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He Was My Dad - A Father's Day Tribute

Teacher, father, friend


Jimmy Brooks at Work

Jimmy Brooks hoists a mangrove creek fish for the camera.

Photo by Ron Brooks
The long sleeved khaki shirt he wore was soaking wet. On a day with no wind, no rain, and temperatures hovering around 95 degrees, he wore that heavy long sleeved shirt. Actually he was forced to wear it. Being in the sun for far too many years without protection had taken its toll. Skin cancer and subsequent treatments threatened to end his fishing forever.

He was my Dad.

The doctors had ordered him to stay totally out of the sun; something he simply could not do. So he fished under cover, literally. Long sleeved shirts of heavy fabric, a hat with a cloth neck covering, and gloves with the fingers ends cut out kept most of the sun at bay.

I used to watch him as sweat dripped off his nose. Behind those huge polarized sunglasses his eyes watered constantly. If it wasn’t sweat running into them, it was the heavy coating of sunscreen that caused the irritation.

But, fish he did; and I never heard him complain.

Back up in a South Florida mangrove creek, August temperatures on a windless day can be unbearable. We would sometimes sit for over an hour in one spot waiting for the tide to get right. Swatting mosquitoes and wiping sweat, we sat and baked in the midday sun. And still, he never complained.

There were days in the winter when it was so cold we had to literally lay down in the boat to avoid the cold wind. There were rainy days that soaked us to the bone, and more often than not ended up giving us a cold. And then there were those days where the weather was perfect. In every instance, the goal was to somehow fish.

We arose one morning at 2AM to drive to Bahia Honda, some one hundred miles down the keys. It was December and a north wind was howling as we left the house. We pulled the boat all the way down there with him telling us that the wind might not be blowing down there.

Needless to say, it was blowing. We sat in the car in forty-five degree weather and watched the white caps out toward No Name Key. Then, we turned around and drove back home. I often wondered if he really believed the wind would not be blowing. Perhaps it was wishful thinking. Whatever the reasoning, we made trips like that more than a few times.

I never knew anyone who loved to fish as much as he. I still don’t. I take that back. Maybe my son reaches that level of passion. I thought I did for a long time, but I can’t hold a candle to either of them. Oh, I love to fish, but on days when he would launch the boat in a gale, I now stay home.

This week he would have been eighty-four. He taught me to fish, and he helped me teach my boys to fish. He instilled in me a love for fishing that will never die. I think I did the same for my boys as well. At least their wives feel that way most of the time!

I remember the last time I took him fishing in 1995. He could hardly walk, but he was so happy. I’d give anything if only I could fish with him one more time.

He was my father. He was my teacher. He was my Dad.

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