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No Memories Like Boat Memories

No Memories Like Boat Memories

By: Ben Smith - February 8, 2024

  • Outdoor Columnist Ben Smith says the old saying about the best days of life are when you buy and sell your boat is wrong.

They say that the two happiest days of a man’s life is the day he buys his boat and the day he sells it. I’m not sure that I completely agree. I mean, I’ve had some pretty happy days. For instance, the days our children were born. Not much tops that. However, boat ownership is an up and down rollercoaster of emotions. 

When the China virus hit our area, and shut pretty much everything down, I was left with very little to do other than hunting and fishing. Since it was Spring and I’m not much of a turkey hunter, I was relegated to fishing only. We bought a couple of kayaks, but my heart yearned for something more. I needed something with power. I needed something that could provide me with more adventure. I needed something that could put me in life or death situations. So, I bought a boat.

It was perfect! Sixteen feet of heavy gauge aluminum made by War Eagle that even I couldn’t destroy. The sides were high enough to withstand chop from open waters. The motor, although it had some age on it, was powerful enough to push me up the Mississippi River if I wanted it to, yet delicate enough to navigate the shallower waters of the local Bouie River on a good day. For the first time in a long time, I had everything I needed to really be the consummate outdoorsman. 

The first real voyage I put my newfound love through was a handgrabbing trip on the Bouie River. Myself, my dad, and my two older daughters all piled into the boat and headed down river to check some holes. I’d never felt more free in my life. A quick hour later and we were headed back up the river with a forty-seven pound catfish in the boat with us. The river was shallow, and we had to get out and push the boat a few times, but the heavy rig got the job done. I’d never been prouder of a purchase that I’d made. 

From there, I took the boat to several different rivers around the state. We’d run trotlines, bank poles, and fish from the boat itself with rods and reels for the best local cuisine we could find. We’d take it out sometimes just for a joy ride, or to go swimming. Both of my older daughters learned how to drive the boat on the Pearl River, one of my prouder moments as a father as I’d done the same thing thirty years earlier. I couldn’t believe that we’d gone so long without having a boat and I couldn’t imagine a life going forward without one. 

Time is a thief. As the COVID shutdown ended, and life went back to normal, time spent on the water was greatly diminished. Soccer games, piano recitals, and ballet recitals along with my own job stole time that we could have spent taking the boat out. Plus, I got older. I usually don’t mind going it alone in the outdoors but running lines by myself got to be more work than reward. I’d stay out all night fishing by myself only to return home exhausted the next day to clean a few fish and sleep the remainder of the day off. The one thing that I enjoyed most about having a boat, time with family, was no longer there.

Time marched on and my trips on the water became fewer and fewer. The thing about a boat is it needs to be used. Sitting up is the worst thing for it. Even though it was kept in the garage, each time I’d get ready to take it out there was some minor inconvenience. A clogged carb, a dead battery, a low tire. Nothing serious, but always something needing to be done before taking it out. I’d fix it, take it out, then it would sit again for a couple of months. I just didn’t have the energy to do what needed to be done.

Summer faded into winter, and I went into full deer season mode. About halfway through, I decided to sell the boat. I was neglecting it and I loved it too much to see it just sit there. There were plenty of times I wanted to take her out and just go driving, but I’d developed a lower back issue that pretty much ruled out launching the boat by myself. Reluctantly, I put a price tag on her and waited. 

With back surgery behind me, and no real offers on the boat, I began to think I might be keeping her after all. I’d be able to do once again what I enjoyed, so why not? Then, the phone rang. With a serious buyer on the other end, I pushed back my feelings and let her go. He arrived the next day, picked the boat up, and drove away. I wasn’t planning to admit it, but my heart ached, and my lip quivered watching him drive away with my boat. We’d created so many memories with it.

So, now a new day begins…life without a boat. There’s an emptiness there. Do you ever have that feeling of knowing you can go do something, even if you don’t do it? That’s how I felt with the boat. Even though I didn’t take it out much over the last year of having it, I always knew I could if I wanted to. Now, that is gone. That old saying about the best days of life are when you buy and sell your boat is wrong. I’ll miss my boat, and I look forward to the day when I replace it.

About the Author(s)
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Ben Smith

A native of Laurel, Mississippi, Ben played baseball at William Carey University before joining the coaching staff at WCU, where he’s spent the last 16 years. He also serves as a History Instructor in the WCU School of Arts and Letters. During the Covid shutdown in 2020, he began the outdoor blog “Pinstripes to Camo”. The blog quickly grew into a weekly column and was awarded as the #1 Sports Column in the state by the Mississippi Press Association. During that time, “Pinstripes to Camo” also became a weekly podcast, featuring various outdoor guests from around the country, and has grown into one of the top outdoor podcasts in the Southeast.