I am happy to report that I have safely returned, relatively unscathed, from another fishing trip with Arnold. For all those who prayed for my well-being, thank you. The trip to Broken Bow Lake in southeast Oklahoma has become an annual event for Arnold and I. My former employer, Southwestern Bell Telephone, began sponsoring a bass tournament there many years ago and I always look forward to it. It’s a chance to see some old friends, relax, and maybe even catch a fish or two.
However, the experience has not been without incident. Some may recall the time we ran aground on a mid-lake sandbar, the occasion when we ran over the ramp and broke the prop, or the episode when the boat ran out of oil (or so we thought) leaving us adrift with only a trolling motor to travel 5 miles in high wind. Truth is, so many life threatening events have occurred with Arnold at the helm, that I’m considering writing a book.
The weekend began with almost perfect weather, slight overcast, wind of course (there’s always wind in Oklahoma) but with temps in the high seventies. The boat started, the drain plug was in place (and that is not a given) the batteries were charged; it was all systems go. As for the fishing, it was spotty at best. The lake level looked to be at least 5-6 feet below normal with the water so clear, it was easy to see the bottom ten feet below the boat. We decided to travel to the head end of the lake where the water tends to be murky and warmer, more conducive to bass breeding and the spring spawn. An inviting cove appeared on the east side. It had the right depth with numerous tree stumps and brush to grab lures and tangle fishing lines, a condition that I am quite familiar with.
But it was at the back of the cove and around a bend that we saw smoke. A fire was slowly but surely making its way up the slope, feeding itself on the dry pine needles. It was a small fire as forest fires go, less than the square footage of an average home, but the wind was rising and it seemed that once the flames reached the top of the hill and with the present dry conditions, it could easily get serious. We decided that we should call the authorities on such things (911?) and report the blaze but neither of us had a single bar on our cell phones. The decision was made to try to put it out ourselves.
We did have a small fire extinguisher—standard equipment for boats—and a minnow bucket to carry water. But as we made our way back to the base of the fire, it struck us that there was something odd going on. There was no one around, no campground, no roads, not a sign of human activity for miles. How did the fire start? Strange.
It quickly became apparent that Arnold and I do not have a future in fire fighting. The tiny extinguisher was soon empty as well as the gallon capacity minnow bucket. As we stomped out one blaze and moved to another, the fire would just as quickly spring up again, the pine needle bed being perfect to hold the heat and wait for another gust of wind to reignite. It was hopeless. Back in the boat, we motored out to the main lake hoping to find a cell phone signal. Instead we ran across a gentleman wearing overalls, fishing by himself. He looked to be local. We told him about the fire and inquired about whom we should notify.
“Oh, the Forest Service is setting fires all up and down through here today,” he said. “It’s a controlled fire to burn off the underbrush.”
We looked around. Trails of gray smoke along the entire length of the lake could be seen drifting upward.
Somewhere, Smoky the Bear is laughing his ass off.