A New Old Watch. 9th in the STOPWATCH Series
Picky bait. If the watch was going to be called anything, it was picky bait. Coho don't have a long enough life span to interest the watch. Lake pike will eat anything but Sturgeon? There's a fish of fishes.
Sturgeon are omnivorous feeders, opportunistic as the day is long. They're getting rare in the Great Lakes. Once prolific late bloomers, 20 years to reach sexual maturity, they live ... on the average if unfished ... one hundred years ... or more.
Even as late as 1930, sturgeon were, if not plentiful, at least present in breeding numbers on the Lakes. Commercial fisherman of the Lakes referred to them as freshwater sharks ... a term that should have been reserved for the Lake Pike or the muskellunge.
The watch was flung like an apple on a willow. Three or four blocks out over the water it flew, where one of the androgynous Coho spotted it. Androgyny in fish means a lack of breeding. Those Coho live long lives and grow huge ... they don't have the instinctive urge to swim up to their hatching stream and complete the normal life-breed-die cycle that helps define the species.
Coho normally weigh out at six to 12 pounds, although a 31 pounder is not impossible. This one was a graybeard of 41 pounds. He attacked the watch and swallowed it whole. The watch snagged on an obstruction and wound.
Some four thousand years in the past, a very uncommon Coho Salmon appeared in front of a much more common Sturgeon ... an uncommon common sturgeon at that... 18 feet of common sturgeon ... long nosed and equipped with very large teeth. Evasive action is very difficult when you're already in the dragons mouth. Forty one pounds ... three bites ... no more, no less. A sturgeon with a ticking time bomb. Oh what fun.
Andrea Koenigsknecht was bored ... bored, bored, bored, bored, bored. Her dad, the Most Right Reverend Albert Koenigsknecht, DD (Doctor of Divinity) had always wanted a boy. That explained why 15 year old Andrea was stuck on a 48' Chris Craft built on a Uniflite fiberglas hull slowly cruising the one hundred foot line off the Pentwater pier. Andy was fishing.
Her birth was fraught with complications. Mother Koenigsknecht almost died. The doctor saved her but it was close.
"This one's it, Al. Another will kill her," said the family doctor and a Deacon in Reverend Albert's church. "Oh, by the way ... what name do you want on her birth certificate?"
"Andrew, Arthur, Koenigsknecht ... wait ... HER?" This threw Albert for a loop but he bounced back ... one never knew what the Lord had in store for the faithful.
"She might be a girl but she's my boy," confessed the Reverend. "Andrea Koenigsknecht ... we'll call her Andy." And as he wished it so it was.
Andy's bedroom was a shrine to football, baseball, shooting sports and hockey. If it involved hitting, grunting contact violence and mayhem, she was immersed in it.
Other babies of the feminine persuasion had cribs of lace, hung with mobiles of pink and dollies. Andy's crib was brown with a blanket of green marked off in pretend 10 yard lines. Both end zones had miniature goalposts and her first stuffed toy was a Chicago Bear. Her overhead mobile was adorned with miniature footballs and fishing lures ... no hooks.
Her stroller was a scale model of Darrell Waltrip's Number 17 Winston Cup car, and her normal outdoor attire was Levi's or Carhartt's covered with a Simpson Firesuit ... The strap to keep her in her stroller was a Simpson five point racing harness.
The pictures on her bedroom wall were of famous stadiums, arenas, Nascar tracks. The music she slept by was the Michigan State Fight song or On Wisconsin. As she grew she played with the boys, fought with the boys and she knew the stats for every major league ball player ... football and baseball. Home-schooled through the eighth grade, she had no idea he wasn't ... a he. After all ... Daddy sat to pee.
Her eighth birthday present was a .410 Remington, a thrower and ten boxes of sporting clays. By her ninth birthday she was a better shot than her State Skeet Champion father and she could field dress a deer better than an Indian. Her day began at 5 Am with a ten mile run and ended with a stint in the weight room. She was the number one pick for a pick up game and her accuracy with a shotgun extended to a football and a baseball.
For her ninth birthday she received a High Standard .22 target pistol in presentation case and a first year production Model 61 pump with octagon barrel, single caliber mark, rust blue, small fore arm, factory tang sight and factory A-5 scope in a walnut presentation case... 22 long rifle, naturally. Oh yeah, ten cases of .22 LR. That's fifty thousand rounds.
"Daddy? How long have you had the Model 61?"
"Since 1932 ... why?"
"I won't shoot it. Put it away. It's going to be worth a bundle."
"Well ... what do you want?"
"Winchester 9422 ... there's one at the pawnshop for fifty dollars that will suit me just fine. It's already cut for a kid and it'll work until my arms grow."
And so it did. That was not all she got ... a Wilson First Baseman's mitt ... a new Louisville slugger and ten pairs of new jeans.
On her tenth? The rifle was too short and she wanted a deer gun ... Daddy was proud. He bought her a matched pair. 32/20 Winchester Model 92 and a 32/20 Colt single action ... with cross draw holster ... she kept the High Standard. This was the first year she actually went hunting ... with a gun and her own license. On opening day, she bagged an eastern whitetail ... a six pointer. Daddy finally got a doe on the last day. Her gang was jealous ... their fathers livid!
"Can I keep the hide?"
"Sure ... why?"
"I want to make a shirt." She grinned, "You're the best dad in the whole world ... Next year I want a 32 cal flintlock." She pulled out a Dixie Gunworks Catalogue. "This one." She got it for Christmas. But in a kit.
When the first week in June rolled around, she and her father were headed for Friendship, Indiana. Her entire outfit was as authentic as she could make it ... right down to the breechclout and leggings. It was still possible to obtain WWII arctic pacs; the ones with muskox soles. She had carefully cut off the uppers and remolded the soles to fit her feet. The uppers were made according to plains indian design ... with the muskox soles she might as well been wearing Vibram soles.
Her father's hunting friends supplied her with full deer hides so her shirt was four legs dangling and each sleeve had half a hide's worth of fringe. If she hadn't been a blonde, she could have passed as a Lakotah.
"No sir ... I didn't make any of it," her Daddy proudly said. "Andy did it all ... right down to the patchbox on the rifle. Oh, sure it's a kit but it was too long and Andy did all the work."
When the 'primitive' camp people stopped by to check the tipi they were stymied. First time a newbie had ever passed. Even the buffalo hides were brain and urine tanned. They tried to give her static about the balsam fir poles until someone remembered half the tipis were using them.
Andy was signed up for every sub junior and junior shoot available to that age group ... even won some. When the shoot was over one of the dads stopped by and made an offer Andy couldn't refuse.
"Thousand Dollars for the rifle."
"You bet ... it won't fit me next year."
He paid cash and she marched right over to Traders Row and bought another kit.
"What did you do with your flinter?" the man asked.
"Shit, I'd have bought it." He grimaced, "How much?"
"It was getting too small ... I keep growing."
"That's the way life works."
She turned Eleven. More boy stuff ... guns, knives, mitts and jeans. Friendship was a lot more fun.
Twelve rolled up on her ... still home schooled, she didn't really notice the changes ... until.
"Daddy!!! I'm bleeding!!"
"Go see your mother."
The awful truth came out.
"Andrea ... please."
"Don't call me that! I'm Andy!! Mom?"
"Mom!! I think I have cancer."
"I'm growing tumors."
"Well ... you're getting breasts, dear. Let's go."
Andy went to town and Andrea came back. Her hips filled out ... and her top too. All that running paid off in perfect legs. She grew ... oh boy did she grow ... the boys were more interested in looking down her top than choosing her for a ballgame.
The next block over neighbor boy got one hell of a black eye and his dad wasn't pleased to find that miserable little bastard Andy who did it was a very pretty Andrea with a big bruise on her breast ... which she had absolutely no problem showing to prove what his miserable little bastard of a son had done to earn that black eye.
Friendship was nowhere as much fun. Just to prove a point ... tits didn't make one little bit of difference in her shooting ... she won every event ... boys, girls and women's ... she entered ... and they still wouldn't let her throw in the knife contests. She was now five feet three inches tall and this year she kept her rifle. Running with the boys was dangerous this year. It was her last year.
Now she was sitting in a fishing chair watching the lines. Her dad was inside taking a nap ... Andrea wasn't as much fun as Andy and he kind of lost interest. Mom had taken over and Andie knew girl secrets. She was 15 ... going on sixteen ... and entering her senior year. Andrea was a smart cookie. When she graduated she was headed for the University of Michigan with enough credits to qualify as a Junior and a full ride scholarship as a cross country runner and a track and field runner. Her dad was proud ... but she had changed so much he was afraid to hug her. The rack of the century kept boring holes in his chest.
It was pretty damn boring ... bored, bored, bored. She was just considering climbing up the tower to the remote steering station and turning back around when the bell on one of the poles rang...
The Sturgeon was cruising off the river ... four thousand years in the future there would be a pier and a lake and boats and swimmers and all the rest of the modern world he had no idea about. There was a continual beat inside that he was worried about ... if a sturgeon can worry. It started when he ate that odd fish ... not that it tasted bad. The fish was reason he was swimming where he was. It tasted great and there might be another.
The pole bent ... nearly to the water ... what ever was hooked was hooked good.
"Daddy!! Fish on!!
She reeled in all the other lines just like she was supposed to. The boat was too fast ... she ran to the main wheel and throttled back, opened the hatch, "Daddy!! Fish on!!" No avail ... the charter captain and her dad slept on. She slithered out of the Tee Shirt that the captain had given her. Free Advertising, he had said ... and under his breath he said ... and that's a billboard ... but she heard him. She released the brake on the reel and let the fish run while she climbed up in the chair. She fastened the belt and put her feet on the footboard ... Damn ... too long. This was set up for her father and he was a good foot taller.
How to adjust? Oh ... the levers. Back out of the chair and adjust the foot ... climb back up. Set the pole in the chair socket and strap the padded chain around the lower part. One last try...
"DADDY!!! FISH ON!!!"
Nope ... she tightened the brake, leaned forward and jerked back hard. "Holy Shit!"
What ever she had on was heavy and strong. Lean forward ... reel ... PULL ... over and over ... All those years in the weight room ... all that running ... lean forward, reel, pull.
Maybe 20 minutes later she could feel the fish give up. She started reeling ... a couple more last gasps and the fish quit.
The watch ... the strap had dissolved and the watch was beginning to enter the intestine. The sturgeon realized there was some kind of blockage and strained to force it out.
The stem depressed.
Right in front of his nose was another one of those marvelous fish.
"Whoa!" cried Andrea. The pole bent nearly double. "Daddy!!!"
"What?" He was right behind her.
"What ever I had on is gone ... there's something much bigger ... on ... my ... line."
The sturgeon was the king in this sea. It was almost a case of What the fuck is that? Besides ... the blockage in his intestine was much more of a problem. The pull of the line in the tasty fish he just ate was a minuscule bother compared to the pain in his ass.
"It is very heavy ... what ever it is but it's coming up." She kept reeling ... the line wasn't slack ... there was still an enormous weight but it seemed to be cooperating. The captain grabbed the fish hook ... Daddy made sure there was film in the camera.
The Most Right Reverend Albert Koenigsknecht, started shooting pictures as soon as the wire leader appeared. The head broke surface ... three feet broad ... the captain froze.
"I don't know what that is ... but it's not coming in my boat."
The feelers dangling from the chin made the fish look like an other world octopus. More and more of the huge body was exposed. The Most Right Reverend Albert Koenigsknecht, DD, took picture after picture. Those pictures were the only evidence anyone had for nearly one hundred years.
The fish writhed in pain ... it was almost out ... almost ... out ... almost ... AHHHH. He slapped at it with his tail ... The watch rose out of the water the fish slapped it again and the watch landed in Andrea's lap. The huge fish ... all eighteen feet and four thousand four hundred pounds made one more wiggle ... snapped the leader and submerged.
"Look, Daddy ... it's still ticking."