Last week I mentioned I retired early to fish. So as not to be thought a liar, I left the house about 2:30 a.m. this past Tuesday morning to get in on the topwater bite going on at Norfork Lake.

Had my rods already rigged up with “Whopper Ploppers” and “River2Sea Surface Cruiser” topwater lures, as well as my old reliable Zara Spooks.

Got there plenty early, having hit every light green as I passed through West Plains. Wanting to be on the water before daylight, backed in to launch the 20/56 camouflage Blazer that has served me so well nearing a decade. Despite all the pictures of it with trash, make no mistake — it catches a lot of fish.

Fishing solo much of the time, I have a pretty fair system worked out. I set out my anchor to the side on the shore, then back up and let the boat slide off into the water; confident of its tether. I park the truck, return and pull in the boat and take off.

As I neared the water’s edge, I could just see swirls of stripers feeding in the shallows not a hundred yards off. Was surprised at how long my anchor rope was, for the boat seemed fairly distant. Picked up the anchor to begin the retrieve. Saw the five feet of rope and the frayed end.

Being somewhat resourceful, I quickly stripped off coat and shirt, emptied my pockets and began wading out in the debris-filled, dark water. Was attacked by an alligator. A large alligator!

Actually, looking back — from shore — I realize I was most probably just bumped by one of the many trees floating around that daylight would allow me to identify later.

The boat was now even further. Do I take off my boots and what few clothes remain and swim? No, I do not! I hope for a breeze that will bring the boat closer. A breeze that never comes.

About an hour later a guy named Scooter arrives and at first wonders “why my buddy wouldn’t come back and get me?” Then, he realizes there is no “buddy.” Just an embarrassed hillbilly with more than a hundred dollars of new-fangled lures in bad need of two dollars’ worth of new anchor rope.

By the time I am fishing, the swirls have disappeared. I join a group of at least two dozen boats fishing Cranfield Island — jigging or drifting live bait. Two hours later I have not seen one rod bend; on my boat or on anyone else’s. I get home in time to patch a leak on our new-to-us RV.

I thought much of the broken tether; the bond between my boat and shore that I assumed would be there when needed. A tie I expected would be unbroken. I thought next of the ties in our lives we routinely rely on. Those that maintain; those that disappoint. I thought to give name to at least some of them.

Family has been identified as a “tie that binds.” Without a doubt, I would think. As also has been called jealousy. It has been called the tie that binds. And binds. And binds! Rules and regulations have been given that title.

Ties among us have been described as “like the stars of the firmament… inseparable.” “Tougher than you imagine.” Possible “only in something.”

I think of the ties in my life. The friends that share my love of the land. The land itself. My helpmate. My dog.

And the “bond of perfectness” offered me.

By Rick Mansfield

(Rick Mansfield is a seasoned storyteller and writer, and is always looking for new audiences. He can be reached at emansfield2004@yahoo.com.)

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