Secret Fishing Hole


I’d like to think I’m pretty good at keeping confidential matters under wraps. But sometimes I’ve gone overboard and actually kept secrets from myself. That’s what happened with my marriage proposal to my wife DyAnne. I’d been moseying through our relationship for so long that the voices of the Universe basically had to club me over the head. Once I woke up, asking her to marry me carried such weight that I wasn’t going to let it slip by without some fanfare. I kept that to myself, too.
The day I proposed started with plans for a trip to our secret fishing hole. But I had to gather supplies for my three-phase operation first. Components included an old hockey stick; a new Styrofoam minnow bucket; an oversized fishing bobber; tangled fishing line; two greeting cards; a freezer bag; and a rose. Cold Duck champagne and a cooler went without saying. Logistics also required a one-hundred-mile round trip and being back at Dy’s apartment by mid-afternoon.
The day was sweltering hot. By early morning, humidity was already so thick it curled calendar pages up the wall. Our secluded spot was at a nearby river where we fished from shore. I arrived there alone and strategically put my items in place. For Dy, the occasion would be like a scavenger hunt resulting in a catch I hoped she’d find a keeper. I had pre-written one sign and two cards that gave directions to each mystery location. They contained inane little clues understandable only to us. Suffice it to say, the wording was heavily influenced by Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
I nailed the sign to the hockey stick, then hammered it into the ground down a wooded trail where we usually tucked away for pitstops with Mother Nature. I figured that as afternoon progressed, Dy would surely come across it.
Next, I slid the appropriate card into the freezer bag, sealed them inside the minnow bucket and covered it with brush near the sign. When the time came, I’d wander into the woods, sneakily set the bucket afloat in the river, then snag it back again where we fished a few yards downstream. For this phase, I trusted that the wind and river current would not carry the bucket too far from shore. Otherwise, I might have accidentally asked whoever found it downriver to marry me.
Phase-three was the gem—the bobber. It contained the actual proposal. That meant no joking with my phrasing on the card. I had previously opened the bobber and cut the card edges to fit inside. Then I nestled the rose on top of the card and taped the bobber back together.
I jockeyed my truck under a tree branch and lowered the tailgate. From there, I hung the bobber around the branch with fishing line so it looked to be knotted in the tree. I drove away hoping the secret would hold just a little longer.
On paper, my scavenger hunt routed from the sign to the bucket to the bobber. But upon returning, I learned of some design flaws, not the least of which was Dy’s general distain for scavenger hunts. The miserable heat also did nothing to boost her spirits for such folly. Plus, our quiet fishing spot had been invaded from across the river. Hidden behind the tree line, a highway construction crew was piledriving bridge abutments in rhythmic cacophony. No sooner had we arrived, than Dy suggested we leave.
With my plan on shaky ground, I faked a pitstop down the trail and returned with news about “some crazy sign back there.” She went for a look, but rather than recognizing I was up to something, she got scared. She thought we were being watched.
Somehow, I convinced her to stay. But I had to keep the plan moving. So, I told her I needed to dig a few more nightcrawlers back by the sign. I reality, I dug out the minnow bucket and set it in the water. It floated about five yards. Then it wedged under a cluster of branches just above the water’s edge. I grabbed a dead twig nearby and poked the bucket into the current.
When I returned to Dy, the bucket was already coming through. I mentioned it looked new and worth keeping, but Dy told me not to bother. It had drifted beyond the reach of our fishing net. I reaffirmed there might be something valuable inside and plunged into chest-deep water like a golden retriever.
Back on land, I opened the bucket and handed her the card inside. She read it, glanced at the bobber in the tree above the truck, then insisted on getting the hell out of there. Proposal crumbling, I said, “I think I know what this is about. Let’s do what the card says.” I climbed on the tailgate, untwined the bobber and gave it to her.
Tears started flowing but words didn’t. Well, way to go, I thought. First, I scare her; now she’s going to say no. Truth was, she just couldn’t speak at the moment. Then she nodded, yes. And we broke into the Cold Duck.
We still have the rose, the cards and the sign. The hockey stick has been relegated to a cross-brace for our kick sled. The minnow bucket started smelling a little rank after a while, so we got a new one.
Over three decades later we still consider that day our true anniversary. It was when we made our promise to each other. Formalities and ceremony beyond that were just paperwork and dancing.


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