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by Lynn Norton

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by Michelle Pond

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by William Greenhut

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by Dan Yates

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by Lisa Farabelli

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by CJ Reeves

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Lord Fletcher's

By Christopher Bremicker, Army

Writing Type: Prose

By Charles Bremicker
U.S. Army

Lord Fletcher's, the site of the Take a Vet Fishing event, was an hour from my house. Annie and Paul picked me up at six in the morning; Paul handed back from the front seat a McDonald's breakfast of a tall stack of pancakes, sausage, scrambled eggs and a biscuit, and I ate it, trying not to spill crumbs on the back seat of Paul's Lexus SUV. Annie was beautiful as she drove through traffic of the freeway then the elusive roads that led to Lake Minnetonka and the fishing event that blew the lid off them all.

Seventy-five veterans joined 40 guides, who provided boats, tackle, bait and bottles of water. 
Then our guide, Jason, took over, and we walked down the dock to the boat, an orange rocket that sparkled in the sun, with silver instrumentation, an electric trolling motor, stationary anchor, and a 350-horsepower outboard motor. Paul jumped onto the gray carpeting of the boat, which took balls, I told him, and Jason held my hand as I stepped onto the deck. He untied the boat from the dock, started the motor that rumbled and backed us into the lake, where he turned the boat on a dime, gunned the motor, and drove the boat leaping across the waves of the windy lake. The boat was wide and long and handled the waves while hammering the wakes of bigger boats. The four pedestal chairs withstood the impact of the whitecaps and the windswept water.

On the boat, Paul opened the can of mixed nuts Annie bought and handed them around. The day was perfect, with a mild temperature, bright, sunny sky, but a stiff wind. Jason took us into the middle of the bay, pointed out houses that looked like hotels and navigated the boat through a channel and under a bridge.

We got into a bigger part of the lake. Jason slowed the boat near a marina of sailboats, and we stood in the boat and threw our baited hooks into the wind. He maneuvered the boat with the trolling motor. The wind blew us around, and we caught nothing but weeds. Jason called them salads; they came in heavily and felt like a fish until we realized they did not pull back. It seemed impossible for a fish hook to hold so much shrubbery.

An eagle flew toward us, dropped to the water, taloned a fish, lifted it skyward and took it to its lair. Then Jason caught a fish. He caught it without telling us, suddenly holding it up for me to take a picture. It was a small bass, but a fish, nevertheless.

We changed locations, stopping offshore from a mansion. The wind fanned the water, blew us around, and we caught nothing. I said, "The owner might come running out on the lawn and tell us to get the hell out of here."

"I've seen it happen," Jason said.

We reeled in. Jason gunned the motor and drove us lickety-split to another bay. The sun beat down, but the wind kept us cool. Jason tried another spot, and another, to find fish. Then I caught one. I felt it tap then tug, and it began to fight as I reeled, the rod jerking and bending with the pull of the fish. The fish came in; I pulled it to the bow, where Jason reached over to lift it into the boat. The fish threw the hook. Jason was left holding an empty line and regretting that he left his net at home.

"Paul, it's your turn," I said, and we all focused on catching another fish.

Jason drove the boat to the middle of another bay, where we avoided the traffic of other boats. The wind churned up stiff waves that slapped our hull. He gave us rods with spinner bait; they were heavier than jigs and easier to cast in the wind. Paul sat in the back seat and cast. I stood in the cockpit and used the steering wheel for support as I cast my spinner bait downwind. My bait had a yellow rubber skirt and a silver blade that spun when I reeled.

Jason told us about robotics, that he had been with his company for ten years, and in his previous job he traveled the world. Then we were quiet as we concentrated on casting our lures, letting them sink to the bottom, reeling them in and withdrawing the weeds that clung to our hooks. Paul opened the box of Cheez-its Annie bought and handed it around. Jason refused, his hands having put worms on our hooks for hours.

The houses onshore stood like mansions or shacks, depending on when they were built, and many looked like homes of fabulously wealthy people whom I never heard of. Canopies covered Chris Crafts; manicured lawns aproned shorelines, and huge windows reflected the sunlight that lit the lake. Sailboats ventured out, their jibs catching the wind and captains at tillers tacking to fill the sails with wind. I caught another fish.

I set the hook, and the fight began. The rod bent double, whiplashed, and the cork handle stiffened in my hands. I reeled it in; the rod pulled back, and the fish tugged as he came in hard. The bass fought like a fish twice its size. Jason stepped to the back of the boat, reached over as I brought the line to him, and he pulled it into the boat.

He took a picture and promised to send it to me. I held the small bass by the jaw, stood in the sun for the photo, then threw it back. It paused in the water, twitched and swam away.

We had half an hour before we had to go in for lunch, and I said, "Paul, the next one is yours, just to put the pressure on you."

Jason let us fish to the bitter end, then we reeled in. He stowed our rods and gave the motor full throttle. Our bow lifted then planed, our hats in our hands to keep them from blowing off. The hull banged the waves, and the marina of Lord Fletcher's approached as Jason slowed the boat to find a slip. We trolled along docks filled with big fishing boats like Jason's and docks for yachts with beautiful women just climbing off.

Jason found an unused dock, glided his boat in, tied it to the timbers and helped me out. Paul got out of the boat by himself, and together we walked up the dock to the wooden walkway to a tent decorated by volunteers. We had a lunch of hamburgers, pasta salad and chips. Afterward, an awards ceremony went on forever. The president of Take a Vet  Fishing, who had his own TV show, "Fishing for Freedom," was longwinded, emotional and invested in the lives of the veterans he loved. Although he never served in the armed forces, his grandfather and father were Marines.

The president introduced people who helped him. His vice president started a harangue that turned sweet as he praised our country's peaceful transition of power after the presidential election and veterans who sacrificed their lives or time to keep America free. Annie winced when he started, afraid of a political tirade, but relaxed when the man's sentiments touched our hearts.

After lunch, Paul and I waited for Annie to bring up the car. She negotiated the backroads that led out of Lord Fletcher's and got on the freeway home. They opened their windows, and the warm wind buffeted me in the back seat. Then Annie opened the sky roof to make conversation impossible. We stopped for gas; she bought a bag of Gummy bears, and we handed them around.

For one hour, I was happy as never before.

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by Lawrence Langman

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by Michelle Pond

Photograph


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by Louise Eisenbrandt

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by kimberly green

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by Lisa Farabelli

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Lord Fletcher's

by Christopher Bremicker

Prose