Kindness on a south Texas lake
By Dale Schlundt
I typically write about historical topics. They are informative and perhaps, at times, inspiring. But for the obvious reasons, such topics often lack the heartfelt sentiment that has the potential to refresh our faith in one another. For quite a while I have sought such a topic and then recently, seemingly out of nowhere, one fell into my lap on a fishing trip on a South Texas lake. What we walked away with was an important reminder that everyday acts of kindness are alive and well.
On a cool December morning my wife and I took our boat out for what was intended to be a day of simple fun and relaxation. The water was a bit choppy and, as a result, there were a sparse number of fellow boaters on the lake that day. Despite having our air horn, paddles, and other safety gear, we did not foresee any reasons for concern.
Yet, challenges rarely offer you a warning and our motor began to stall. We slowly worked towards the dock, after re-starting it several times and announcing our dilemma to the entire lake with backfires along the way. Then, about a quarter of a mile away from our destination, the motor finally gave out completely. We had not yet installed a trolling motor and paddling was futile, as the wind was working against us. So, we drifted into a marsh and then the boat began floating backwards towards two fishermen on the shore. They had several poles set up and as we approached, I envisioned their potential irritation with our presence. My presumption could not have been more wrong.
“Don’t worry about it, our lines are already in,” stated the first of the two gentlemen on the shore. Those words were a pleasant relief that only marked the halfway point of what would continue to feel like a day of unending challenges. We threw the two fishermen a rope and they tied us off to a tree. After exiting the boat, we made our way back to the front of the park on foot, in hope of finding someone who just launched that would be willing to tow us back to the dock. It looked deserted. Unfortunately, there were only two other boats far out on the water at that point and neither were aware of our presence.
Our next option was to ask the office, where we initially entered, what assistance they may be able to provide. When that option failed, I approached a boater who had just finished loading his boat onto the trailer to see if he’d be willing to lend a hand. It felt as though someone took my own anchor and dropped it on my head when, to my surprise, the answer was blatant no. We traipsed back to our boat and our fellow fishermen reassured us that “this stuff happens to us all.” While one of the gentlemen attempted to call the local Parks and Wildlife number for us, the last boat in the water was slowly returning to shore. I ran back to the dock, thinking, “this is my lucky day and last chance.” To my dismay, the individual was returning because of their own mechanical problems, at which point I contemplated further if I really enjoyed having a boat.
I walked back to our new-found friends, who proceeded to make small talk with us about the lake, alligators that had been seen there, and their own boating experiences. For a brief and delightful moment, I had forgotten the circumstances in which we found ourselves. It would have been easier and cheaper to buy a fish at the store. However, it was never truly about needing a fish, was it? In the midst of all of these setbacks, the two fishermen who befriended us had reminded me of that point, without ever saying it.
Being short on evident options, my wife and I walked back to the truck to take a drive around the lake in search of another boater that may have sneaked past us. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, there were none that had sneaked past us. Finally, when we returned to the two fishermen, one of the gentlemen said, “I have an idea. You have a winch on that trailer, there’s room to maneuver, let’s just turn this shore into a loading dock.” Based on how the day was going, I admittedly questioned how well that would go. It took all four of us, two of us to maneuver the boat, one backing the truck, and another to winch it onto the trailer. My humble words do not do their efforts justice. We were out of the water. Without them, that would not have been the case.
We undoubtedly spoiled most of their day. They had a better chance of catching Shamu than catching a fish after all of our commotion. Of all the people who should have run away from us that day, they had every reason to do so. There were plenty of other fishing spots. Yet, not once did they make us feel like an inconvenience. They did not only tolerate us, they came to our aid when no one else could or would. They would not accept money. I asked if they would be there for a while and the one gentleman proclaimed, “oh yeah, we’re waiting to catch a big one!” So, we left and returned to bring them each a Bill Miller’s meal. On the way home, the park ranger did call. What was conveyed by the individual on the phone was a stark contrast to the kindness of the two fishermen. Thanks to the two fishermen, it mattered not.
With all of the day’s chaos, I failed to get their names. I don’t know if they ultimately caught anything. Perhaps none of us were meant to catch something that day. But their selfless generosity and humanity certainly reminded me of the more important point, and it has nothing to do with boats or fish.
Dale Schlundt holds two masters degrees, in Adult Education and History. Dale has taught at Northwest Vista College and Our Lady of the Lake University. He is currently a faculty member at Palo Alto College and served as co-chair for the Texas Regional Alignment Network from 2017-2019. You can watch videos on history, education, and politics on his YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCupVvuDk825e5uhaEP1luxA