Candy Fishing at Bass Lake

"A trip worth taking is a trip worth preparing for." That's what my dad used to say. He said it all the time, even when we weren't going anywhere. But, then again, he said a lot of things. Whenever I think that thought though, I always think of that trip we took to Bass Lake, circa 1961, in our 1953 Buick Special.

Well, the preparation started the minute dad decided on the location, a few weeks after New Year's. He was in the middle of one of his protracted burps when, at the tail end, came those fateful words, "Baaasss Laaakkkee." For a moment my sister and I weren't sure if what we heard was gas or a vacation destination, but our confusion was rectified soon after when he repeated it. "Bass Lake. That's where we'll go this summer." And in the same breath he said, "Bill, varnish the rods." Hearing this, mom scurried out of the kitchen with pad and pencil and began the list. "A trip worth taking," ". . . is a trip worth preparing for," sis and I chimed in, and a trip starts with a list.

From that day on my slumber involved dreams of catching "One Eye George." You see, for years dad told the story about almost landing this huge bass while on leave from World War II. He almost had it in the boat when he noticed it had only one eye, but he worked himself loose and off he went, back to the wild blue. The fish, I mean.

Well, the list and completing items thereof were the topic of dinner conversation from then on. I began working on the rods. I found them up in the rafters in the garage looking like they could use a good vacation. Sanding, painting, retying the loops and greasing kept me busy after school for months. I even revarnished the tackle box. And before you knew it, the last days of school wound down. My math grade was forgotten in the last minute preparations. My dad focused on his belief that the sooner to school ending we left, the less traffic. Each year my dad's obsession was to get on the road first. This year he planned to pick us up from school on the last day, with books in hand, to hit the high road.

When I opened the door to the car that day, I realized my sister's gorgeous girl friend Candy Leggly would be joining us. Now, there are women and there are girls, and then there are people of the female persuasion named Candy Leggly. And I assure you there is a really big difference, 'specially to a fourteen-year-old boy from Culver City. I could hardly believe my good fortune. From that moment on, thoughts of catching One Eye George became a mere shadow of a desire. What a vacation! Yes, middle class America, there is a god and she lives in the body of Candy. This would be some vacation. Nothing could go wrong now.

It wasn't till we hit Gravity Spot just outside of Gridly that we realized we left the poles, and all my months of hard work, in the garage. Why we were in Gridly, 322 miles past Bass Lake, is a story in itself. Let's just say that navigation was not one of my father's strong points.

But, for those long 322 miles back, all we heard was my dad whining about leaving "Big Red" in the garage -- "Big Red," dad's favorite twelve-foot rod, made of bamboo and well over 80 years old. He liked it because it got him farther out than any other fisherman when he went fishing off Catalina. Never mind that a fresh water fish would go undetected on an ocean rod . . . and we would be fishing on a lake in a four-person row boat.

Well, all his concerns vanished when we arrived at Ducy's lodge: a tenement of cabins nestled in the backwoods off Bass Lake, surrounded by gentle pine trees, 6,200 feet above the biggest ball of string and just eight short miles from Gravity Point where water appears to travel up hill -- so the brochure said. However, reality and brochures about mountain cabins never seem to meet.

The only thing distinguishing Ducy's from a prison camp was the knotty pine, the bright yellow trim, and the pine cone that immediately hit my dad on the noggin. We retired early that night so as to sneak up on the fish, as sometimes fish need to be snuck up upon. As I began my slumber, my mind drifted to thoughts of catching bass, One Eye George, and imagining how Candy looked in her Bikini . . . but not in that order. My reverie was interrupted, though, from a strange sound: ka-boink, ka-boink, ka-boink, ka-boink . . . What the heck was that? A sound was emanating from the next room, the room my parents slept in. Ka-boink, ka-boink, ka-boink, ka-boink . . . They weren't sleeping at all. Why, they were . . .!?! Ka-boink, boink, boink, boink, boink. Their old steel World War II bed gave away the true nature of their doings. I looked across to the bed Candy slept in. She was smiling at me. My sister stifled a laugh.

All was forgotten in the morning though, as we were soon to be on the lake, and planned on feeding One Eye George fish hooks for breakfast. Setting out for the dock, my father received another pinecone on the noggin -- a little reminder from mother nature that he was indeed on vacation.

The boat (and I use that term loosely) was also made of knotty pine and was painted the same yellow trim as Ducy's cabins -- an added touch to aid the regulars on the lake, in their fast, sleek ski boats, in distinguishing the marked tourist one-timers. Well, we managed to get to Sharks Cove where One Eye George was last seen by my father 20 years earlier. Why they called it Sharks Cove, in a fresh water lake, will forever remain a mystery.

I pondered this while we fished, and we fished, and then fished some more. I layed my line in the reeds, casting in and pulling out as the others fished in the opposite direction. Call it a premonition but before long, there he was, tailing my line, like a politician in search of a vote. I pulled him in slowly. But just as I was about to make him mine, he gave a wink with his one eye and escaped. As might be expected, no one saw him but me.

That night, Candy made us what she called her specialty: dumplings. You see, the one other thing she contributed to life, besides catching every boy's attention units, was the ability to make dumplings 24 different ways. While we barbecued our catch, the family chided me for my "fish" story, as it was to be dubbed for years to come. But my mind was on Candy that evening. I imagined she believed me. Or perhaps I read too much into the fact that she gave me an extra dumpling.

The next day, to our surprise, dad let go of some of his tightly-held cash and rented a ski boat. We spent the best part of that day skiing and seeing how well Candy looked in her bikini. The best part, though, was when I got to drive and my father tried to get ski-borne. It was not to be. Perhaps it was his wobbly legs, but more probably, my feeling those eighty horses of Mercury Mercruiser power at my finger tips. Dad could not get the hang of it. We'll never forget the site of dad's bulky trunks catching the water and exposing his derriere to those unfortunates swimming and relaxing on the beach. Mothers covering their young one's eyes. No, it was not a pretty sight. Yes, a Kodak moment, one we did not soon forget and were forbidden to talk about.

All good times must end, when mine only began. Or so I thought. As we headed home that night, Candy sat next to me. With the car bouncing down the highway, her long blond hair suddenly fell over my arm, reminding me of Bridal Veil Falls. I sat motionless so as not to spoil the moment. Soon, her head lay gently on my shoulder. Could it be? Had I caught more than I bargained for at Bass Lake? Is Candy letting me know how she feels about me? As I thought those thoughts, every moment an eternity, I felt that I now knew that heaven did exist, right there in the back seat of our '53 Buick Special. That is, till I heard something. A noise starting slowly, then a little louder. Why, Candy Leggly was sleeping and . . . and she snores!

I had lots to think about on that long ride home. It's funny how your education creeps up on you when you least expect it. I calculated the distance home, one snore per three hundred feet divided by eight hundred miles. Yes, I was beginning to understand and, well, like those math word problems.
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