Years back, my husband was stationed WAY up north in Alberta, Canada, flying Cessna 206s and a Britten Norman Islander in and out of remote Indian reservations along the Peace River. Back in the good ol’ days, I was allowed to go flying with him if there was an empty seat in the plane. I flew as much as possible and relished almost every minute of it. One such enjoyable day started with a call from my pilot down at the airport, “I’m flying the chief and councilmen into Margaret Lake fishing lodge in the Islander. Get our fishing poles and we can fish all day while they are in meetings.” He flew for a Native Indian band and flying the chief was a big deal… fishing just made it that much more sweet! With poles in hand, I met him on the ramp.
I flew right seat and was happily viewing the extremely flat scenery on the 40 minute flight when I noticed something odd. My pilot was not moving his head, but his eyes were roving to and fro…. searching for something. In my mic I asked, “What are you doing?” Not that the men could hear a word he said with the roar of the engines, but he quietly answered, “Look for two lakes next to each other. I can’t find them.” Ah. Lost… with the chief in the back. Being a bit sarcastic, I suggested, “Ask them where it is. They’ll know!” No response from Mr. Roving Eye. We eventually spotted the lakes and landed somewhat without incident. The strip was usually 2,000 feet of solid dirt with a few grass patches, but for this occassion it was 2,000 feet of solid mud and a few grass patches. Several moccasins had to have mud wiped off of them after de-planing.
Being a supreme fishing queen, the anticipation of the day made my little casting heart beat with glee. I assumed we would fish for several hours alone where the river ran into the lake. How romantic! Just me and my pilot. Not so. Seems the chief and his posse were supremely into fishing as well. Their “meetings” were all hooked up and reeled in after the first hour. They joined us on the banks in amongst the pine trees. Unbeknownst to me, it turned out to be one of the best fishing days of my life. I couldn’t throw the hook in without snagging a pike or a trout. My pilot was genuinely happy for me…. in the beginning. He was not experiencing the best fishing day of his life. In fact, he couldn’t catch anything! He snagged trees, lost hooks and finally just stood near me to take the hooks out of the mouths of the fish I kept pulling from the cool water.
The chief and councilmen noticed my supreme fishing ability (and probably my pilot’s too!) They casually cast closer and closer to where I stood next to my haul on the bank at my feet. The chief asked what I was using for bait. Another wanted to see my lure. Was I using weights? Was I reeling quickly? Where were the blinking fish hiding?
Wanting to keep his place of employment with these men, my pilot started giving my fish to them. One at a time. Two at a time. Saving face is what I summed it up to be. The brave Indians would now be returning home with booty from the fishing lodge…. and my pilot would still be their pilot.
When we were all snug back in the plane, right before take-off, I heard one of the men comment under his breath, “Next time I’m bringing my woman.” HAHA! We dropped off each of them at their reservations with my fish in their hands and we returned to the hangar. One of the other pilots asked if we had trouble finding the lakes. “Nope!” I replied, making no eye contact with Mr. Roving Eye. Then he asked how the fishing was. “Not bad! Want to see my fish?” and I proudly held up the one fish my pilot let me bring home for dinner.
The moral of the story is: Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Give many men many fish and you’ll be able to keep feeding yourself.