The One That Got Away
Jesse and Dale fished the tournaments for the longest time,
Friendly competitors, in search of trophies or a cash prize.
Now, the two were fishing partners, each far past their prime,
Sharing successes and failures, as well as whopper's lies.
Jesse had a good boat, and an outboard motor with get up and go.
Dale had an array of rods and reels and tackle, next to no one.
Each had a pickup truck with a sturdy bumper and hitch to tow,
Their competitive days behind them, now they fished for fun.
At an isolated campsite, they put in for a full day on the lake,
A location neither would share with others, call it a honey hole.
In the early Autumn, low humidity, not a day to sit and bake,
They came to a bed, known for small mouths, each grabbed a pole.
These hybrid bass would fight like a big fish wished it could,
Don't set the hook too hard, you can get a mouth full of steel.
Too much line slack, it will spit a lure at you, as it should,
These experienced anglers knew the game, and each had the feel.
Dale caught a hook in the hat like that, back in the early days.
Jesse laughed his ass off, until he saw it caught Dale's ear.
That mistortune was the event that ended their competitive ways.
It's fish, not fishermen, that are supposed to succumb to the gear.
Dale retired that hook that day, and it became a hat decoration,
From that day forward, his camouflage hat would glean with glare.
Rain or shine, hat never came off, Dale's signature decoration,
Not just in a boat on a lake, he'd wear the darn thing anywhere.
The fish were biting that day, but landing them, another story,
You know the tales told, about the big ones we fail to secure,
Where you reel them almost in, only to lose them, and the glory;
The fish get bigger from year to year, those that took a detour.
This day was proceeding, in typical fashion, no sign of alarm.
Jesse caught a glimpse of Dale, out of the corner of his eye.
Dale slumping over, mumbling incoherently, grabbing his left arm,
Jesse assumed it was an issue of the heart, now what to try?
They kept a kit of medical supplies, in the deck of the boat,
But Dale's dilemma was not a cut, scrape or even a snake bite.
Jesse's cell phone had no service, as such, could not connote;
Helping his partner lay down; he could no longer sit upright.
It was a frantic full hour before they could find help to access.
An ambulance met them, and took Dale, on the out skirts of town.
"I got him here as fast as I could," was all Jesse could confess.
Upon examination, siren was silenced, evidence, Dale was gone.
Come Tuesday, Jesse sat with the family, on the front row to view.
When it came time to revue, he paused longest, and with them cried.
Afterwards, he offered give them Dale's tackle; that wouldn't do.
They told him to keep it all, and assured him, they knew he tried.
Saturday afternoon found Jesse in his boat, late for water today.
He tried in vain to speak aloud to his friend, now passed and gone.
Gazing at Dale's hat, perched on the chair, these words to say,
"In the race to that big lake in the sky, Dale, you beat me home."
He bowed in silent prayer for his friend... the one that got away.
Michael Todd (2013)