Ronnie was older than Shane, but one afternoon in the school parking lot Shane saw him hop into a jacked-up Chevy that had fishing rods hanging over the tailgate. The next day Shane passed him in the hallway between classes and, despite the age difference, worked up the nerve to start a conversation.
"Hey man, that’s a pretty sweet truck you got," said Shane.
"Thanks," said Ronnie. "She ain’t new, but she’s four-wheel drive."
"You like to fish?" asked Shane.
"Do pigs like slop?" countered Ronnie with a smirk. "Caught a five-pounder yesterday. You?"
"Heck yeah. But I can’t drive yet so I gotta wait on my dad. And he works a bunch."
"Well, let’s go after school today," said Ronnie. "My grandparents have a few ponds."
"Cool! But I’ll have to ride the bus home and get my stuff," Shane explained.
"Forget the bus," said Ronnie. "I’ll run you home and then we’ll head out!"
That evening the boys caught nine catfish and two crappies. They talked about trucks, fishing knots, bird dogs, deer hunting, knives, guns and everything else boys love. By the time Ronnie dropped off Shane at his house, the two had become fast friends.
The boys fished together the rest of the school year and into summer. Two or three times a week Ronnie would pick up Shane and drive to his granddad’s farm, where they’d fish till dark.
One day before they got out of town, Ronnie pulled into a gas station.
"Got any cash on you, Shane-o?" he asked.
"Sorry man," said Shane, embarrassed. "Spent my entire allowance already."
"Yeah," said Ronnie. "I had to buy tires, and I’m short, too. Hopefully I can dig up enough jingle to get us there and back.”
As Ronnie pumped gas, Shane ran inside to use the bathroom. When he came out he was holding a Coke.
"Dude!" said Ronnie. "Thought you were fresh out!"
"Oh, I found 50 cents in my vest," said Shane. "Here, have a pull."
"Don’t worry about it man," replied Ronnie.
The two fished a couple more times that summer, but Shane didn’t hear from Ronnie nearly as much. He couldn’t understand why. They’d sure had fun fishing together.
"Haven’t seen ol’ Ronnie in a while," said Shane’s father one evening at dinner. "He still around?"
"It’s kinda weird, Dad," said Shane. "We talk some, but I don’t know if he’s mad at me or what. He hasn’t offered to take me fishing in a while.”
And then Shane told his father about that time at the gas station.
"Shane, let me tell you something about huntin’ and fishin’ buddies," said his father. "Buddies are buddies because they offer the other something. It’s got to be a give-and-take, or else it’s like fishing with your girlfriend."
"Fishing with your girlfriend?" asked Shane, puzzled.
"Yeah. You do all the work and the girlfriend just fishes."
"Well, what am I supposed to do?" asked Shane. "I don’t have a driver’s license, and I don’t have any money. So how would I pay for stuff?"
"Well son, offer things you can do. Pack both of you a lunch before you go. Clean the fish. Or, best yet, scout a new place. A fishin’ buddy’s gotta offer something.
"I tell you what, son," Shane’s dad continued. "I’ll loan you 20 bucks, but you come up with a place to fish. Try Mrs. Smith’s or maybe that watershed behind the church. You offer to buy Ronnie’s gas and give up one of your spots, and tell me what happens."
A few minutes later, Shane dialed Ronnie.
"I’ve hit a jackpot and have some gas money," said Shane, "if you want to go fishin’."
"Oh man," said Ronnie, "it ain’t that, it’s just that I gotta mow the—"
"And I also got a pond we should try," Shane blurted. "I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but it’s loaded with bass."
"Well heck!" said Ronnie. "I guess I can mow the yard tomorrow evening. How about I pick you up in the morning?"
"You bet your bass!" said Shane.
The two boys became best fishin’ buddies again, and Shane would never forget what that meant.