C.W. Gusewell

THE KANSAS CITY STAR

The catch of every day is good fortune

The fishing is less dependable than I remember it from earlier years.

There used to be heavy creosoted pilings a short way out in the gulf at intervals along the shore from the inn. They were what remained of ancient piers, long ago wrecked and carried away by storms.

The sheepshead – strong, broad-bodied fish, and wonderful to eat – came in great numbers to nip barnacles off those old timbers.

But with the last of the pilings gone, there’s no structure for the barnacles to attach to. And consequently the sheepshead are absent.

So yesterday we reserved a morning fishing outing with a guide from another resort.

The day was wonderful – breeze fresh off the water, white clouds scurrying across a sky of royal blue.

Ospreys wheeled overhead, and on every buoy we passed a cormorant perched. Two dolphins – a female and her calf – swam with our boat as we crossed the sound to a shallow bar where our skipper thought we might find some sea trout feeding.

The temperature was glorious. The boat was comfortable, the scenery spectacular. Only one thing was lacking.

Fish.

Well, not entirely lacking. My daughters boated a couple of small trout under the 15-inch legal keeper length, a lizard fish, several hand-size lady fish and a drab little customer the guide called a “grunt.”

And I caught and released unharmed a feisty little shark hardly more than a foot long.

We’d booked only a two-hour charter. With so little action, the two hours were spent quicker than you could say “skunked.” But truth is it’s not the fishing that brings us to this magical stretch of Southern shore.

We come for the uninterrupted time together, lodging at a place staffed by friendly people, a few of whom over the years we’ve come to know as friends.

Here the cadence of the days is governed by desires, not by obligations.

It isn’t a clock that wakes us. It’s the light. The apricot sun doesn’t vanish behind buildings at evening. It slides down gently to its rest below the wave, but it leaves a memory of itself on a cloud’s pink underside.

Word of this place has traveled widely – and not just for the folk, like us, who come for pleasure.

Among the servers and housekeepers who attend to the comfort of the guests, we’ve met a good many whose life journeys have brought them from afar.

From Russia they hail, and the Ukraine, the Baltic coast, from Poland and from islands in the Caribbean – seekers, often young, who have come here to discover what truth there may still be in what they’ve heard about the promise of American life.

Without exception, they seem glad to have made the choice. Their smiles and their kindness are not pretended.

The establishment has two resident cats, Tweenie and Sailor – one living in the foliage outside the dining room, the other with a bed in the gift shop of the marina, both pampered by the management and guests.

And there’s a gecko we see on the patio at breakfast, untroubled by the numbers of people and no doubt getting occasional fallout from the tables.

I’m convinced that, like all the rest of us – proprietors, staff, guests and cats – even that gecko understands his luck.