Dog Paddling Across the Bluegrass: Chapter 3

“There must be a mistake,” I said, looking all around. We were surrounded by water and boats of all shapes and sizes. “I only bought one boat, Dad.”

“Let’s go see, son,” Dad instructed. I spotted a building sitting in the water that said, “Restaurant and General Store.” To get there, we used a walkway sitting in the water.

“Stay away from the edge of the dock, pups,” Mom instructed as Chloe and I peered over the edge searching for fish.

“Hey folks,” a gentleman wearing a fishing hat said once we entered. “I bet you’re Woody. I’m Frank but everyone calls me Frankie. I work in the marina office.”

“What’s a marina?” I asked, once everyone had been introduced.

Frankie motioned for us to follow him. “A marina is a harbor for boats. Fisherman, or women,” Frankie said, tipping his hat at Mom and Chloe, “can bring the boat to the dock and moor it – or tie it. They can eat in the restaurant, buy bait, fuel, or anything he needs.”

“Wait a second – so you aren’t in the United States Marines?” I asked.

“Not at all,” Frankie said, laughing. “Where’d you get that idea?”

I looked at Dad and smiled. I was determined to start listening and paying attention to details.

“Ready to see your boat?” Frankie asked. When we all nodded yes, he said, “Follow me!”

We walked up the dock toward the most beautiful motorboat. My heart was pounding with excitement. The excitement quickly turned to disappointment when we arrived at a beat up old boat.

“It isn’t the best-looking boat but it’s sturdy as can be,” Frankie commented.

“Mr. Frankie,” I said, trying to be respectful, “I don’t see the motor.”

“You’re a funny little guy. Does he always joke like this?” Frankie asked Mom.

“All the time,” Mom said, ruffling my hair. I thought sure I’d bought a motorboat. Apparently, I hadn’t listened. I looked at Dad, wondering what I should do. He mouthed the word “Gentleman’s Agreement,” telling me I had to keep my word.

“We’re taking this canoe to Kentucky Lake for a fishing tournament,” I announced.

“So you’re a fisherman, I take it?”

“I’ve only fished a few times, but we’re going to visit different rivers and lakes along the way so we can practice.”

“There are plenty to choose from.” Frankie replied. “As I’m sure you know, Kentucky has lots of rivers and lakes.  Kentucky is the only state to be bordered by three rivers – Ohio River to the north, Mississippi River to the west and the Big Sandy River and Tug Fork to the east. The Tug Fork is a tributary of the Big Sandy.”

“What’s a trib, trib?” I had trouble saying the word.

“A trib-u-terry,” Frankie said, speaking each syllable slowly, “is a stream or river that flows into a larger river or lake. The Tug Fork is a tributary of the Big Sandy – which means the Tug Fork flows into the Big Sandy. And here’s something interesting, the Big Sandy is one of the shortest rivers in the United States. It’s only 29 miles long. Oh, and here’s another fact for you – Kentucky has the largest man-made lakes east of the Mississippi River. One of them is Lake Barkley and the other is the lake you’ll be competing in.”

“What lake is this?” Chloe asked, pointing to the water.

“Fishtrap Lake,” Frankie answered. “The Army Corps of Engineers dammed up part of the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River to create the reservoir. And take my word for it, you can catch a mess of crappie in this lake.”

“Mom told us about that army earlier,” I said, remembering what I learned about Cave Run Lake.

“It’s not like the United States Army,” Frank explained. “It’s a group of engineers – or designers – made up of people from the Army and civilians. They’re part of the Department of Defense and they design and construct projects for the Army and Air Force. They do a lot of work with water – like building dams and keeping our water clean.”

“You know a lot about the lakes and rivers,” Chloe told Frankie.

“I’ve grown up on the water,” Frankie replied. “I can’t imagine life without rivers or lakes. They provide a habitat for plants, animals and wildlife, create electricity, and even transport goods. And we can’t forget about the recreation they offer. Speaking of, I bet you’re ready to set sail so let’s go into my office, settle up, get everyone’s fishing license, and then you can take your yacht – I mean canoe – out on the water,” Frankie said, laughing.

Once we were in the office, I opened my money pouch and dug out the money. “Thirty-four dollars and ninety-seven, ninety-eight, ninety-nine… Thirty-five dollars.”  As I handed Frankie the money, I realized there was a problem.

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