The envelope placed in my hand had exactly $12.08 enclosed.
“That’s for when you weren’t here, and I was here to fish off your dock.”
The fee to fish off our dock, if you’re a senior, is $2.76, plus tax to total $3.02.
This guy, I figured, was worth a story.
Garry Gerking, that’s who.
Never fails. Never forgets.
When I’m away, which is often, most people figure fishing is free.
“Why? Why is it important to you,” I asked him, “to do this?”
“I don’t care if you’re here or not,” he said, the corners of his eyes crinkling into a smile that showed he really did care. “Point is, I’m here.”
Gerking always wears the orange wool watch cap, regardless of the weather, and always replies the same when asked what he catches them on, what he uses for bait:
“Perseverance and exuberance.” Another wry smile.
I found out the truth though. Returning to the office to retrieve my cell phone camera to get his picture, no sooner had I arrived on the dock that he had a trout on.
Perfect timing for a photo. Not only Gerking but a trout too. And, for the record, it was a worm, not perseverance and exuberance.
Although maybe that too, given how long he’s been fishing.
“How long have you been fishing?”
“I just got here.”
“No, I mean, in your life? How old are you?”
“How many years you been fishing?”
“Seventy-eight.” There was that smile again.
“And I was married to the same gal for 56 of those years. She passed away five years ago and now I have a lady friend who lost her husband 12 years ago. She out-fishes me.”
“What do you do when you’re not fishing?”
Which was a good question I thought on my part given Gerking’s day begins at 4 A.M. and ends at 11 P.M. and he has his alarm set for two hours to be on any of several lakes he frequents seven days a week.
“Projects. Yesterday I rebuilt a garage door; installed a sprinkler system for our tomatoes since we’ll be gone fishing in Omak the next two weeks; and wired in a backup camera on our motor home.”
And to think I had asked if he wanted me to bring his fishing cart down the steps.
“Anybody who can’t handle their cart can’t go fishing.” The faintest hint of a smile this time.
“I also lecture.”
“Yes. All these fish out here have heard my lectures.”
“Ever go salmon fishing?”
“Used to. But the rules say you’ve got to lean over the side to see what sort of fish that is before you net it and this old guy doesn’t lean over the side.”
“Is fishing your first love?”
“Being active is my first love.”
My turn to smile.
“Well, hey, thanks for the story. Good luck!”
“Luck,” said Gerking, “is two things: ‘Don’t lose your gear. And don’t fall in.’”
That’s worth three dollars and two cents right there.