Boy’s Catfish or It Takes A Village

It all started on Friday morning.  Boy showed up with an itch.  To catch him some catfish.  Well, I don’t know a thing about catching a fish, period.  I remember riding with my daddy in the motor boat when he went to collect the catfish off the trot lines at the lake.  I was a kid.  He said the whiskers bite.  Now, I was something of a tomboy, but biting fish didn’t interest me.  Ripping off the skin with a pair of pliers looked like work.  Work did not interest me much either.  I should have paid more attention.

It is what it is, I thought (feeling more than a little inadequate) as we hauled off to Academy to buy whatever Boy figured he needed.  He took his gift card.  The whole thing is his business, I reasoned.  He bought the most godawful stuff.  And, he paid forty-one dollars for it too.  Powerbait sounded like a good thing.   Even Gulp! Catfish Dough might be terrific …  gourmet cookie dough for fish.  I could see that.  Until I read the smaller print:  Bloody Bloody … Creates a Powerful Blood Scent Trail.   I didn’t dare to imagine what flavor chunks fortified it.  The worst, however, was the Original Hog Wild catfish dip bait.  Now, I’ve lost a goodly percentage of my five senses, including the olfactics, but enough remains to make my nostrils slam shut at the thought of blood dip bait.   The reaction was justified.  That stuff stinks to high heaven.  How can we eat something that likes dead, bloody meals?  Never mind.  Boy was pleased with his purchases.  He called Irma.  Do you want to go fishing?  She did.  Thank whatever Summer Vacation Gods there might be.

Meanwhile, I’m telling myself that poor Boy will dangle a hook, get his face sunburned, catch absolutely nothing, and that will be the end of the Summer Fishing Thing.

Nope.  Boy and Irma returned toting two catfish in the bottom of Boy’s tote bag that had held a towel on the trip out.  They’d  have more, according to Irma, if  Boy hadn’t been using his dad’s fishing pole with the complicated reel.  He had real trouble with that thing.  Irma orders up a push-button rod and reel for tomorrow’s return trip.  She recounts the story of how she sat down by the lake expecting no excitement.  When she looked up, boy was struggling with his rod and looking back imploringly at her.  She laughs about how she started jumping around hollering, “Get him, Charlie!”   He was a big one … the one that got away.   Tomorrow they will get the big one.

Irma unloaded the two fish from the bag and showed Boy how to hold one for the picture.  She’d already told him about the stinger so I knew this was going to be funny.

If I hadn’t known before, I know now who took the fish off the hook.  Boy is about to scream like a girl, as he says, when the fish wiggles and flaps around.  He’s staying as far toward the back end of that catfish and as far away from those stinger whiskers as he can.  When I saw him doing this fish-holding number, I thought how hysterically awkward a nine-year-old can manage to look if he’s uncomfortable with what he’s doing.  This is the boy who dispassionately shoots his deer every year with a single shot to the neck. When I asked why he shoots it in the neck, he said, “Dad always says to drop it so I do”.  Okay.  Backstrap and sausage must be what he’s thinking about when he drops it.  I’m not convinced that he’s thinking about eating that catfish for dinner while he’s struggling to keep hold of it for the picture.

 “Hurry, Granny!”   He’s giving the pose his best shot, but he’s about to drop the fish on its head.  One more click is the window of opportunity for this photograph, I’m thinking as my chuckling shakes the camera out of focus!

This goofy pose and the equally desperate half-grin is the best I’m gonna’ get out of  Boy on this day.  Notice Irma’s encouraging hand trying to will him to keep hold of the thing until I can snap it for posterity.

Boy has been sick for a week from some virus.  He was so exhausted after his big fishing trip (right here in the neighborhood) that he crawled into the Big Bed to watch TV and drifted off to sleep.  When I roused him two hours later by slamming a door, he struggled half awake and murmured with his eyes closed, I need a push-button reel, as he slid back into his dream of rods and reels and big catfish.   Ah, to be a nine-year-old kid dreaming of a new fishing rod and the big one that got away.

 It really does take a village, Irma.  Thank you.

~Postscript~

Boy’s dad cleaned and baked the catfish whole with the same remarkable skill that he brings to the preparation of everything he takes from the wild.  It was succulent.  I took the old fish platter down from the cupboard to hold the First Fish.  I thought it a fitting choice to mark Boy’s contribution to the family table.   I picked up the discarded fish bone and ate, pulling the sweet meat off with my teeth and thinking of my husband’s love for eating whole catfish off the bone.  It was he who taught me how to eat it.  It was a good day in the neighborhood.  A fine day.

It takes a village to  Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.  (King James Bible: Proverbs: 22:6)

37 Comments on “Boy’s Catfish or It Takes A Village

  1. For some reason your blog posts haven’t been showing up in my reader. Here I’ve been thinking you’re on a break, but instead I’ve been missing your wonderful stories. This one was too good to miss! I’m going to do better about checking on individual posts instead of relying on that feed.

    🙂

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  2. Seems that there was a great fun… I loved your post and your photographs… as always fascinating me. Thank you dear George, love, nia

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  3. How lovely – the story and the images. I enjoyed this a lot and it brought back memories of taking my youngest fishing when he was a child. not that we ever caught much…..

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  4. George, I loved reading this very well told story. And the photos are wonderful! I used to run the trot lines with my dad and brothers and fish for catfish using my dad’s homemade stink bait. Great memories now are being made for you and boy, just like the great memories we have of fishing with our fathers.

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    • Lori, I thought I was the only trot line person here. I barely remember it, but I do recall being afraid a spider would get me since we were under the overhanging trees and bushes along the shoreline! I don’t remember stink bait, but I’m sure that’s what daddy used. I must not have been along for setting the lines! This was in North Carolina where I grew up. I’m glad you liked the story. I had fun with it. Thanks!

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  5. reminds me of that quote…Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. what a great story!!!!

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    • I thought about that. It’s funny how the old stories come back. I guess we grew up on them so they are fixed in our collective memory and a part of our philosophy. I’m glad you enjoyed the story. I had fun that day too.

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    • Thanks, Rosy. The fish really was good. And, I loved seeing the squirming Boy trying to hold onto that fish! Later, he had to help clean it! His mom wasn’t about to let him off the hook on that job.

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    • Ha Ha. You made me laugh! The slimy isn’t too attractive an option, but I dunno’ how you get catfish for dinner without touching the things! That part wasn’t nearly as much fun for Boy as the fishing part! Thanks, Lady D.

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    • The top spine fin is what Irma told us. I always thought it was the feelers. Duh… Of course, it would be the fin! Thanks, Carl. The fake food works really well, I think. It ought to since it stinks professionally.

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  6. Dear George, you are such a fine storyteller. You have such a strong voice, such a lovely way with words. You really struck a chord, because this one made me misty.

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    • Thank you, Naomi. At my age now, I think I have taken a step back. I am observing things with such pleasure. I realize that I learned how to live not from what my parents said so much as what they did. I missed the cleaning of the catfish, but Kelli told me that she rousted Boy off the sofa to help. She was not about to allow him to enjoy the fishing and eating without cleaning the catch. He held one end of the fish while JC pulled off the skin with pliars. Boy told me later that his dad described the best way to clean a catfish: Nail it to a tree and pull. The skin comes right off. He will remember.

      They only take what they eat. JC grew up hunting and fishing for food to feed the family. His dad still raises a huge garden; his mom cans and freezes the vegetables. His dad and mom both hunt deer for part of the year’s meat supply. I am happy that Boy is involved in learning about conservation and responsible relationships with wildlife. His dad bought a large tract of land in south Texas where they will spend a lot of time improving the status of wildlife.

      Yes, being seventy years old is a fine time of life. I no longer worry about anything. I am free to enjoy Boy and his parents and my books and music and photographs. Boy says, “Come and lie down in the bed with me and talk, Granny”, sometimes when it is his bedtime. Now, what happier life could one old woman have? If I die in my sleep tonight, I will go happily. However, Boy requires that I live long enough for him to “grow up”. 😉 I tell him that we only have today. We will be happy today.

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        • Ah, Naomi. You are living a book. Take the photographs and love your children. If you’re lucky, you will have the opportunity to spend the last years of your life loving your children’s children. I can think of no better way to end one’s life than in devotion to a child. I am blessed. You are kind. You will live your life well. Thank you for understanding the things I write about.

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  7. George, this was a lovely story! My husband loves to fish more than anything (he fishes for bass) I mostly enjoy just going with him so I can be out on the water in the boat. (I usually take a book and my camera) It made me smile thinking about Boy dreaming about rods n reels and the one that gotta away….

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    • I think dreaming is a huge part of growing up! I had fun with the catfish episode. The guy at Academy told us that there are wide-mouth bass in the lakes in our neighborhood. However, they don’t have the correct markings. He thinks it’s because the population of them is too small and they are passing along some aberration in markings. A bass should look like a bass. The alien bass sounded a little too post-apocalyptic to me! Lots of people here are big bass fisherman too. I don’t like the taste of it. The funny thing with me is that I start wanting OUT of the boat as soon as it leaves the slip! I am not a patient person. I do like the gentle rocking of a boat on a smooth water. Post some photos for us! 🙂 Thanks, WL.

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      • Alien bass! haha – my husband would love that! (he does catch n release) I don’t eat fish really…(never tried bass) I think fish taste “fishy” (sounds silly) but the catfish in your photos looked pretty tempting! I love the water…it has such a calming effect on me.

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    • Thank you, Madhu. I’m glad you liked it. I missed the cleaning of the fish! Boy was required to help his dad clean it if he wanted to enjoy eating it. He held one end while JC stripped the skin off with pliers. I bet that was funnier than the holding-for-the-photo! My children just don’t cooperate with the historical record keeping project here! 🙂

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  8. What an exciting adventure for Charlie. How LUCKY you are to have Irma!!!! Too bad Collier wasn’t there; he absolutely loves fishing and is determined to catch a “big” catfish from one of our ponds. He spent two nights here this week and fished almost the whole time. Charlie looks so tall and thin now. I can’t wait to see him next weekend!!

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    • He is 5′ 1″ tall and weighs 119 pounds! He will be happy to see you and Hazel too. I know I’m lucky to have Irma! She knows how to fish too. 🙂
      Collier would have loved the fishing with them, I know. Maybe he can come sometime this summer.

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  9. This is a beautiful story, and a great pleasure getting to see a bit of the people close to you. Enjoyed this post very much.

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  10. a fun story George 🙂
    i hope Boy gets well soon and continues his fishing trips,He is such a sweet kid..absolutely loved his expressions holding the fish.
    what you wrote -” How can we eat something that likes dead, bloody meals?”….i know i told the canbibals the same thing they just dont get it and want to cook me now 😯
    what a yum fish you guys have had…i am not a big fan of fish i like other meaty stuff but that photo just wants me to break the screen and gulp it down

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    • Thank you, Soma. He is a sweetheart. The angle distortion of the photos make him look goofy here. He’s really a pretty-faced kid. You should have seen his expression in person when that catfish started whipping around! He didn’t expect that. I was laughing too hard to snap the photo! Heck, I thought the thing was dead! No, I don’t like fishy fish either, but JC, Boy’s dad, puts something on it to make it not taste “fishy”. It really was very good.

      Later, when he came to get the fish out of the cooler, he hollered at me saying, “Granny! I murdered my babies! And I was taking such good care of them!” He had put tap water in the cooler. Of course, that did finish off the fish! He’s a funny drama queen with a hysterical sense of the mock heroic.

      Stand guard. I understand the cannibals are out and about. Some guy who was high on bath salts (yeah, bath salts) undressed a homeless man on a bridge and ate his face mostly off the other day. The police finally shot the cannibal and the poor victim is in critical condition in a hospital. I forget, but I think it was in Los Angeles? Yikes!

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    • Thank you so much for your visit and the kind comment. I appreciate that since I am not a photographer. “ipointshootpost”. I like the title of your blog. It tickles me. I have to come over to see your ishooteditblog. Glad you liked my post. Thanks again! 🙂

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