Fishing with Ray

A tale submitted for Ray's 1999 retirement dinner

I have to begin by saying that Brother Tanz and I promised Ray the day this story happened that we would never say a word about it to anyone. That very evening, still a little shaken by what we'd seen earlier in the day and encouraged to unload our burden of silence by the splendid white russians featured at one of the house's famous "Days" parties, we broke our promise. We had to avoid Ray for a while after that, of course, but he let us live. I haven't told this story to too many people since then (fewer than a hundred, I'm sure), so I'm a little concerned Ray might get upset again as it enters the official record.

But I'll take the risk, so here it is:

Tanz and I planned to go fishing one day, and we invited Ray to join us. Ray said OK, so we picked him up at his house around five or six one chilly morning ["sh**, motherf*****, it's cold, no sleep, I can't believe I'm doing this with you guys, sh**, f***, ..."] and drove off, in my black 1972 Olds Cutlass, to the far side of Cayuga Lake. 

When we got to a likely fishing spot, we took out our rods and set up the rigs. Tanz and I were both a little surprised at how small Ray's rod was considering how big he is. No matter; I wasn't going to tell him, and neither was Tanz.

Tanz and I then started casting our lines — way, way out there — and we began to work the red devil lures we were using, waiting eagerly for that strike. Ray had a different approach. His line was only a few feet from the dock and it's central feature was a red-and-white, plastic bobber (float) about the size of a Florida grapefruit.

As it happens, what felt like a falling piano suddenly tugged at my line and, in the distance, a huge fish jumped out of the water. Stunned, I began reeling in the line as fast as I could — like a madman — and then the line snapped, and the fish was gone. "Lake trout...", said Tanz. I borrowed a few words from Ray's vocabulary to express my deep disappointment. What a lost opportunity. I couldn't believe it. Sonofa-….

I eventually composed myself and set up a new rig. One hour passed. Then two. But none of us was having any luck. Ray had a little trouble casting beyond a few feet and kept retrying, causing a lot of splashing with that oversized bobber and making lots of noise with his opinions of the process. So much so that he eventually attracted a large shaggy dog from somewhere to come over and join the fun.

Now, having a dog around while trying to fish seemed harmless enough to Tanz and me at first. Maybe Ray understood differently. He was quick to swear at the dog ["mother******!"] and make threatening faces at him and wave his stick-sized rod in the air to try to chase him away. Funnily enough, the dog just got more and more excited and wanted to play with Ray all the more. 

I don't know about Tanz at this point, but I was getting a little concerned that all this commotion sure wasn't helping our situation of trying to be stealthy and actually catch some fish. And, as if things weren't already noisy enough, our friend the dog decided to jump into the lake and started thrashing about, all excited, wagging his hairy tail back and forth, spraying water everywhere and paddling like crazy…

… the short distance towards Ray's bobber. And then, stupefied, we watched this dog bite down on that bobber and get thoroughly tangled up in the line — which was connected to the rod — which was still in Ray's hands — as Ray yanked back as hard as he could. Urging himself on with some world-class swearing at this point, Ray tugged and tugged to try to lose the dog and keep himself from being pulled into the water.

Now was a good time to get concerned. Tanz and I ran over to Ray and tried pulling the line in to get the dog close enough to calm him down so we could free him from his entanglement. But the dog wasn't cooperating. And Ray clearly was not going to let go of his rod. So Tanz and I cut the line, and the dog swam to shore and ran off - with the line wrapped around him a couple of times and the hook buried somewhere in his thick, wet fur. And then it got real quiet.

We called it a day after that. We told Ray we'd never seen anyone catch a dog while fishing for a fish before. It was quite a sight if you can imagine it — the few moments that Ray Melton, Lambda Chi Alpha's Chef Extraordinaire, was standing on that dock, struggling and hollering, with his rod bent all the way over, and a wild shaggy dog at the end of the line, with that bobber in its mouth, snapping and kicking and barking - and Tanz and me, standing there, looking on in disbelief and wonder: what a moment!

We teased Ray a bit on the way back, but he was still pissed at the dog. It was in the car that he told us not to tell anyone what happened. But I want to thank you, Ray, for giving Tanz and me that moment. You're no ordinary fisherman, and you're no ordinary chef.

I wish you the very best of everything in your retirement, Ray, as does Tanz, I'm sure.

Ramsey Rifai