For fishing buddy Bob Sherborne and me, row vs. wade was not a landmark Supreme Court case.
That was our options about how to get back to the dock after our old boat motor conked out.
If the water wasn’t too deep, we would wade. Otherwise, we would row.
In fairness to the motor, it tried to tell us it didn’t want to go. It balked every time we tried to start it, yanking on the cord until our hands were raw and blistered. Even after it finally started, it would cough and hack and complain.
It had a wicked sense of humor. Instead of conking out close to the dock, it usually waited until we were in the middle of the lake. Suddenly it would skip a beat, sputter, and begin jerking along. Then, with a final gasp and a belch of blue smoke, it would shudder and die.
Sherborne and I would take turns cranking. I’d crank until my arm wore out, then we’d swap ends of the boat, and he’d crank. Thankfully, our Sunday school teacher wasn’t within earshot.
We didn’t judge the success of a fishing trip by how many fish we caught. We judged it by how far we had to row back.
I’m sure the battered old Evinrude was a great motor in its day. But its day was in 1950. It belonged in a museum, not clamped on the stern of the Carp Ark.
The S.S. Carp Ark was the name of our ancient fishing boat. Like the motor, it was used when we bought it. We suspected the user was Millard Fillmore.
It had a cracked aluminum hull that only leaked when it was around water. We didn’t need a live well for our fish; when we caught one, we just dropped it in the boat where it swam around.
We were probably the only fishermen who wore hip waders in a boat.
We had some great adventures in the Carp Ark, bouncing off stumps on Reelfoot Lake and once getting stuck on a cypress log. Sherborne hopped out to push us off, then hopped back in when a cottonmouth slithered off the log.
One night on Center Hill Lake, we were zipping along – well, not exactly zipping, but going as fast as the old Evinrude could muster – when we suddenly hit a submerged gravel bar. Everything went flying – tackle boxes, fishing rods, Sherborne, me. We finally got unstuck. Then the motor died.
I tried to boost our spirits by pointing out how lovely the moonlight was, shimmering on the water, as we rowed back. Sherborne muttered something I couldn’t quite make out – something about what I could do with my moonlight.
Finally, the old motor conked out one time too many, leaving us stranded in the middle of a lake on a blazing hot day. We decided to lay it to rest.
The water where it rests is about 30 feet deep.
Longtime outdoors columnist Larry Woody is a three-time winner of the Tennessee Sports Writer of the Year award and is the author of several books, including “Along for The Ride.” Woody covered NASCAR from the early 1960s until late 2007 in addition to SEC sports, minor league baseball, the Tennessee Titans and the Vanderbilt Commodores.