Several years ago I decided to give my wife Lynn a really special birthday present. She had hinted at things like jewelry, a new party dress, a Mediterranean cruise and even a new radio for her car or maybe a new car for her radio. Too mundane, I thought. What would be a really terrific present? A fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico! I decided. Oh sure, she had never mentioned she wanted a fishing trip, but I felt it must be one of those things she wanted so badly she was afraid to mention it.
My friend John, who was a Dean of the College of Education at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, had a nice boat and had invited me to go fishing with him several times. In fact, most of the faculty in the College Of Education had nice boats. It is also worth noting that the University of South Alabama operated on a 4-day workweek--no Friday classes. This was generally interpreted by the faculty to mean that Fridays are for fishing.
I planned the trip as a surprise for Lynn. She thought we were going to Mobile to conduct some university business. We left Thursday afternoon and arrived in Mobile about suppertime. John and a friend of his and Lynn and I went to an oyster bar to eat. I ordered my usual dozen raw oysters as an appetizer. Lynn had never eaten a raw oyster so I generously offered her one of mine. I had a sudden flashback to the time my cocker spaniel puppy Frisky tried his first and last raw oyster. The results were disastrous. Fearing the worst I handed Lynn my fork, complete with oyster, and moved as far away as I could without joining the folks at the next table. What I thought might be the worst didn’t happen. She actually liked raw oysters. We had to order another dozen. She became an oyster addict. I thought this might not be a bad thing considering the mythical powers attributed to raw oysters. Alas, I discovered that myths are just myths and should not be allowed to create unduly high expectations.
Early the next morning, i.e. 3:00 AM, I awakened Lynn with a cheerful HAPPY BIRTHDAY even though I knew that she hates cheerfulness early in the morning. The birthday greeting was a complete surprise to her since her birthday was a month away. When I explained that her birthday present was a fishing trip she looked even more surprised—she was in fact speechless—an unusual condition for Lynn. In a moment of playfulness and appreciation, she threw the alarm clock at my head as hard as she could. The clock just barely grazed my ear and the bleeding stopped in just a few minutes.
After a hearty breakfast we picked up John’s friend who had the unlikely name of Iona Goodwon (this is a real name). Everyone but Lynn was uncommonly cheerful. I believe she was simply overcome at the grandeur of her birthday gift.
The sun was just beginning to lighten the sky when we got the boat into the water. We loaded food and beverage, bait and tackle, and all personnel into the boat and cast off. It was a beautiful day with a slight southerly wind, which created a bit of a chop on the water close to shore. The chop became a bit more significant as we reached open water.
You should be aware that I have a slight tendency toward seasickness— I become seasick standing on the beach watching the waves. You should also know that there is a trick used by fishermen to attract fish called “chumming.” I actually combined these two phenomena by hurling breakfast off the stern of the boat. Unfortunately very few fish were attracted.
Lynn, who had said very little the whole trip, suddenly announced that she had to “go.” “Go where?” I asked. Lynn smiled at me and threw a large artificial lure at my head as hard as she could. It missed me entirely but did get stuck in Iona’s butt. The lure did not penetrate too deeply and we removed it by cutting off the barbed end of the hook and gently backing the lure out of Iona. That problem solved, John announced that Lynn’s problem could be easily solved because his boat was equipped with a “marine head.” Not being a seafarer, Lynn had no idea what a marine head was. She imagined two or three things involving military personnel, but quickly dismissed them as being unworkable. John explained that a marine head was a little “potty” in the bow (front) of the boat. The head was accessible through a small door just in front of the windshield. The drill was to raise the little door and lower oneself through the door onto the head. Lynn discovered that when one was sitting on the marine head one’s own head and shoulders were sticking out of the top of the bow facing the back of the boat. Try to visualize taking care of very personal business while facing the other three boat occupants at very close range. Lynn smiled at all of us and we all smiled back.
As soon as Lynn finished her business and climbed out of the little head, she tried to throw the anchor at my head as hard as she could, but alas it was too heavy for her to throw. She dropped it on her foot and broke three bones. Later we all signed her cast, which served as a fond reminder of a very special birthday