that makes me mad. You just caused me to lose a whole stringer full
of nice fish", papa quipped as I squirmed around near the end of
a large log. That log was a big, dead tree trunk that had fallen
into the creek several years earlier. It reached way out into the
middle of the creek where fishing was usually fine. The log had
some large limbs on it we had to step over and around. Some of the
limbs were positioned just right for us to sit on while fishing.
It was a late autumn evening after I had ridden the school bus home
and papa had gotten off work in the Rodessa Oil Field. We were sitting
there on Frazier's Creek in one of his favorite fishing spots. We
were about twenty yards below the FM 125 Highway Bridge half a mile
west of the Rambo crossroads, in Cass County.
Only a few minutes earlier, papa and I had stopped his old 1939
Chevrolet pickup alongside the road from McLeod, Texas. We walked
out into a low lying, fertile area to dig some fishing worms. With
each turn of a shovelfull of moist, fertile soil, we found some
large and wiggly earthworms. Filling our bait can nearly full of
dirt and many worms, we had just what we needed for fish bait. Then
papa said, "That's it, we are about ready to go fishing." I was
excited! I really loved to catch those little sun-perch, brim and
goggle-eye fish; having them bob my cork, pulling on my line, flopping
and threshing in the water. It was lots of fun to go fishing with
I was only an 8 to 10 year old towhead, shirttail, barefoot country
kid and our fishing excursions were most always pleasant. Papa had
cut us some cane poles from the old canebrake a while back in the
summer. A canebrake is a bamboo patch where a bunch of small to
medium size canes grow. Stripping the branches and leaves off the
canes, he let them dry in the barn during the summer heat. After
drying, those green poles turn a beige color and become much, much
lighter. The larger and longer cane poles are the heaviest ones.
Papa usually chose a shorter, lighter one for me, the kid, to hold
out over the water, because a heavier pole will make your arm get
mighty tired after fishing for a while.
Papa had taken some fishing line, small fish hooks, sinkers and
red corks and rigged our poles just right for light fishing. He
also had a larger nylon cord about three or four feet long with
a short wire twisted on the end to use as a fish stringer. Each
time we caught a fish, we would run the cord through the fish's
gills and mouth to hold it on the stringer. The stringer of live
fish would then be allowed to dangle in the water, keeping them
alive and fresh.
On this occasion, papa was as far out on the end of the log as he
could get, fishing in the deeper water; his favorite spot. I was
right behind him, sitting on a limb and fishing off the sides of
the log in the "not so deep" water. Soon papa began catching fish
right and left. As fast as he could pull them in, put them on the
stringer and rebait his hook, he would catch another. None of the
fish were very large; no bigger than your hand. But they were lots
of fun to catch and the right size papa liked to clean and fry whole.
Since he was using the stringer so frequently, papa never bothered
to tie it to a limb. He only placed the cord conveniently under
his foot. That way he kept his foot on it until he soon caught another
fish to string. Doing that was easier and much faster for him. After
awhile, we had a good stringer full of fish, most of which papa
had caught. He was having lots of fun and I know he must have had
visions of a big skillet full of fresh, crispy fried fish.
Meanwhile, back at my spot on the log, I was catching very few fish.
My only action was real "slow" and I could see papa was having all
the fun. So I began to scoot out on the log, closer to him and begged,
"Let me out there. I want to catch some fish. I haven't caught any.
Of course he didn't immediately respond and really kind of ignored
me for a long while. He kept right on fishing. I continued squirming
and begging, "Oh, let me fish out there some. I can catch'em." So
after a long wait, which seemed like forever, he began to get tired
from pulling in so many fish. Then papa said to me, "OK. Come on!"
As I shuffled around, he and I tried to pass by each other on the
log. Then papa unthinkingly took his foot off that long stringer
cord of fish. It began to drift away. Quickly realizing what he
had done during all the distraction, he desperately grabbed in the
water a time or two for the stringer but he couldn't reach it. The
water current was swift and carried it quickly away. He then took
the end of his long fishing pole and tried to snag the stringer
with it. That too, missed and our nice, long stringer of fish quickly
sunk and was gone down stream, never to be seen again.
Papa, being mighty angry and sadly disappointed, said, "Boy, that
makes me mad. You just caused me to lose a whole stringer full of
nice fish. I ought to take you out there and thrash your behind
good." I was seriously afraid he would, so I quickly got off the
log and put a little distance between us.
Of course I
was extremely sad too, and mighty fearful that papa's anger might
cause me to get that whipping. Maybe I deserved it, but all I had
wanted was to catch some of those fish, as any kid my age would
want. The result had caused us to lose all that we had caught.
It was after
sundown and very near dark as we left the creek and headed home.
This wasn't a pleasant ending to our fishing trip. But there would
be others. We went home sad, disappointed, and empty-handed.
Soon papa's anger subsided and I later heard him tell momma he wouldn't
whip his only son over a stringer full of fish. Said, he felt it
was partly his own fault for holding the cord under his foot and
not being careful enough. Said, we could just catch more fish later
and he was real thankful one of us hadn't fallen in the creek.