The Flying Fish

The Flying Fish

From Chicken Soup for the Kid's Soul

The Flying Fish

Your big opportunity might be right where you are now.

Napoleon Hill

One summer my family and I went on a vacation to Sunriver, Oregon. We rented a cabin and a small powerboat at Big Lava Lake and were ready for a week of serious fishing. Our first morning, we packed a big picnic lunch, fishing poles and Mom’s camera. She loves to take a picture of the proud person with his or her catch, a rare thing in our family of unlucky anglers. We went down to the lake with high hopes of catching “the big one.” Little did we know just how big our catch that day would be.

It was a really bright, sunny morning. The sky was pale blue and full of big, fluffy white clouds. The blue-green lake sat in the middle of the surrounding mountains like a spoonful of gravy in the middle of your mashed potatoes. The entire area, including the lakeshore, was covered with huge, dark green pine trees, which filled the air with their beautiful smell. You could see their giant reflections on the quiet surface of the lake.

We motored as far away from the other boats on the lake as possible. After anchoring the boat, we set up our fishing lines in five different directions. Then we opened up our picnic lunch, passed out sandwiches and started to relax.

“There’s nothing like a peaceful day on the lake,” Dad said, enjoying his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “Your Uncle Pat would say, ‘The family that fishes together, stays together.’ What a beautiful day.”

After a while, we realized that the reason our end of the lake was so uncrowded was because our end had no fish.

“Hey, how come we always seem to pick the side of the lake where we’re never gonna catch anything?” my brother Ethan asked.

“Just be patient. You guys will catch something. You always do,” Mom said, trying to encourage us.

“Something big enough for a family of five would be nice,” grinned my brother Colin. “I think I’ll just relax while I wait for those big fish down there, just lining up for my bait . . .”

The loud buzz of a small plane overhead interrupted him. Above the engine noise, Mom cried out, “Look, everybody. This will be so exciting. It’s a pontoon plane that’s about to land on the water!”

“No, it’s not, Trish. That pilot’s in trouble!” Dad shouted.

Dad was right. The plane that Mom thought was able to float on the water was actually a plane that needed to make an emergency landing, and the pilot had chosen our lake to land on! Within seconds, the plane crashed on its belly, as though it were doing a giant cannonball. Splash!!! Huge waves filled the lake. The nose of the plane was pointing downward—the plane was sinking fast!

Dad, who knew right from the beginning that the pilot was in trouble, immediately tried to start the motor of our boat. The boat jerked forward, throwing our bits of sandwiches on the deck and tangling up all of our fishing lines. Food and fishhooks were flying everywhere! We were hurrying and scurrying as our parents called out commands and our family charged into action. At first, it was like a comedy movie. But my parents were great. They kept their cool. “Everybody stay calm! Don’t stand up! Pull in your lines! You guys sit down! Grab the extra life jacket! Let’s go! Let’s hustle! This is an emergency!”

Dad gave the engine full throttle, and its ten horsepower puttered as fast as it could. We only had to go a few hundred feet, but it seemed to take forever. We could see the pilot—a gray-haired man wearing a checkered shirt, blue jeans and cowboy boots. He had climbed onto the plane’s wing while the nose was sinking and the tail was pointing straight up. He was standing on the wing, holding an old brown suitcase, waiting for us to come to his rescue. He seemed so calm, just standing there, like he was waiting outside at a bus stop.

When we finally reached the pilot, Mom grabbed a life jacket and threw it out onto the water for him. By that time, the plane had sunk. The pilot was clinging for dear life to his suitcase, which he seemed to be using as a life preserver. He seemed to have difficulty swimming and couldn’t get to the life jacket that was only five feet away from him. After several tries, Mom and Dad hoisted the pilot by the belt loops of his jeans onto our boat. He was safely on board.

“Oh my gosh. . . . Thank you, thank you!” The pilot’s face was frozen with fear. “My goodness, thank you. . . . My name’s Wave, Wave Young. . . . I’ve been flying for over forty years . . . ” he stammered. He seemed out of breath and really shaken up.

“Hi, I’m Mike; this is my wife, Trish; our children, Megan, Ethan and Colin,” Dad said, trying to put the pilot at ease.

“I knew I had engine trouble and knew I was coming down, so I tried to land on the lake. A couple years back, another pilot landed in those beautiful pines and started a big forest fire. I didn’t want to do the same!” Wave’s voice was shaking.

“Did you say your name is Wave? I can see why. . . . ”

“Colin!” I whispered under my breath. We all laughed a little nervously, even Wave.

“Well, thank God you people were here. I don’t know what I’d have done without you. I was in such shock I couldn’t even swim! Thank God you were here to rescue me.”

Once he was comfortably seated on the boat, we rushed the pilot ashore to let the waiting paramedics and other emergency crews take care of him. Even though we still had rental time left on the boat, we turned it in early because, as Dad said, “I think we’re done fishing for the day.” We said our good-byes, and as a crowd formed, we decided to sneak out of the way, get into our car and head back for the day.

“I’m really proud of you kids. You were terrific. You handled that emergency really well,” Dad told us, his face beaming with pride.

“What do you think you guys learned from all this today?” Mom asked as she turned back toward us in the car.

“We were on the wrong side of the lake again for fishing, but this time it turned out good,” Ethan answered shyly.

“We learned how important it is to be ready for emergencies,” Colin added.

“And you never know when God will use you to help someone,” I said to my family. “We were there for a reason. We were the only people on that side of the lake. The pilot was so scared that he couldn’t swim. If we had gone to the other side of the lake, we couldn’t have reached him in time to save him.”

That night we saw video coverage of Wave’s plane crash on the evening news. Amazingly, Mom had also snapped an awesome picture of Wave standing on the wing of his plane, right before we reached him. She gave the photo to the local paper, which printed it the next morning on the front page.

We still need to frame that photo of “the big one.” We could hang it somewhere in our home to keep our memory of that day alive. And maybe we wouldn’t have a picture of a fish, but we would have a picture of a pilot we fished out—and that would sure be the biggest “flying fish” anyone had ever seen!

Megan Niedermeyer, age 12
with Killeen Anderson

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