A Christmas story

Editor's Note: While this blog was originally written in 2010, here at B.A.S.S. we believe some stories are timeless and wish you all a Merry Christmas.

This is not a Blog today…It’s a book.

It’s Christmas day, about noon, and I want to tell you an unusal story. You may not believe it, that’s up to you, but I’ll tell it just like it happened.

Two short side things before we begin. A couple of years ago I was speaking to a Bass club in either Wisconsin or Minnesota, can’t remember which, and made this statement during a Q & A period. “As long as they’re accompanied by an adult any youngster could fish on my pond. They wouldn’t even have to call just show up and it’s theirs.”

Side story #2 is totally unrelated to #1. It has to do with my mom who passed away last Christmas at the age of 95 after a wonderful life. She was an unbelievable mom, grandma and friend with possibly her biggest asset being her baking. She’s the one that about which they coined the phrase, “Just like your mom’s apple pie.”

Her specialty was a pie called Sugar Pie that was truly to die for. It was originally made with the crust that was left over from the normal pie for that day. With a mixture of butter-cream, sugar and more butter, poured on the crust about ¼ inch thick. Then you baked it and you had Sugar Pie.

It became more important than the pie of the day and at Christmas she would make 8 or 10 of these magic pies. My children, grand-children and nephews were bad about stealing and hiding them for themselves. Of course I would never do that sort of thing myself but when I woke up this morning, I was aware that it would be the first Christmas in 70 some odd years that I didn’t have Sugar Pie.

Now, file those 2 stories. They’ll come into play later.

It’s last May and as I’ve told you in the past, my home in North Arkansas sits right next to a 10 acre lake. My wiener dog, Archie, can sit on the couch with his head on the arm rest and see every inch of that dike. He lays there sometimes for hours watching for deer, turkey, a vehicle, or anything else to come down the road next to this dike. Then barks like crazy sending the fear of God towards whatever it was that had encroached into his area. (He weighs 9 pounds.)

But on this May morning his head pops up, ears stick out and looking at this dike – he whines. He never whines, Never! But this time he does and as I move over to the window I see a man and a young boy standing on the bank fishing at the upper end of the dike. It’s about 1/8th of a mile from the house to the two fishermen and when I opened the door Archie runs the full distance which is hard when your legs are only 3 inches long. He treated that man like he had cookies in his pocket when he got there. I thought his tail might fling off from wagging.

When I got to the scene I found that the man wasn’t fishing, just the boy who was probably 8 or 9 years old. They both called me by name, but I had never seen them before. The man was 50ish, normal size, with a couple of tattoos on his arm and kind of gray long hair in a pony tail. He wore work clothes with a name on his shirt. Went by Nick Cholas.

Now I have to admit I was taken back a bit by the fact that these two guys would just show up and start fishing on my lake without at least asking. When I approached that subject, Nick just said that several years ago he heard me say that any kid could do that as long as an adult was there.

I was stunned, but I did remember saying something like that and when I asked if the boy was his son he said, “No, he’s just a youngster I made a promise to.” The young fisherman was having the time of his life. Archie and I walked another half mile to the highway to get the mail and when we got to the gate it was locked and there was no vehicle around. So that means that someone dropped off my 2 new best friends, they climbed over the fence and walked to the lake…I guess.

I unlocked the gate, got the mail, relocked the gate and walked back to the pond. When I got there they were, believe it or not, just as gone as they could be. That should be impossible because Archie and I would have passed them on the road as we came back from the mailbox or they would have had to make their way through the dense woods getting back to the road for their pick-up. How weird.

Yes, they were long gone, but at the head of the lake there’s this post in the ground and I noticed a mesh bag hanging on it. Archie’s tail was about to wag off again as I reached into the bag and pulled out a chew bone, his favorite, and a book. The book was titled History of the St. Louis Cardinals. Wow – how did this man know?

I was distracted all summer, so I quickly got over that whole thing, but it happened again in October. This time I was coming from town, unlocked the gate then locked it back before driving to the lake and there he was again. This time fishing with him was a young Japanese boy who didn’t even speak English. “Where’d this youngster come from,” I asked. It’s a long story is all Nick had to say. He still had his ponytail, but had started growing a beard, put on a few pounds and looked pretty grungy actually.

I took my groceries to the house and as you might guess when I came back all that was left was the mesh bag on the post. Arch already knew that there was another chew bone in his future, but I would have never thought about there being a Tom Mann bobble head for me.

That brings us to the present time. Specifically last night, Christmas Eve. Now on ESPNOutdoors.com there’s a live camera available 24/7 on a food plot with a deer feeder. As per the comments on the site, last night, Christmas Eve, there seemed to appear out of nowhere more large deer than usual. Six or eight of them. Oh did I mention that the “secret food plot” is located on my property just behind the lake?

And now its Christmas morning, I’ve cranked up my one cup percolator, sitting next to the fireplace with Archie in his place on the couch…that’s when things started happening.

Archie whined and I went right for the window. There was Nick at the end of the dike throwing a white spinner bait, this time by himself. Before I got to him I passed up a pile of clothes laying on the ground halfway up the dike. Looked kind of like a snowmobile suit. A red snowmobile suit.

When I got close I wished him a Merry Christmas and watch him land a 2 or 3 pound bass. I then asked what he was doing here on this day and how come some kids weren’t with him. He said he was just down this way last night on business and was too busy to bring along any of his buddies. Nick then said, “How’s the Bassmaster going?” I couldn’t believe it. “You follow the Bassmasters? Who’s your favorite angler, Skeet or KVD?”

His answer floored me. It was neither Skeet or KVD. “I’m really going to pull for Brandon Palaniuk this season. Brandon is the Federation Nation Champion who’s going to give the Elites his best shot in 2011.

Archie had by now wandered a little far away and when I went after him, I turned around and Nick was quickly moving towards the pile of clothes, grabbed them and ran into the woods, towards the food plot. As close as I felt to him, I realized I would probably never see him again.

Oh goodness, there was Archie over at the post having a wag-off over the larger than normal bag hanging in front of him. I reached in and pulled out an industrial strength chew bone with a “Merry Christmas Archie” card on it.

Then, I discovered why the bag was larger than usual. It had one more gift that was a little larger than normal. Again, I reached in and this time pulled out a pie plate with aluminum foil covering what appeared to be a homemade pie. I took off the foil and had to catch my breath, because it was a homemade pie…a Sugar Pie.

Merry Christmas everyone! May you have the best Christmas you can imagine, just like I have.

Originally published December 2010.

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