All Fish Are Trout
A Short Story by Andy McMinn
Four a.m. and Granny is calling softly, "Son it's time to get up if you're goin fishin today." Tough crawling out from between the warmth of down quilts. It's only fall, but cold at 4 a.m. A walk outside to the outhouse will wake me up. Gotta watch out for that danged old dominecker rooster. He always ambushes me on the way or traps me inside and then flogs me on the way back to the house. I heard him crowing earlier. Gonna knock the blue blazes out of him one of these days. Then there's that blamed old screech owl, the one who always manages to screech just about the time you get halfway to the outhouse, and can cause you to go before you get to where you were going. No time to look at the girls underwear adds in the Sears Roebuck catalog this morning, besides it's still dark. For some reason those pages never seem to get torn out of the catalog. Business taken care of and back to the wash basin to clean up.
Back in the kitchen and sitting beside the old wood cook stove. Hot coffee perkin, slab bacon frying and hot biscuits in the oven. No one can make biscuits like Granny. PaPa (pronoucned pawpaw) comes in for his breakfast and asks "Whatcha goin to do today boy?" "Goin fishin PaPa" I answer. "Hmph, be better off out in the field helpin me plow, don't know why I let your Granny talk me into lettin you off today. Boys need to stay busy to keep out of mischief." Granny says, "Now Buster, boys have to have some fun, don't they?", handing me a cup of steaming coffee (mostly milk with 2 tablespoons of coffee in it), along with a million dollar smile and a wink. After all, I'm the only grandson and there's at least a dozen grand-daughters. Spoiled no, pampered, yes. Nothing beats hoecakes, hot sorgum syrup, eggs, bacon, sausage and hot biscuits to get a man's day started. Granny has already fixed a sack lunch, leftover biscuits, bacon, and a biscuit drippin with homemade pear preserves. Corn meal, a little piece of salt pork, and an old iron skillet already packed in a tote sack. (oh, and a saltshaker). Ready to go fishin.
Tackle all ready from the night before. Trusty old calcutta flyrod. For those of you not familiar with the "Calcutta" you can buy a calcutta pole for a nickel at the feed store in town. Just cut off the top 8 feet and you got a dandy custom made bamboo flyrod. Make the guides out of a few scraps of bailing wire, 25 feet of fishing string, tie on the hook (one size fits all) and you're in business. No fancy reel, just tie the end of the line to the butt of the rod. Caught the flies the night before (hoppers we call them), two cans full. Can't forget the 2 buttons and 25 feet of extra string for the cans, comes in handy later on for communicatin!
Still dark, but on my way. Gotta meet my cousin Billy near the watermelon field and make the trip to the river together. Off I go as Granny hollers, "now don't get wet boy and watch out for snakes, you hear?" Damn, sounds just like my mother saying, "make sure your underwear is clean in case you get hit by a car", "Good God mom, my underwear ain't gonna stay clean if I do get hit by a car". "Watch your smart mouth boy", mom replies. Now how's a man gonna go fishin and not get wet and who knows if you're not gonna get snake bit while walkin through a peanut field, in head high grass and wading around barefoot. Kinda nice walking through the pecan grove in the sandy soil. Feels cool and good to my bare feet. Quick stop for a sweet persimmon (making sure it's ripe, if not you will pucker for an hour). Halfway there and am now in the watermelon field.
Nothing like picking up a cold melon and dropping it to bust and then just eating only the heart (all the time remembering the razor strap hanging on the chimney wall, which will be used for something besides sharpening a razor if PaPa catches us bustin his melons). A little sand makes it taste even better. Now you know the importance of the salt shaker.
Billy met me while I was gorging on watermelon, had one or two himself, and we continued on down to the river. I let Billy lead the way (I'd rather him step on a snake than me and he's never figured out why he always gets to lead the way; he's older and braver by a year). Dawn was just breaking and the river was quite and peaceful. Good holes in the river always held fish. Perfect!
Rigged up our calcutta flyrods and commenced chunking "hoppers". (notice I said chunkin, not casting). Wham, boy that one hit hard. Nice 5 inch trout. Billy has a whopper on, nother trout about 14 inches. Must have caught at least a half dozen more trout, some smaller, some bigger. This continues off and on until about 10 a.m. and then they stop biting. Time to clean fish and make dinner. (We eat dinner at lunch, & supper at night). Get out trusty old boy scout knife and clean trout. Billy has already got the fire goin and the fryin pan hot. Bacon grease ready. Roll fish in cornmeal, pop them in the pan and in a few minutes they are burnt nicely and ready to eat. Hearty meal for any man. Nap time now, under a shade tree and then skinny dipping, remembering what Granny said, "don't get wet", well at least not all over I thought.
What a fishin trip. In 1942, if you were 7 years old and fishing the Brazos River in Palo Pinto County in East Texas, all fish were trout. and there weren't no such thing as "catch and release", it was "ketch and eat". Now in case you were wondering what the 2 buttons and extra string were for, why cellular phones what else? Punch a hole in the bottom of the 2 hopper bean cans, poke the string through and tie it to a button (do this at both ends), stretch the string tight between the 2 cans and you got as fine a cellular phone as any boy could wish for. "Hey Billy, don't forget, save some salt for the watermelon patch on the way home."
Altho PaPa and Granny have been gone for many years, the old farmhouse no longer stands, the simple life is gone for good; these memories stand tall and will linger forever. How fortunate I was.
"The past is a memory. The future is a fantasy. Only the present is true---" Gautama Buddha