January 18, 2021 - When I was Pastor of The First Baptist Church of Hemphill, Texas, a preacher-friend J.P. Owens called asking me to take him and a friend fishing in the newly constructed Toledo Bend Reservoir. I didn’t know his friend weighed over 300 pounds… but I knew three was too many for my little boat. To add to my problem, it started raining just before they drove up. The men were still determined to fish, so we drove to the lake and crawled into the little boat.
Neither the rain nor the small boat did anything to dampen the spirits of these fishing - crazed preachers. I slowed the motor down and idled into Houusen Bay. Suddenly… and unexpectedly… dark clouds rolled in and a strong wind blew us into the woods. J. P. shouted out, “Let’s go in… let’s go in!” “This lighting will kill us!” I knew we couldn’t return in the weather so we each grabbed a tree and held on.
When the weather finally passed, a large number of schooling bass popped up around the boat. “Cast in the schools!,” I hollered. “When they splash, cast right in the middle of them!” So there we sat… soaked and cold… in ankle-deep water… reeling in a fish with most every cast. It turned out that the weather wasn’t nearly as dangerous as three men fishing trying to fish from a 12 foot boat. On our way home we were wet, muddy and tired. We spotted a man in a chair on his front porch and asked if he wanted some fish. And with a slow, almost indistinguishable tone, he muttered, “Is they cleaned?” I didn’t answer the man… and none of us spoke a word as we drove away. Our unspoken answer to the man was unanimous.
I don’t remember who we gave our fish to that day, but I clearly remember who we didn’t give them to. It was the man on the front porch in the rocking chair… the man who never moved or even said ‘thank you.” It was the man with barely enough energy to ask…
… “Is they cleaned?”