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Texas | Columns | "Texas Tales"

Fishing Hogg

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox
In the spring, many a young man’s fancy turns to…fishing.

Back in the spring of 1891, even Gov. James S. Hogg could not control an urge almost as strong as that other longing that often evidences itself when the wild flowers start blooming. Only three months after being sworn in as Texas’ 20th governor, as soon as he could take a break from his executive duties the 40-year-old governor boarded the International and Great Northern train in Austin and headed for his native East Texas.

He would arrive to find the dogwoods blooming and the fish biting.

When the governor reached Tyler, his friend and fellow attorney Henry B. Marsh joined him along with R.N. Stafford, an official with the I&GN. From Tyler they traveled to Mineola, where the party was met by J.A. Stinson, Hogg’s father in law. Mineola resident and Hogg friend D.H. Brace soon joined the party.

They spent the night at Stinson’s residence about 12 miles from town and as the Galveston Daily News later reported, “sallied forth early in the morning, making their way to some of the lakes for which Wood County is so famous, where they spent the day angling.”

Truth be told, those “lakes” were only man-made ponds, but they did have fish in them.

Using minnows for bait, the 300-pound governor caught seven “trout” weighing from one-and-a-half to four pounds each. Since trout is not indigenous to Texas, Hogg must have been catching bass.

Governor Hogg would occasionally load his hook with a common fish worm, spit on the bait for good luck, and angle awhile for a white perch, just as he did years ago on these same lakes when he was a farmer boy in this county,” the newspaper continued.

After one back-to-childhood day in the outdoors, it was back to affairs of state for the governor. He left Mineola May 27 and rode the I&GN back to Austin.

Hogg started his career as a newspaperman before studying law. His legal practice led to his first public service as a justice of the peace. After spending some time in the Legislature, he served as attorney general before being elected governor.

In Hogg’s day, newspapers frequently mixed a little poetry with their prose. Six years after Hogg took that fishing trip to his old stomping grounds in Wood County, the San Antonio Light devoted nearly a column of type to a succession of paragraphs and poems it called “Motley Musings.”

One of those musings had to do with fishing. Observing that “almost every form of rest seems to involve considerable labor,” the author noted that fishing took the least work.

“Given the worm and the apparatus and a man may sit and read and sleep until evening. The worm may grow pulpy, the fish may play hide-and-seek round the innocent hook, the inquisitive spider may explore the intricacies of his countenance; but peace shall persist, until the evening,” the writer went on.

Well-rested but without any fish to take home, at that point the angler had to move into action. There were stories to invent about the one that got away and the tiring search for “the secluded fish-stall to line his empty basket.

The author followed those observations with three stanzas of doggerel, the last of which is this:
  “Sing hey! for the yarns so fearless and free.
And the lies that all fishermen spout;
For we know that the fish that remain in the sea [or pond or lake or river]
Are greater than ever came out.”
 

But as Gov. Hogg demonstrated, it never hurts to spit on your hook.


© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" April 1, 2010 column


Related Stories:
Fishing in Navarro County
Fishing in Port Aransas
Fishing in Port Isabel
Fishing Soldier

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