BOSSIER CITY, La. — Robin Howell alternately peered over the crowd on her tiptoes at her waiting husband and back at the pair of tow-headed boys keeping busy and warm with their grandparents.
Amid nervous crowd chatter as names of Bassmaster Classic competitors were clicked off, she appeared calm with her travel mug of coffee.
One of the last anglers scheduled to launch, Randy Howell stayed busy chatting with fellow anglers and attending to various details on his boat while waiting for the signal.
"I think he feels pretty good," Robin Howell said. "He's calm, but at the same time he's ready to get going. He says he eliminated a lot of water on Wednesday and pretty much made the decision not to lock through. I think he'll be in there with a lot of other people."
On location since last Wednesday, the immediate Howell clan has been homesteading at the Red River South Marina & Resort campground, where their boys — Laker, 7, and Oakley, 3 — have managed to make things interesting on their extended stay.
"We've had a pretty eventful week so far," Robin Howell said. "We've made a few trips to the emergency room so far. Oakley had an asthma attack the day we got here and then the other day put a Mardi Gras bead in his ear.
"Nobody could get it out — the E.R., urgent care, an ear, nose and throat guy here — so we're going back to Alabama with it."
"It's a pretty gold one. You can still see it," she said, laughing. "I feel like I know every doctor in Shreveport."
Robin's parents, Charles and Tricia Whitehead of Scotland Neck, N.C., arrived on two days ago, to lend support.
"We're excited for him," Tricia Whitehead said of her son-in-law as she took a shift holding Oakley. "He's ready just like any of the other anglers out there. He'll do well out there."
Other than that, Robin Howell said the family has been trying to keep everything as normal as possible in and around practice.
"The boys brought their bikes and we've gone to the gym in town a few times. We cooked out here, that kind of stuff," she said, well-fortified in the 30-degree chill with a Carolina blue Under Armour layer — with matching Nikes — under a second sweatshirt.
As Randy Howell's intro neared, the family readied. Robin blew him a kiss and Grandpa Charles gave in to Laker's request to get a better view.
"I'll do it one more time, OK?" Whitehead said. He lifted the boy, and 30 seconds later, Laker got to give his dad an excited wave and exclamation.
As Steve Kennedy's name was ticked off — he was last to depart by random draw — Robin and company hustled back to the camper, stopping briefly to chat with BASS personnel before picking up the pace ahead of her parents, with young Oakley in her arms and the sunrise in her face.
"He's shivering!" Robin said.