Duck Rocks

It is every parent’s job to make their kids do things that they hate to do.  Growing up, my Mom loved to take my sister and I to Levin’s. Levin’s was a store the size of an airplane hangar devoted solely to sewing.  We were forced to the grocery store and dentist appointments.  My dad had his own lists too. Tops on his list of ‘Things Jimmy hates to do but I’m going to make him do anyway’, was fishing.

I hate fishing (almost as much as the dentist).

I find nothing redeemable about the entire endeavor.  This is not to say I am against fishing, I’m just against me having to go fishing.  This disdain I feel, I felt even at such a young age.  A disdain my father completely ignored as he assembled his tackle box with the plastic white and red bobber, his black and orange striped rod, the can of worms he made me dig up for him from the backyard and told me to get in the car.  We would go to either the chunk of concrete from a sidewalk anchored to the bank of Carsonia Lake that, to this day, I cannot figure out how or why was there or we would slide down the small embankment around the first bend  of the road at Antietam Lake to the small dirt landing to fish.

My dad would meticulously go through the process of picking the correct lure, attaching the bob, putting the worm on the hook, and casting so as to avoid the sticks and algae with my sister and I.  Actually, he spun his angling lesson with my sister; I kicked at the dirt and tried my best not to get stung by bees.  I may have also complained and whined about being there though I can neither confirm nor deny this.  You’ll have to ask my sister.

My sister and dad would fish. Rather, they would cast, then wait, then reel their line in and cast again. Over and over again. On rare occasions, one of the gilled bottom feeders lurking in the lakes found its way to their worm but for the most part, fishing with my dad might as well been called ‘standing’.  I loved to be with my dad but I really did hate to fish.

This is how ‘‘Duck Rocks’’ were born.

The name came from the first time I threw a rock into the lake and scared off a flock of Mallards. ‘‘Duck Rocks’’ are not  and were not for attacking ducks; rather they were used to keep the attention of an 8 year old boy who was being held captive at a lake by his father.  A Duck Rock can be found along the side of any lake.  Smooth and flat rocks are preferred, for maximum skipping distance. Finding the rare 15 pound rock to shot put could also be used.  Whatever the rock, you were sure to scare away the fish and definitely any unsuspecting water fowl foolish enough to wade close enough to the splash zone.

Whenever my dad assembled his fishing gear, my first question was, “Can I throw ‘‘Duck Rocks’’?” to which he answered, “Yes” every time. Fishing wasn’t so bad with ‘‘Duck Rocks’’ and as a bonus, I got to be with my dad.  The haul of fish my dad and sister caught seemed to diminish exponentially as soon as I started throwing my “Duck Rocks”.

Eventually we stopped going to the concrete slab of Carsonia Lake.  We stopped sliding down the embankment at Antietam Lake.  Lessons on proper casting techniques and finding the right rocks gave way to lessons on cutting the grass and how to change the car’s oil.

Now I’m a father and I get to make my kids do things they hate (the true circle of life).  While they are whining and pleading with me to end whatever perceived misery I am forcing them to endure, I hope when they get to be my age, they understand why I make them do it.  It’s not so much what I make my kids do or what my dad made me do; it’s that we do, and we did, it together.  I think my dad just wanted to find anything for me to do to hold my attention. Because what I didn’t understand at the time was, he wanted me next to him as much as I wanted him next to me.

I still go to Carsonia Lake but instead of rods and lures, I take my kids. We walk around the trail surrounding the lake and at least once, we stop where the concrete sidewalk slab used to be and where I stood with my dad. While we’re there, I search out the smoothest, flattest “Duck Rock” I can find and skip it across the surface of the lake or if I’m lucky enough to find the all too rare 15 pound rock, I launch that into the water. Throwing those rocks makes me think how I wouldn’t mind fishing so much if I were able to stand next to my Dad when I went.


7 responses to “Duck Rocks

  1. I think this is a tremendous post. Perhaps my favorite of all time.


  2. Actually, that wasn’t fair of me. I especially enjoyed this post because i have boredom memories that so closely resemble it. Within the Jetts style, the described ‘hated to do’ is such a strong and seldom conjured memory. It’s emotional, both with the pain of boredom and with the absence of that same boredom. You were as meticulous with your lakefront imagery as i’m sure your father was with his lure process. Thanks for sending me into my subconscious and giving me someone to compare myself with. That is why i read.


  3. So, is there something you “make” your kids do that they hate? Are you aware of it?

    I did my darndest to introduce my boys to sports. They hated ’em all…I mean to do sports. They sure don’t watch ’em either…

    I learned that they are not really just extensions of me – they are their own persons, even when they’re little. An invaluable lesson…


  4. My husband refuses to set foot in a fabric store to this day because he hated being forced to go with his mom as a child.
    I always thought fishing was boring and had zero interest in it, but on a vacation at the lake last summer my husband found a rod and showed our 2 boys how to fish. They thought it was the best thing ever. Of course, as you pointed out, maybe getting to hang out with their dad and splash in the water was the real draw.


    • Definitely. Unless you’re fishing for Great White Sharks with your bare hands and a bucket of chum, fishing is a horrible activity. But. I would go fishing in a second if my dad were around to ask. Tell your husband to keep fishing with your boys. They will never forget it.


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