I am blessed to have been raised by two of the finest parents anyone could ask for. My parents, Bert and Loretta Andry, celebrate their 53rd wedding anniversary today. I look all that they have meant to me and I reflect on the blessings I enjoy as a person and as a fisherman.
First of all, I thank my parents for instilling a tremendous faith base in my four brothers, a sister, and me that keeps us all well grounded. Without that, nothing else even matters. But, because this is a fishing blog, I will focus the rest of my reflection on what they have given me that has influenced how I’ve grown as a sportsman and an avid outdoorsman.
My parents both taught me to respect and thank God for all the gifts He has given us and never to take anything for granted. Nothing parallels the feeling I get when I’m able to break away and get out in nature and absorb all the goodness that God has created. A sunrise, a sunset, a flock of ducks making their morning run, a lone great white egret (the best fisherman in the marsh), the light splash of pogies or shrimp flitting across the water. All these are gifts never to be taken for granted. I have often thought about the majesty of snow-caped mountains and just how beautiful that is. I would argue there is just as much beauty in our own swamps and marshes in south Louisiana if one knows where to look.
I can say that my appreciation for all this comes from the example shown to me by my parents from the very early ages in my life. I cannot actually recall my first fishing trip. It seems that it is something that we all did at a very early point in our life. I still remember mom patrolling the banks of the south Louisiana bayou with her shotgun…to take care of any snakes that might get too close to her children, husband, or any other fisherman in the area. In the early days, we were armed with long bamboo poles, a simple rig, with a cork, a hook, and some sort of fresh bait. Later, we got our first Zebco 202 rod and reels. But the most dramatic evolution in our fishing experiences had to be when dad made his first boat, a Folbot.
The folbot was the pride of our family. It was basically a sit in kayak made with a skeletal wooden interior that was covered in a vinyl waterproof fabric. The older kids would have to take turns to get to fish in it with either mom or dad. It seemed every weekend during the spring and summer was spent at “Papa’s Pond.” For several years, my birthday wish was only to be able to take a trip in the folbot with dad to Lake Beouf. I do recall though, that the largest fish I ever did battle with in my youth was always when I was in the boat with mom. I recall the huge bass I lost near Lake Des Allemands and the two, four-plus pounders I caught one day at the pond in Labadieville.
It can be said that many of the lessons that I learned about life, were learned fishing back in those days. The most important was, that all this revolved around family. It seemed if you were old enough to put a worm on a hook, you were old enough to go fishing and no one got left behind unless they were physically sick or, sometimes, punished. Talk about leverage! The thought of not being able to go fishing was a huge motivating factor when it came to getting our chores done or getting our homework and practicing done. We remember Pa Pa and his amazing ability to place a wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth when we left Ma Mire’s house and not have to spit once until we reached the pond 20 minutes later. I remember Kyle’s fear of snakes, Kirk nearly getting bit by a snake, and Keith, the snake hunter, who went after the slithery creatures armed only with his trusty pocket knife!
Some of the memories I cherish the most of my own family are the ones spent with my wife and children from fishing trips we have made as a family. In closing, and close I must because I have to get to work this morning, I want to thank my mom and dad for teaching me how to truly enjoy what God has given us, especially the beauty that nature has to offer. I thank them for family, but mostly for their love and example. They truly epitomize the meaning of love, for they showed us true patience and kindness; they were never jealous of each other or anyone else. They didn’t brag (well only about their children), but were never arrogant. They never rejoiced over anyone else’s failures, but they rejoiced in the truth. Their love has never failed. They have embodied all that I know about faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these if their love.