non-working moment seemed to be devoted to raising their kids to be happy, productive human beings. I never felt loneliness as a child, or that I wasn’t loved, and that has had a profound effect on my happiness the rest of my life.
Nice background info about me, but what the heck does it have to do with fishing? Well, my current “job” as a charter captain gives me the privilege of dealing with a lot of families who fish on our boat. Over the years, we’ve seen the gamut - from families whose unit seemed as idyllic as my own, which warms my heart every time, to families that strike you almost immediately with their dysfunctionality. The classic example of the latter was the dad who swore that all he wanted was to see his son catch a big fish but, then, literally pushed the kid out of the way to get to the rod first when the big one hit. Or, the dad who watched his grown daughter heave repeatedly while rejecting her pleas to go back to the dock because she was so sick, just so he could try to see his grandson catch the “big one.” Those are the trips where I just cringe, keep my mouth shut and shake my head. Thankfully, those are the aberrations, and most of the families we see bring back great memories and a smile to my face.
One of those families is the Abneys of Liberty Township, OH – Neil, Kerri, Katelyn and Karaline. Maybe we should call the latter 3 the “Special K” girls, just kause they are and it sounds kinda kool! I knew I liked them from the first time we took them out a few years ago. The love in the family unit was very apparent. Older daughter, Katelyn, wasn’t (and still isn’t) into fishing, but young ( 11ish) Karaline was, and we got lucky enough to catch her a nice dolphin or two which, I believe, were her first offshore fish. Her excitement, and that of her parents, was a joy to witness!
A couple weeks or so later, I got a package from the Abneys. In it was a rough-made, blue coffee-type cup, with handles on two sides and a fish-face molded between them. Karaline had made it specifically for me as a “thank you” for catching her that fish. That cup, by the way, is now the prized “Karaline Kup” for which Captain Marlin Scott of this magazine and I often vie when we have similar trips scheduled. I’m not ashamed to say that it brought a tear to my eye, and it made me more aware of the impact we charter captains and mates can have on peoples’ vacations and lives, especially kids. That, in turn, made me want to try even harder to make that impact a positive one, particularly for the Abneys. Fortunately, we’ve had the opportunity to do that for them multiple times since, with some extra-special results.
In 2014, the Abneys let a young boy we met at the dock, Chase Mullen, come along on a trip. His parents weren’t into fishing but were willing to pay for him to go, and we caught him a 42 pound dolphin. That following Saturday, the Abneys used the money they got from the Mullens to enter the VFW Fishing Tournament with us. Karaline and Kerri then proceeded to each catch 20+ pound dolphins, finishing first in the Junior and Women’s Divisions, respectively. Again, the joy on Karaline’s face was one of those experiences you can’t replace. Afterwards, Neil said that they would definitely do the tournament with us again, but had longstanding plans to be in Hawaii in 2015 at tournament time. This year, true to his word, we entered the VFW once more and, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, it was “déjà vu all over again.”
On a generally slow fishing day for everybody – there were 52 boats entered – Karaline caught a 14+ pound dolphin and Kerri an 18+ pounder to, once more, each finish first in those same divisions. Lightning struck twice – again! Whoda thunk it? The pride on Karaline’s face (not to mention the prize check in her hand) and that of her proud parents again bought back great memories of my own childhood. Yeah, it’s nice making a buck or three taking people fishing, but experiences like these are almost worth more than the money. It’s just great to see nice things happen to nice folks like the Abneys, especially kids, and I just hope we get the chance to do the VFW with them next again year. Could we go 3 for 3? Wouldn’t that be too kool!!
To further show you what a neat lady Karaline is (other than that she wants to be an astronaut), she offered to do anything we needed to have done on the boat to help out on another trip if she could just ride along while they were in town. Unfortunately, we had full-boats the next few days, so we couldn’t get her back out, but I’ll definitely keep that in mind the next time they’re here. She’s a sweetheart.
By the way, funny story. I mentioned “Father Knows Best” above. In that show, Robert Young played the dad, Jim Anderson, who seemed to almost always wear a sport coat and tie, even around the house at dinner. The sport coat had big oval leather patches on the elbows, a fashion trend “hot” in the late 50’s, when the show ran. Many years later, in the 80’s, I was living in the D.C. area and was breaking up with a long-term girlfriend. I told her that I thought she wanted/needed someone more of a homebody than me, and I specifically told her I thought that was someone like Jim Anderson – someone who wore a coat and tie all the time and was content to come home every night and sit in front of the TV. That just wasn’t me. Well, a few years later, after I had moved to California, my best buddy from my old D.C. days called me. I had previously told him what I had said to this girl about the Jim Anderson-thing. He told me that he had just run into her with her new fiancé and, guess what? Yup! The guy was wearing a sport coat with big oval leather patches on the elbows! Jim Anderson would have been proud! How’s that for calling one right?!
So much for digression. In closing, I’d just like to thank the Abneys for the many totally enjoyable trips they have given my mate and me and for reminding me of what a family is supposed to be. I’d also like to thank them for allowing our mate, Jerry, to bring his wife and boxer-mix dog, Stuart, (Jerry hails from Stuart, FL) along in the tournament and to specifically thank Katelyn, the non-fisher daughter who wants to be a vet, for taking such great care of Stuart during the trip. She’s a great young lady too. If all my customers could be like them, this would be an even greater “job” than the incredibly wonderful one it already is! Hopefully, this will also remind some of you who have kids how important that job – bringing them up the right way – really is, and that it IS a full-time job! Do it right and you do the world a big favor. Do it wrong, and you may owe an apology, not only to that kid, but also to everyone for whom that kid becomes a problem later. That’s a daunting thought, but important to keep in mind!
Finally, I’d like to thank Matt Graf of Mobile Marine Repair Services for squeezing us into his busy schedule before the tournament to fix some air conditioner issues we had so the Abneys could better enjoy their fishing day. Katelyn and Stuart particularly loved the cool cabin! Nice work by a nice guy!
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