There once was a boat made about 1976. It was not the biggest boat ever made, it was only 14 feet long. It was not the fastest boat ever made, it only had a 20 hp Mercury motor, but it was very good at what it was designed for; fishing.
A fellow up around Walla Walla, Washington named Bill purchased this boat brand-new. Bill fished from this boat in the lakes around northeastern Washington; mostly Bill fished by trolling for trout. Around 1987 Bill sold this boat to a fellow named Paul.
Paul had a best friend in Oregon. Both Paul and his friend were avid fisherman. For many years they had fished for trout by walking the streams. They both loved walking the streams, but is age, accidents and disease took their toll they were no longer able to walk the streams so they fished from the boat. While they had both grown up fishing for trout by trolling they both found it a little bit boring especially after walking creeks to catch the wily cutthroat trout! So Paul and his friend started learning how to fish for bass. Bass are not native to Oregon and is a matter of fact Oregon has stop stocking any non-native species in the lakes and streams of Oregon but there are lots of bass here. Paul and his friend and his friends two boys spent a lot of time fishing for bass in that old boat.
About 1990 Paul sold the boat to his friend and this is where I come into the story, I am Paul’s best friend, Dale. It all started when Paul and I met in 1973 while attending Northwest Christian College in Eugene Oregon. If ever there was a divine appointment, this surely was one. We became good friends and fishing partners shortly after we met. Paul only went to school in Eugene for one year, while I was there for five years. Paul would come back and visit on a semi-regular basis and we always resumed our friendship as if the other had just stepped into another room five minutes ago. It was that comfortable sort of friendship that fits like an old shoe.
In 1980 I and my family moved to a little town called Yamhill. Paul came and stayed with us quite often when we lived out in the country on a farm. My kids (all six of them) loved him, he was their godfather, and as far as he was concerned they were his children, the only children he ever had. At this point in time we were still doing some stream fishing and we stalked the wily cutthroats in Turner Creek and the Yamhill River. We would also walk long sections of the Trask River with my two boys fishing for cutthroat and rainbow, always hoping that we might get a Blue Back, a cutthroat trout that goes to sea like a steelhead trout does.
We moved into the little town of Yamhill about 1983. We had a big house with five bedrooms so there was always a place to put Paul if he showed up for a week or a few months. Somewhere around 1987 Paul bought the old boat. Paul and I and my two boys Winston and Isaac would often go fishing on Saturdays. We have passed many a peaceful afternoon and a few stormy afternoons in that old boat, fishing for bass on Devils Lake, a.k.a. D Lake in Lincoln City Oregon. Devils Lake is right next to the Pacific Ocean; at the mouth it’s less than 100 yards from the outlet of Devils Lake to the Pacific Ocean.
We went on many fishing trips, mostly in Oregon. I bought the old boat from Paul about 1990. We would fish at Henry Hagg Lake, it was close to where we live so sometimes we would take the boys up there in the evening. There were a lot of fishing trips on the Umpqua River and also to a nice little place called Loon Lake. There were some good days fishing on the Umpqua River with my dad and Paul. There were 150+ fish days, granted none of them were monsters but they were still fun to catch.
There was one trip about 1991 on the Umpqua River where we launched several miles upriver from my dad’s place and were going to take out around Tyree Landing, just a couple miles upriver from my dad’s place. It was an outstanding day on the river, though I didn’t need a 20 horse motor. I don’t think I started it once, all it did was hang up on the rocks. I should’ve left it at dad’s place. We were almost to the end of our run, about a quarter mile from where we would take out and we got hung up on a rock in sideways to the current. Paul tried to push us off and ended up falling in. As he floated by with his life vest on I ask if he was all right, he said “I’m fine.” Dad and I were still in the boat and my son-in-law Pat said, “I think I can get us off this rock.” I think that was Pat’s first time in a boat. He lifted up on the front end of the boat, and those of you who know anything about boats know what happened next. As a waters came over the transom and then over the gunwales dad looked at me and said, “We better get out here I think it’s going to flip.”
“You’re right,” I said, ever the master of the obvious. Being the skipper of the boat I felt a modicum of responsibility for the safety and welfare of all the passengers. Paul I could see floating down the river to where he had managed to grab onto a rock, he was doing fine. Dad was floating beside me in his life jacket, we were both fine. Where’s Pat? I swam to the front of the boat and couldn’t find Pat until I looked beneath the water and could see an orange life jacket. I grabbed the back of the orange life jacket and pulled it to the surface along with the sputtering Pat. When the boat had flipped somehow he hooked an outside belt on his life jacket on the bow cleat. When the boat flipped over it took him underneath.
You knew there would be a knife in this story didn’t you? I pulled out a brand-new Benchmade clip point with ATS 34 steel and a half serrated blade. I said, “Hold real still Pat and I will cut you out of that life jacket. Don’t wiggle because this knife is super sharp and I don’t want to cut your jugular vein.” At that point I think Pat was more afraid of my Benchmade and me than he was of drowning! He said, “Let me see if I can get it loose, I think I can. Give me one more chance!” With that he disappeared under the water and came up a few moments later. The lifejacket was nearly ripped off of him, but he was still alive and the lifejacket was keeping him afloat.
We got the boat to a spot out of the main current and Paul was able to brace his legs against a rock while Pat and dad bailed the boat out with a couple of plastic tackle boxes. Since I wasn’t needed at that moment I swam around gathering up floating tackle trays and other fishing equipment and things from our boat. I put them all over on one side of the river and then went back to see how the other guys were doing with the boat. Dad and Pat had the boat bailed out pretty much and they were pretty well exhausted. Dad’s a diabetic and I was afraid he was going to be in trouble before long. Paul was weak enough at that point he couldn’t get back in the boat, (when you’re 6 foot 10 that’s a lot of man to drag into a boat). Paul hung on to the boat and I took the bowline and swam to the Northeast side of the river. While it looked like there was a shore we could beach the boat but all I found was bedrock when we got there. I swam back across the river, towing the boat and all three guys to the other side of the river where we were able to beach the boat and begin the trek about a quarter mile down the river to the landing where Paul had parked his Bronco. We had probably been in the water for close to two hours by the time we were able to beach the boat. The water was about 70° or more but all four of us were beginning to experience hypothermia, especially Paul and I who had been in the water longer. To make things even more interesting Paul was only 30 days out from having a hip replacement! We had a quarter mile to walk over rocks and water carved bedrock; pretty tough walking even if you’re in good shape, and we were far from that! I told Paul to lean on me like a crutch which he did. Every time he took a step with his right leg (it was the right hip he had replaced) he would let out a gut-wrenching groan. We finally made it back to the Bronco and got it warmed up and turn the heater on high. By the time we got two miles down the road to my dads house we were not shaking quite as bad.
We got warmed up that night and went back the next day the boat and all the fishing gear that I had found was still there beside it. There were even some people down by the landing who caught some of the tackle boxes floating down and gave them to us when we got in the Bronco. It was a great day on the river; we must have had four or five bass over 6 pounds and one that might have gone 7 to 8 pounds. It was great day fishing, a great day of camaraderie and a near tragedy that has become a legend in our family and in the history of the old boat.
One day Paul and I were fishing at Henry Hagg Lake and the wind came up in the afternoon as often happens. We went back into the dock and somebody was on the boat ramp so we had to use the outside of the dock. I told Paul to grab the dock and I would get up and tie us off and then go bring the pickup down as soon as the boat ramp was empty. He said “okay.” The dock was on our starboard side and the wind was also coming from the starboard. So the wind was trying to blow us away from the dock. I stood up and stepped for the dock and as I did a little gust pushed the boat a little farther out from the dock. Paul is sitting at the front of the boat hanging onto the dock which means he has become a pivot point. Since I couldn’t quite reach the dock I put 1 foot on the edge the dock and the other was on the gunwale of the boat. I was perfectly balanced and could not go in either direction as the wind kept pushing the boat away from the dock, leaving me doing the splits. I looked at Paul and he looked at me and he started laughing and it was all over at that point. A man can only do the splits for so far… That’s another one of the stories that lives in the annals of the old boat.
Somewhere around 1997 or 1998 we went on in a weeklong epic camping trip! Paul and I, my boys Winston and Isaac and my youngest daughter Tymbre were on the trip. As were my brother Dan, his pastor Chip and my brother’s boys Daniel and Joe. My dad also came along on that trip. Paul had bought a bass boat and had it on this trip. We went camping at Tahkenitch Lake on the Oregon coast. There was an unimproved spot that had been camped at before that was isolated and only accessible by boat. The spot was several miles from the nearest boat ramp. We ferried all of the camping gear, tents, food, sleeping bags and people over on our two boats, Paul’s bass boat and my boat. We had a glorious week of camping, fishing and hanging out with family. Oh yes, we woke up one morning and Paul’s bass boat was sitting on the bottom of the lake. It was only about 2 feet deep there so part of the electronics were out of water. It turns out one of the batteries were not secured in the wave action knocked the battery over, breaking off the outlet tube for the bilge pump. Slowly the wave action over the night had come in through the hole for the bilge pump outlet and filled the bottom of the boat up. It’s always nice to have an electronic genius with you on a camping trip, especially if you plan on having electrical problems. My brother Dan is an electronic engineer. We put a new piece of hose on the bilge pump outlet and Dan got the bilge pump to work and no water had gotten into the batteries, so we were out fishing in an hour or so.
Life for me, the old boat, my boys and Paul went on, a lot of good things and some not so good things. In 1998 the boy’s mom and I got divorced. The three older girls were married and/or out of the house. The boys and Tymbre were still at home. Winston came to live with me and Isaac and Tymbre stayed with her mom. In December 2000 I married the love of my life Alyson. It’s funny how life goes sometimes. For many years Alyson’s son John and his two girls lived with us and eventually Isaac as well. We had lots more good times fishing in the old boat.
Around 1999 Paul, my youngest son Isaac and I drove down to California for a couple days of bass fishing in the Sacramento River Delta. We had a grand time! We were fishing completely for fun, catching and releasing everything we caught. By the end of the first day we had a bunch of tournament fisherman following us trying to figure out what we were doing to catch some many fish. We got a good laugh out of that because I had talked to one of them before we launched and asked him what they use around here and he became really evasive because he was pre-fishing for upcoming tournament. He didn’t want to tell me what worked well in that area, so we just used what we would normally use up here in Oregon. Well, at the end of the first day he was asking us what we were using! We all got a good laugh out of that.
There are many, many more stories to tell of Paul and I in the old boat and many of the people who have ridden in it. Many grandchildren; Kole, Triston, Brandon, Timothy, Natalie and Alexis who have ridden in the old boat and there are many grandchildren who are just getting old enough to appreciate the boat now and will no doubt be riding in it soon also.
There was also an epic weeklong fishing trip at Hebgen Lake in Montana a few years ago with Paul, his brother, their dad and their wives. It was a great time and it was a couple years before Paul’s dad died. It was a great trip.
There are many more stories that could be told about the old boat, Paul and me. Maybe someday I will tell some more of them. However there are many more stories to be written and fish to be caught from the old boat. There is a whole generation of grand kids growing up that need to learn how to fish and learn all of the other life skills that one can learn sitting in a boat with an old grandfather. There are even a couple of great grandsons already waiting in the wings; the oldest is three years old and his brother is one month old.
Paul and I were not trophy fisherman and we rarely kept any fish to eat. Most of the bass we caught we released immediately so that they could return unharmed to their habitat and carry on with their lives. Paul would often say, while releasing a fish, “It’s a privilege just to exercise one of God’s fine bass like that one!”
There are many more stories to be written about the old boat and what takes place within it, but the last chapter of Paul and Dale has been written. On May 25 Paul left this world and is now in heaven with his Savior, Jesus Christ. By now I think Paul has met up with his brother Phil and my little brother also named Paul. I expect they found a nice pool on a river or a fine pond somewhere in heaven where they are exercising God’s heavenly bass while they wait for me.
I was blessed last October to be able to go down to Florida and visit Paul at the nursing home in which he resided. I was his surprise birthday present, he didn’t know I was coming and he was very surprised! In December 2016 he got a cut or scrape on his foot from his wheelchair and then developed an infection. The infection never healed and he grew weaker and weaker and passed peacefully last week, May 2, 2017.
His family asked that I come and speak at his memorial service and the chaplain of the nursing home called and spoke to me the other day. The chaplain said he has rarely seen anyone in as much pain as Paul and never anyone with as good an attitude as Paul had. He said Paul was always so thankful when he came to visit him he said, “I was blessed every time I visited Paul.”
I want to thank all of you guys on AAPK who prayed for Paul over the years; as you can see those prayers worked! If you think about it say a prayer to for his family, his mom, his two sisters and his brother. And if you think about it on June 3 say prayer for me, that I can hold it together while talking about my best friend and our old boat.
There are two threads in the Upper Room Forum where I ask prayers for Paul. The first was in 2010 and the second in 2015. These prayer requests tell you a little bit about what a extraordinary man my best friend was and the astonishing work God did in his life.
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