Monday, August 23, 2010

Fishing with Clyde

Man fishing

So Clyde, why do you like fishing so much?

My dad taught me how to bait a hook when I was four or five. We’d go out to Lake Hartwell on Saturdays before Momma got up. She was still teachin’ in those days and that was her only day to sleep in.

What about Dill?

Dill was four years older’n me an’ he would sleep in too, then go find Bill and Dutch for baseball or petty, uh, not larceny but screwin’ up other people’s property . . .


Yeah, or some such foolishness, so it was just me and my pops, on this beat up metal boat that’d sink in a hard rain, polin’ for catfish or sometimes trout.

So it was a bonding thing.

Yeah, but there was more to it than that.

Father with son (10-11) in small boat fishing


My seventh birthday fell on the school year’s first Friday, and when I got home from school, the house was empty. I ate a Ring Ding with some Nehi grape soda, ’an went out into the back yard to mess around. Dixie, our mutt, was outside the back fence whinin’ and scratchin’, pushing her snout between the links.

I almost let her in, before I noticed a chicken-wire pen sitting by the back porch in the shade. At first I thought there was a squirrel stuck in there—Dixie’d go mad chasin’ ’em up every fool tree in the yard, so that’d explain it. But this critter didn’t have a fluffy tail. When I got closer, I saw why—it was a rabbit. Looked young—the fur was smoothed down pretty, brown on top, white underneath and the ears were perfect—not a nick in ’em.

Eastern cottontail Rabbit

Since the pen was kinda hidden, I got all exited, thinkin’ it was a surprise birthday present. One of my school mates had a pet rabbit—a long-eared thing she’d drag in to school from time to time for show ’an tell. Katie Bucane—what a snot she was.

Anyway, I stuck my fingers through the wire and to pet it and it didn’t move, so I decided it must like me too. I knew I’d get ’in trouble, but I didn’t like the way Dixie was so fired up over my new friend, so I carried the pen up to my room.

I grabbed a plastic bowl from my mom’s Tupperware stash and a roll of Scotch tape and some paper and made my rabbit it’s own personalized water dish. I named it Bugs, cause that was the only named rabbit I could think of. Katie called hers Fluffy or some other girly name.

Couple hours later, I had taught the thing to hide in the closet every time I whistled. The rest of the family had trickled into the house, unnoticed by me until my dad started hollerin’, “Clyde, you up there? Get down here, right now!”

Boy he sounded pissed. I knew a spankin’ was coming, but I didn’t care, so I went down to face the music.

“Clyde, what’d you do with that pen by the porch? I gotta get that rabbit skinned ’fore your mother gets home to fix supper.”

My mouth dropped open, but nothing came out. Then I burst into tears and ran back up the stairs. Dill was comin’ out, holdin’ the cage and grinnin’. “Hey Daddy, look what I found.”

I didn’t dare turn around. Instead, I ran into my room and whistled. Bugs knew the drill ’an shot from under the bed into my closet. I jumped in with ’em and closed the door.

Momma showed up about two minutes later and knocked. “Clyde, open the door, honey.”

I didn’t move a muscle, but there wasn’t no lock on the door, so she opened ’er up to find me sitting cross-legged on the floor with her supper in my lap, cryin’ with snot runnin’ down my nose.

Boy (8-11) embracing mouse outdoors, side view (B&W)

She had somethin’ behind her back, and I knew what it was—the willow switch. But I was wrong. It was my real present, a bran’ new fishin’ pole. She gave me twenty minutes to run down to the pond behind the McGibbons barn and catch supper—or else.

Silhouette of boy on dock fishing

I brought back two bullheads ’an she doused ’em in parsley, fried ’em in butter, and served ’em with red taters and cornbread. Daddy took one bite and spat it into his napkin. Dill snuck his to Dixie under the table. I choked down every nasty bite even though it tasted like butter-flavored mud. I knew eatin’ that mess was much better punishment than a whippin’.

Mom ate hers without flinchin’, which I guess was her punishment for lettin’ me keep Bugs. And Dixie? She ran into the living room and barfed that shit all over Gramma’s oriental rose rug. Guess who got the switch that night?

So that’s why you love fishing?

Damn straight.


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