Willard (Bill) Paul

The morning after asking Mary to marry me I called my older sister to tell her my good news. We said our hellos and then I blurted, “Pat, guess what!” Without waiting for her to respond, I continued, “I’m getting married.” She had to know all about Mary. Somewhere along the line Pat asked, “How long have you known her?”


“Six weeks.”


“That’s awful fast, don’t you think?”


“No, not really,” I retorted. Dad and Mom were already married at six weeks.”


After calling my parents and others the next step was to meet Mary’s dad and step-mother. Mary arranged for us to get together a few days later. We would have dinner together. This is going to be



Byron and Lillian Whited

Mary's Father and Step-Mother

 as much fun as going to the dentist, I thought.


The meeting went well — certainly better than I had anticipated. Following the necessary introductions Mary told her father we were getting married. Her dad turned to me and asked, “Can you fish?”


Can I fish? I knew what fish looked like. I had dangled my pole over the pond at Cobbs Hill, a turning basin on the Erie Canal many years ago. I had also cast my line from the half-mile-long pier at Ontario Beach Park. Both of these places were in Rochester, NY many miles and many years away.


Can I fish? To tell the truth, I really didn’t like fishing. I didn’t then and I still don’t. It’s not my idea of fun. I do not find it relaxing. Well, I do like trout fishing. But I didn’t then. I do not like going through the preparations of getting everything ready. And much more distasteful is cleaning up and putting everything away. All those efforts I made and all the energy I expended as a child trying to hook a fish on my line ended up with exactly zero fish being caught.


Can I fish? I knew Mary’s dad loved to fish. She had told me that. Would his liking and approval of me hinge on that one particular question? Can I fish? Could I fudge on my answer?







Can I fish? I knew what a hook was. I knew what a treble hook was. I knew what sinkers were and had even made some. I even knew how to tie  the necessary knots. But fish? Oh, yes, I could fish. On one occasion I had helped some young children catch whitefish on a safety pin. We pulled six in in rapid succession from the oily waters of the Thames River in New London, Connecticut. But isn’t that like saying I can play the trumpet because I played one note?


“No, sir,” I finally admitted, “but I can learn.”


“You’ll do,” my future father-in-law intoned. And that was that.




Copyright 2015, 2016, 2017 Willard Paul All Rights Reserved