I love to fish. There is nothing more relaxing than being high in the mountains breathing in that fresh cool air.

My favorite fishing spot is a lake near a little four-building, one-gas-station town. It's located high in the mountains of California and three hours from my home. Each year as soon as the winter snow melts, I load my fishing gear into the station wagon and head out for a day of trout fishing.

Many years ago during one of my trips, I crossed a small dam that was built to create a beautiful mountain lake. I pulled over to the side and began to unload my fishing poles. Suddenly, I heard a gunshot ring out, whistling as it flew over my head. I was quite surprised to hear someone shooting a firearm, as this was a restricted area and no hunting was allowed. Besides, in all my years fishing the area, it was the very first time I had ever come across anyone, except a few logging trucks passing by.

I ducked down behind my automobile and looked around to see if I could spot anyone.

"Bam! Bam!" Another two shots were fired. "Zing!" The bullets rang as they hit against the large boulders. Still I could see no one. Then four young men came walking down the dirt road. One raised his rifle and fired off a shot. A cat ran across the road and into the bushes.

"Hey! What the heck are you doing?" I asked as they approached me. "This is not a hunting area."

"Just shooting at a darn cat," said the larger boy. Slowly, another of the boys raised his rifle and fired at the cat hidden behind the large rock.

"Come on, guys. Why kill something for no reason?" I asked.

"What's the cat worth to you?" asked one of the boys.

"How about $10?" I said.

"Bam!" Another shot in the cat's direction.

"How about $100? That's what it's going to take," said the largest of the four boys as he took another shot in the cat's direction.

For weeks, I had been saving money to buy some type of used boat and motor, so I would not have to fish from the bank. I had about $110 in my wallet and about $20 in my pocket.

"Okay, I'll give you $100 for the cat. Just do not kill it. Please!" I begged.

I pulled out my wallet, took the money from the secret compartment and laid it on the hood of the brown station wagon. The four boys walked up and looked at the money. Then a very serious look came over their faces. The older boy reached down, picked up the money and put it in his jean pocket. As the boys disappeared around the bend of the road, I went to look for the cat. Several minutes later, the boys drove past me in an old pick-up truck and headed back up the mountain toward town.

It took over an hour to get the cat to trust me enough that I could catch it. I petted her for five minutes or so, put her in my vehicle along with my fishing gear and drove back up the mountain to the little store. I asked the owner if he knew if anyone in the area had lost a cat. He walked out to my vehicle to look at the cat and then told me that the old man who lived next door had lost his cat about a week ago. The old man was very upset, because it was his wife's cat and she had died several months before. The cat was all he had left.

The owner of the store went to the telephone and made a call. When he returned, he poured us a hot cup of coffee and we talked for about 10 minutes. I heard the door open behind me and turned around. A gray-haired man all hunched over, who looked to be at least 100 years old, slowly made his way to the corner. He sat down in a rocking chair, but did not say a word.

"It's his cat," the owner told me.

The old man tapped his walking cane on the floor three times. The owner came from behind the counter and walked over to where the old man was sitting. The old man whispered something to the owner and then handed him a piece of paper. The owner took him by the arm, helped him up and they walked outside to the station wagon.

I watched through the window as the old man reached in, picked up the cat and hugged it to his chest. Then they walked to a mobile home next door and went inside. Several minutes later, the storeowner came back.

"I had best be hitting the road," I told him.

"There's a reward for finding the cat," the storeowner said.

"I don't want a reward." I replied, but the man held out a piece of paper and I took it from him.

I opened the folded paper and saw that it was a personal check made out to "Cash" written for $2,500. I raised my eyebrows in surprise.

"Don't worry, that check's no good. Old man's been off his rocker since his wife died," said the storeowner.

I folded the check back in half and tossed it on the counter so he could throw it away. Then something inside me told me to keep the check. I picked it back up and placed it in my shirt pocket.

"I guess only an idiot would think that a cat is worth paying that kind of money for," he said as he laughed aloud.

"Yeah, I know. Only an idiot would think like that." I laughed too. I walked out the door, got into my station wagon and drove home. The boys and their guns had made me decide to postpone my fishing trip, until another time.

When I arrived home, my wife handed me a note a friend had dropped by. The note said he knew a man that would sell his boat on a monthly payment plan. I telephoned him and after discussing the boat, I asked how much he wanted for it.

"Twenty-five hundred dollars, $3,000, if I have to finance it for you," he said.

I told him that I would call him back in about an hour. I took the check out of my pocket and telephoned my bank. I told them the story and asked if there was a way to find out if the check was good. I gave them the numbers off the check and waited for them to call me back. Ten minutes later, the call came in.

"Mr. Kiser, the check is good," said the woman laughing.

"What's so funny?" I asked her.

"Well, when I called the bank to ask if the check would clear, the gentleman there laughed. He told me that the old man who gave it to you is extremely wealthy. He owns most of the logging companies that operate in that area of California."

And, that wasn't the only surprise. That evening, I drove over to see the boat, motor and trailer that were for sale. When he removed the tarp, the boat was like new. It was a great deal; I knew I wanted it. However, when I saw the boat's name, I decided - right there and then - that it was meant to be. Painted on the back of the boat were the words, "The Cat Man."