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My husband, two teenage sons and I, went on a road trip to see my family in Eastern Oregon, something my dad did with us as children every summer. It became one of the defining moments that drew out who I was and who I was to become. The trips I took with my father in his pickup, windows down, wearing his cowboy hat that was two sizes too big, stoked the coals already simmering inside of me. I was country, and country was me. It couldn’t be stopped.

Taking my children to experience the Steens Mountains and all of the surrounding splendors was a must, and I hope to continue to. Being teenagers, I know I only have a couple more summers remaining. So off we went to encounter our past and discover our futures.

Yesterday afternoon we stopped at Krumbo Lake, a gorgeous lake surrounded by sage brush covered hills, rocks and edged with long green grasses. One of its features is a beautifully well-kept boat dock. I promptly sat on the edge and dangled my feet in the warm water. My oldest son perched himself at the end and threw in a fishing a line. Soon enough, my youngest retrieved his fishing pole and joined in, followed by my husband. My dad had stationed himself at the boat ramp and was throwing sticks for his dog, Luke, to swim after. It turned out to be a great spot, and despite the sun being straight up in the sky, the fish arrived for the occasion.

On the first cast, my oldest son, Christian, brought a fish all the way up to the surface of the water. I spotted the shiny body flapping around on his line right before it slipped off and returned to lake. Shortly after, my husband’s line started jerking. He successfully pulled his fish all the way up, but it was too small to keep. A reoccurring setback for poor dedicated Adam. Then, for the grand finale, my youngest, Preston, was trying his luck off the “person dock”, I call it. I’m sure it has an official name, like a lake deck, or something. Anyway, his skinny pole starts frowning and he starts reeling like a madman!

Preston’s not much for words when faced with overstimulation, so as we’re all excitingly hollering directions and advice, he’s reeling and reeling, until at last, the heavy fish is hanging from a nearly broken pole at the surface of the water. He can’t pull it in because he is petrified his pole will snap and the fish would be lost. So, he’s standing there, paralyzed, with all of us screaming in the background. “Pull it up! Pull it up!”

I’m grabbing for my socks and boots when Christian, bless his heart, engages the dilemma first. He drops his pole and starts running down the dock. My dad begins heading Preston’s way too. It’s a regular first responder incident! When it’s all said and done, the fish is brought up, the pole lives, and Preston stands starring at it. We are all congratulating him and Preston has a neutral expression on his face. Huh.

After Christian hits the fish head against the paved pathway, my dad pulls out his, always handy, pocket knife. “Okay, boys, I’ll show ya how do this once. I ain’t gonna clean your fish twice, so pay attention.”

Christian nods and hunkers down on his hands and knees, face inches from the belly Grandpa is slitting open, taking notes on every glorious gory detail. He was going get one chance to watch the pro clean a fish, darn it, he wasn’t going to miss anything. Preston, he wanders up. I shove him a little closer.

“Are ya watching, Preston?” He nods as he observes, halfheartedly.

When Christian hands Preston his trophy fish for a picture, before gladly taking it, he asks, “Is it still alive?”

We all hoot and laugh!

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