A week at Falls Creek is a summer staple for Oklahoma teenagers. Over the course of my junior high and high school years I made several trips with Crestwood Baptist Church, where the Baker family attended.
Crestwood Baptist owned a cabin at the head of the trail to the Devil’s Bathtub. This meant that there was a steady flow of foot traffic in front of the cabin all afternoon, as campers, sponsors, and camp staff enjoyed their recreational time. Behind the cabin sat a large pond that was great for fishing on hot Oklahoma summer afternoons.
We always brought fishing gear since the pond was only several yards behind the cabin. One afternoon, Uncle Steve said, “Let’s go fishing.” I noticed he had grabbed a fairly small fishing rod, but I was not particularly surprised since he usually caught small fish anyway. I was thrown off, though, when he headed for the front door instead of the back. We sat on the front porch, where Steve pulled out a one dollar bill from his wallet and tied it to the end of the fishing line. We set the bait out in the middle of the path and waited. As someone approached and bent over to pick up the money, Steve would twitch the rod, pulling the bill just out of reach. Then he would laugh and explain, “We’re fishing for men!” (Matt. 4:19).
The pond sat directly behind the cabin about 25 yards. Trees lined the bank, which had an abrupt three-foot drop down to the water. The trees provided relieving shade, but sometimes got in the way of casting and maneuvering. Once, as Steve fished down the bank from me, I cast up the bank in the opposite direction. The plan was to pull my lure parallel to the bank, about 8 feet out into the water. Unfortunately, one of those trees got in the way and my lure sailed straight into its branches.
“Won’t catch many fish in the trees,” remarked Steve.
“Uh-huh,” I replied, trying to tug the lure free.
I decided I would have to change my angle of attack, so I tried to pick my way up the bank. There were several trees between myself and the stuck lure, some of which were perched precariously on the edge of the bank. At each one, I had to reach around the trunk and pass the rod around the tree before continuing up the bank.
One of these trees was quite flimsy, sat right on the edge, and grew outward over the water. I stretched to reach around it, and my foot slipped. I tried to catch myself on the tree, but it would not take my weight. As I tumbled to the water, my foot caught in the roots.
I splashed into the water, hanging upside down from my foot, clinging to my fishing pole for no reason other than obstinacy. My life flashed briefly before my eyes, for I was upside down and underwater from my head to my thighs. I looked up and saw the surface of the water, the tree above, and the sky beyond. I pulled myself up high enough to get my head and shoulders above water, but not high enough to see over the edge of the bank. I held myself there, thinking Steve would be waiting there with his hand out to pull me up. Instead, I heard laughing coming from where Steve had been sitting. He hadn’t moved. He later explained, “I just thought, ‘He’s an athletic boy, he’ll get himself up.’”
Growing impatient, I yelled, “Some help, please?”
“Oh,” Steve hurried over. He reached out and pulled me up, trying to hide his laughter. “We might as well quit now that you scared all the fish off.”
Being a Robinson himself, Steve couldn’t wait to tell the story to my mom when we got back from camp at the end of the week. He still enjoys telling the story, and always introduces it with the question, “Have you ever seen that movie about ‘Saving Ryan’s Privates?’”