Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Heads or Tails #118 -- Gone Fishin'

When I saw this prompt on this morning's Heads or Tails I at first thought that Barb was taking the week off. I've always associated the expression "gone fishin'" with taking time off. As it turns out, however, Barb really was giving us "gone fishin'" as a discussion prompt. I thought about being really cute and taking the week off... just having the intro and saying I'd "gone fishin'" -- but the truth is I'm anything but a fisherman....

I've been fishing no more than two or three times in my life -- and this was with a lake practically out my back door from the time I finished sixth grade and all the way through high school.

My folks moved from the South Side of Chicago in 1968, from the parish where Andrew Greeley had actually served as curate at one time (if you're looking in this morning, AndyK), to the place where Christ Lost His Shoes. I'm saving nearly all of those experiences for the book -- but it won't hurt to say that my folks had an acre of land in a small subdivision of acre lots. The developer wasn't a builder -- you had to bring in your own contractor to put up a house -- and there were working farms down the road in almost any direction at that time. Ours was one of the first houses to go up.

The centerpiece of the subdivision was a small lake, created by damming an even smaller stream -- a 'crik' as we said. The developer presumably stripped the topsoil from the area to be inundated; I don't know this for a fact but it's what I would have done to (a) give the lake some dimension and (b) have some topsoil to sell.

The dam itself was an unimpressive bit of concrete that could usually be walked across (and in not that many steps either). I remember catching crayfish at the dam a couple of times. Or probably seeing others do so.

It was here that I tried my hand at fishing... perhaps, now that I think about it, only once.

The first obstacle was baiting the hook. The worm obtained for this purpose had never done me any harm that I could think of and I was decidedly squeamish about puncturing it. That, and the fact that, with my hand-eye coordination, I put more holes in my fingers than in the worm put me off the entire concept almost before I started.

If you were expecting some Hemingway-esque battle between the beardless youth and some gallant sportfish you're already disappointed, I know. Still, I must disappoint you further: The only fish in that lake were bluegill, bullheads and the occasional carp. The picture of a bullhead that I found browsing through Wikipedia this morning does not comport with my recollection of what the beast looked like.

Small, yes. Catfish-like, certainly. But I seem to recall some sort of sharp spines.

I believe I must have caught one of these poor creatures with my mutilated worm. And then it was time to let it go. I believe I threw a fit about actually touching the thing -- perhaps simply because of the spines, perhaps after actually experiencing them with my already bleeding fingers.

I don't know who was with me on this momentous occasion. It may have been my father. If it was, it's best I have forgotten. He'd gone through all the ranks of scouting, was a scoutmaster himself at one point and a member of the Order of the Arrow. I'd never been a Cub Scout. Though raised in the City, my father spent several summers on farms in Indiana with cousins I maybe met once or twice. (Irish families -- who knows what happened?) Anyway, if it was my father who had to release the poor, suffocating fish, he must have been sorely disappointed in me, even more than you are reading this. Neither my father nor the bullhead are available to prompt my recollection on this point.


Barb said...

You should write a book. Truly. I enjoy reading all your stories and recollections. =)

Barb said...

After reading your comment at my blog I see I'm going to have to make a theme "couldn't find at night". Nah.. that may bring out the naughty in people.

Karen said...

I love this recollection. It is the thrill of relaxation that draws me to fishing. I don't really care if I catch one. Oh wait, I do want to catch the first one of the day. That irritates my husband. LOL

Anna said...

That pretty much sums up my feelings and experience with fishing. :)

AndyK said...

I remember the first fish I caught. In the Marquette Park lagoon (SW side - not Gary). It was so tiny that it couldn't even get it's mouth around the No. 10 Eagle Claw - it was hanging onto the worm!