Natalie has competed in the derby since she was six years old and twice has won the total length award for most inches of fish caught and once for longest fish. This year's competition was fierce -- more than 100 kids (twice the usual number) participated in the tourney.
Natalie invited her longtime friend, Gaby to join her. The pair, usually a fountain of giggles, wasted no time casting out upon hearing the start whistle blow. In the first 30 minutes the girls had each caught three fish...yet all were under 9 inches in length. While it was still early in the competition, a fellow angler had already logged a 19 inch channel cat.
The girls were not deterred in the least.
They kept up a steady rhythm of baiting and casting. Over the next 90 minutes, they hardly paused to take a sip of water. With each fish they landed, they were encouraged to keep up the pace. Nat - two, 15 inch cats, followed by a 16 inch and several bluegill. Gaby, a string of bluegill and with just one minute left in the competition, an 18 inch monster cat. I marveled at how much the two of them have grown over the years and tried to push down the lump that formed in my throat. In just a few days Gaby, her sister, Vivian and their mom, Stacy -- my tea-loving, chocolate-coveting, shirt-sleeve sharing friend won't be living in St. Louis anymore.
A season of impromptu play dates and tea breaks is ending.
I'm happy for them...for an opportunity to return to the south...to be closer to family.
But, letting go is hard. Catch and release works fine for fishing - the same cannot be said for friendships.