“Mr. Ants in My Pants”


It was 1959, my 11th Christmas, and what I wanted more than anything was the Zebco model 33 spinning reel and matching rod – and I drove my parents’ crazy talking about it. So, on Christmas day when I opened the package and saw the new rod and reel, I’m sure my parents thought, “Now they could take a rest.”

But it wasn’t to be. Every day I’d take the rod and reel outside and practice casting – and every night I’d ask my dad the same question, “Just when are we gonna go fishing”?

Well, I must have worn him down because one cold January day we packed up with some friends and went fishing. It was a very cold day. We all had multiple layers of clothing to keep us warm, but all I could think about was fishing with my new Zebco 33 rod and reel.

We found ourselves fishing in a private pond supposedly full of trophy largemouth bass – but we never saw one. We went all day long with not so much as a bite. As the short winter day quickly came to a close it seemed we were going to be skunked. Then, I caught one – about three inches long. The guys began to tease me “That wasn’t a fish – it was bait”.

Then I got a wacky idea. I’d use this fish for bait; so, I casted it out. But in my excitement, instead of casting straight out, my cast went straight up into the air. As I watched for it to come down, finally it hit in the pond about 30 feet out. But there was a problem – the line had looped itself over a tree limb hanging out over the pond.

“Oh man, what was I gonna do now”?

As I studied the problem, the line over the limb, my bait dangling barely in the water, all of a sudden there was a huge splash and my bait disappeared.

“Whoa”, my brother said, “You’ve got a big one – hold on”.

The fishing line continued to peel off and the tree limb bent further and further.    Finally, after a great fight, the tree limb won, and the fish finally gave up as it laid on the surface of that icy cold pond. That’s when I got my first look; it was a largemouth bass, the biggest I had ever seen. For a moment I was so excited. “Hey, look what I caught”.

But then my heart sunk. The fish was far out in the pond with no way to get it in. Now I was sick. So, without even taking the time to think it through, I went for the edge of the pond and jumped in – bad idea. It was deep, freezing cold, and very scary.

“Heeeyyy, somebody get me outta here!!!”

So, there I was sitting on the edge of the pond, soaking wet, freezing cold, and staring at my trophy bass – that would never be mine.

As I worked to hold back my tears of frustration, I saw my dad. Without a word said, he was taking off his boots – then his coat, and then, one by one, his many layers of warm clothing. Just what was he doing? Then it dawned on me. He was going to go into the freezing water to get my fish.

By now he was down to just his boxer shorts and somebody said, “Hey look, He’s got ants in his pants!”.

Huh? I looked over and noticed on his boxers was printed a trail of ants walking up into his shorts with the words underneath, “Help, I’ve got ants in my pants”.

Everybody busted out laughing, and I’m sure my dad wished he’d never put those boxers on, but he didn’t say a word. He made his way over to the edge of the pond and jumped in. A chill ran down my spine. It was freezing cold and he was swimming in the pond, going to the middle, to get my fish. It scared me.

After what seemed like a long time, my dad, using a deliberate smooth side stroke, made it to the fish. By now the fish had gotten his second wind and the fight started all over again – this time between the fish and my dad. But if that fish thought he’d get away, he didn’t know my dad. They both struggled and twisted in that freezing water until finally my dad won the battle – he had the fish with a thumb in his mouth, and two fingers in his gill.

As he made his swim back to shore, it must have been a comical sight, but I never noticed. All I could see was my trophy largemouth bass getting closer and closer.

Then, finally, my dad was back, and we all pulled him out. That big bass was pitched onto the ground, and I ran over and just stared for a long time. What a beautiful and magnificent fish, caught, well, at least hooked, on my new Zebco 33. Then, I became embarrassed, even ashamed that I’d made such a big deal over that fish causing my dad to be so cold.

As he fumbled to get his clothes back on, everybody still laughing at his comical “ants in his pants” underwear, I walked over to him. I didn’t know just what to say. “Thank you” sure didn’t seem like enough, and it wasn’t, but at that time I didn’t know what else to say.

Sadly, it has been years now since my dad passed away. I think about him a lot. About all the good times we had, and his deep and abiding love for me. But, when I think about those times, I can still see in my mind’s eye, that scene, that picture of my dad jumping into that pond wearing that underwear, “Help! I’ve Got Ants In My Pants!”

Thanks so much Dad – I LOVE YOU.



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