Most head boats, or party boats as some people call them, work on a first come, first served basis. This one was no different. The early arrivals secure a place at the front of the line and thus are assured of a choice spot on the stern from which to fish. But, on this boat, on this day, everyone waited behind an imaginary line on the dock while this little man boarded with all his fishing gear. Some grumbled; most simply waited impatiently as the Captain helped the old man tie his rods to the railing on the back of the boat.
When the remainder of the forty or so anglers were allowed to board, they scrambled to find a spot as close to the stern as possible. Two of those looking for a spot to fish were boys, one eleven years old, and one nine. The eleven year old was large for his age and passed for fourteen, the minimum age allowed to board without an adult companion. He was able to push his way in and find a spot for himself. The younger one, on the other hand, got squeezed out and wandered the sides of the boat trying to find that special place.
The old man watched with interest as everyone jostled for position. He listened as anglers told one another why their particular spot was better than the rest. As the boat left the dock, he mused at the stories being told by the regulars about "the last trip". And he studied with particular interest the plight of the nine year old. Less than five feet tall and barely able to rest his arms on the rail, the young boy looked helpless and out of place between two boisterous men. He looked to his eleven year old friend with sad eyes that said, "help me!", but it did little to relieve his anxiety. The eleven year old was too busy gloating over the choice stern position he had managed to win.
An hour ride to the fishing grounds put the boat over an artificial reef, and with considerable jockeying, the anchor was finally sent to the bottom. When the word was passed to "drop your lines", the young boy was tentative as he attempted to put his bait down. The older men on either side made no effort to assist, and actually ended up squeezing the boy's already small fishing space into an area that was even smaller.
As he fished from his stern corner, the old man continued to occasionally glance at the youngster. He knew the boy was having a hard time, and the boy knew that the old man was watching, a fact that made the pressure on the boy even worse. Eventually that pressure became unbearable, and the young boy who so desperately wanted to fish sat back on the side bench next to the cabin. Huge tears welled up in the boy's eyes as he tried his best to mask his hurt. He had saved an entire summer's worth of lawn cutting money to take this trip, and now it appeared he would not even be able to fish.