Fish grow fast in summer
The feeling that came with getting out of elementary school has no comparable emotion when you’re an adult. At past 60, I’ve lost some enthusiasm for summer. The older I get, the more the heat saps the energy out of me. As a younger man, I could stay out on the rifle range all day, with practically no shade, and lie down in a heavy leather coat to shoot while the sun cooked the full length of my body. Now, I suffer in the shade with a light shirt and shorts.
That last day of school was so sweet that I don’t even remember thinking about how hot it was. I noticed the heat when I was hoeing tobacco or chopping the grass out of the field of corn that we put in the corn crib in the fall to feed old Dolly, the mule. The heat made me suffer when I mowed the yard, but when I was doing fun stuff, shooting my BB gun, having corn cob fights in the barn loft, or playing Tarzan in the woods, (I’ve got some really good stories about swinging on grape vines) I never even noticed that it was hot.
There were various cooling off activities that we engaged in. Most of them are not even imaginable by most modern kids. Some, like how Granddad would put a bunch of us kids in the back of his ’60 Ford pickup and take us for a ride, would get you arrested. I guess we were pretty unsophisticated to get excited about riding around in the back of a pickup and I know it was dangerous, but it was great fun at the time.
Going swimming in the creek was fun, too. The only bad part was when the swimming was over and you had to get back in the car with muddy feet from walking up the bank. The first time I swam in a swimming pool, I thought it was wonderful to go through the swimming experience without dealing with the mud.
Of course, the best part of summer was the fishing. About every couple of weeks, Uncle Evander would come over to the house and “borrow” me to take me fishing. Sometimes, we just drove to someone’s farm pond, bumping along the little roads that ran through the tobacco fields, and fished for bass and bream. These trips happened in the late afternoon. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the summer difficulty that I am feeling nowadays must have affected Evander then since all those trips happened either early or late, never in the heat of the day.
My favorite of all summer activities was the night time catfishing trips. They involved multiple exciting activities, fishing, camping, and outdoor eating. The fishing part is obvious, the camping came from the fact that we fished on the side of the river and stayed out all night long. There were no tents or sleeping bags, just old quilts that would now probably bring about $300.00 in an antique store. The eating involved hot dogs cooked on a stick, Mama’s fried apple pies, and snacks like Vienna (pronounced VI-EE-NEE) sausages, potted meat, and rat cheese.
There was also live entertainment in the form of stories and discussions between Evander and the various friends that tagged along. One of my favorites was Bob Craft. Bob was a furniture salesman who traveled all over the country and had a million tales to tell. Bob was a sophisticated fellow, wearing clothes like Jungle Jim with flapped double shirt pockets. He sometimes wore a pith helmet. He smoked cigars that were handmade in Honduras and one cigar probably cost as much as a box of the Tampa Nuggets Evander smoked. He was a man of the world compared to the circles I moved in and though I heard many of his stories more than a time or twelve, they were always interesting. Sometimes, the weight of the bass varied a pound or two and the number of points on the buck increased or decreased depending on his mood, but the stories were good.
One particular evening, we had a pretty good crowd on the river bank. My friend from church, David Magee, his younger brother, Rick and their Dad, Bill showed up. David and Rick were both a little younger than me. On this night, Bob was elegantly loquacious telling all sorts of stories since he had an audience who hadn’t previously heard his material. In the process of telling a story about shooting wild chickens on a deer hunt, he nearly lost his Zebco to a huge catfish.
The fish turned out to be about as big a catfish as we had ever caught on one of these trips and there was a lot of conjecture about how much it might weigh. (The little hand held scales that everyone has now didn’t exist in those days) The fish started out with Bob’s guess of 25 pounds. It grew to 28 and then 30 before David, Rick, and Bill went home.
The next Saturday I was having breakfast with Bob and Evander at Wahoo’s Restaurant when Bill, his wife Shelby, David, and Rick walked in. Bob asked them to join us for breakfast and proceeded to tell Shelby the story of the big catfish he’d caught last week. By now, the fish was up to 38 pounds. Bob could tell a story and he tended to get loud, so several tables close to us asked questions after he reached the climatic end of the story.
All things have to come to an end, and eventually, that wonderful summer gave its last gasp and we returned to the sweaty, early part of the school year. On a late dove hunt in October, David and Bob met again. After the hunt, the dove breasts, wrapped in bacon, were roasting on the grill. David and I had succumbed to the temptation of eating hotdogs right off the grill with no bun or dressings and Bob was telling another story.
He was describing the sailfish he had recently landed in Mexico and how the sailfish is the fastest growing fish known to science, growing to maturity in just a few years. David, with a mouthful of Jesse Jones hotdog in his mouth, interrupted him by saying that he knew of a fish that grew faster.
Bob’s head snapped around wide eyed and surprised, “No,” Bob explained patiently, “a sailfish is the fastest growing fish. What fish grows faster?”
David looked serious, “Mr. Bob, that catfish you caught last June gained 13 pounds in less than a week!”
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. Larry is a five year old Fox Red Labrador retriever. Dick’s a member of the board of directors of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. If you’d like to have him and Larry speak to your group, they can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org