When I was about fifteen, I went to work at my uncle’s resort as a dock boy. I swabbed water, pumped gas, sold bait, and hung around. It didn’t take long before I learned that the one unshakeable conviction held by every tourist who visited the resort was that the dock boy knows where the fish are.
In fact, I didn’t like fishing. And that’s what I told people, but they wouldn’t believe it.
Most folks left it alone. Except for Jones. He was from Chicago. He drove a Caddy with fender skirts and showed up every year with a different woman. My aunt suggested those fender skirts were a sign of immorality, but we kept our doubts to ourselves.
Jones cornered me one morning on a dock. His wife, a blond that year, seemed to think it was funny when he lifted me by my flannel shirt and threatened to throw me in unless I let him in on my secret fishing spot.
So I told him. I pointed out a cabin and a sandbar and told him to lay down about thirty feet of line and use a shiner. He stuffed a five dollar bill in my shirt pocket, pulled the rope on his Johnson outboard, and roared off.
I had no idea where he would end up. And I’d sat in enough Sunday school to know that I’d committed some kind of sin. By the time his boat came back, I had the wages of sin in my hand, ready to give the money back. But as he pulled the boat into the dock, Jones held up a gar.
“How do you like the muskie?”
I gave up religion right there. I figured if I told him that muskie was a gar in front of this year’s wife he’d throw me in the lake for sure. I grabbed that gar, ran it up to the fish cleaning house, and had it filleted before he caught up to me to tell me he was going to have it mounted.
When he saw the fillets he puffed and ranted and did a little dance around the fish shack. Then he calmed down, stuffed another fiver into my shirt, picked up the fillets, and left, a happy man.
People say that honesty is its own reward—well, maybe. But there’s more money in the truth when folks won’t believe it.