One of my most memorable Fourth of July holidays is also one of the most regrettable. Our family was living outside of Charlotte in Monroe, N.C. It was just a few months before we moved to North Charleston and I was about 12.
There was a pond close to our house stocked with bream and bass, and Dad decided all the Pepers should spend some of our holiday seeing how many of those fish we could bring home for supper.
Mom stayed behind, as I remember. Maybe this was part of another plan that called for my father to just get all four of the Peper kids out of the house so she could enjoy a few hours of peace and quiet. It wasn't until I had a wife and three kids years later that I totally understood all the dynamics of the expression that "if Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."
So off we went to this big pond for a day of fishing. My dad, the three boys ages 12, 10 and 8 and my 3-year-old sister, Terrie.
My mother was only too happy to pack snacks and plenty of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. A cooler with ice and soft drinks was also packed to the brim. We were set.
Hook, line and sinker
The most important item on this trip was my father's tackle box. He was the only one who could lift it. This giant metal contraption was the biggest combination of hooks, sinkers, lures, line, pliers, bobbers and corks that you've ever seen. Once it was opened, there were layers and layers of trays that revealed a treasure trove of items all designed to entice a fish to grab that hook. It had everything!
I'm not sure my dad even wet his line that day. Every five or 10 minutes, something needed to be untangled or rewound or rejiggered.
Somewhere along the way in the Peper DNA, the patience gene was misplaced. Somehow, my dad managed to keep all of us pointed in the right direction.
In what seemed like a short amount of time, we emptied the cooler of sandwiches and started filling it with fish. It didn't matter if the bait was a worm or biscuit dough. These fish were hungry and the Peper boys were hauling 'em in!
But the fun came to a quick halt.
My little sister wasn't fishing that much. She was pretty excited to see her brothers' success, though. With each cast, we would warn her not to get too close.
It was on one of my casts that the entire day of fun came to an end. My bait didn't land on the water. When I turned around, my hook was in my sister's cheek.
My father immediately went into action. Drawing on his days as a Navy hospital corpsman, he began to immediately look for something, anything, in that giant tackle box that might help the situation. He determined it was best to push the hook through the cheek rather than trying to pull it out where it entered.
A pair of pliers, deep in that tackle box, allowed him to do just that. My sister was a trooper and barely cried. Once pushing the hook totally through the flesh, he cut the barbed hook off and removed it. From there, it was off to a hospital for a tetanus shot.
Not sure why all this is still so clear, some 50 years later. My sister and I still talk about it at various family get-togethers. Even today, there are two tiny spots on her face where the hook entered and departed.
My dad's no longer with us, but while visiting my mom recently, I saw the tackle box.
We all probably have something in our personal tackle boxes that can help each other. The trick is finding the right tool and putting it in the right hands.
Here's hoping your family activities today are free of accidents and tetanus shots.
Reach Warren Peper at 937-5577 or wpeper@post andcourier.com
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