Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fishing with Granddad: Joe's Fork



When I was a child, I used to spend a couple of weeks a summer with my grandparents.  I have written a few stories from these summer adventures before.  See "Confessing" and  "Saving Damsels."  This is another story about fishing with my grandfather.  

Joe's Fork in the fall of 2007, a mile up from the old millpond




"Were you able to dig us some worms?” my granddad asked as he got out of his truck. 

“Yes sir,” I said, “some nice ones.” 

He smiled and headed into the house.   Dinner was being served.  At the table, after he said grace, Grandma berated us both to put on plenty of Off™.  We ate quickly and I ran back into my room and put on long pants and strapped my Kabar™ knife to the belt.  Granddaddy collected the rods and placed them in the back of the truck along with tackle boxes and a can of worms.  We crawled into the truck and pulled out onto the highway, heading east.  About a mile later, the road snaked down into a hardwood swamp.  We crossed Joe’s Fork on a small bridge.  We could have waded across without getting our knees wet.  As we began the climb on the other side, granddaddy turned onto a two-track dirt road that led back into the woods.
 
“Where are we going?” I asked as we bounced in the truck and bushes swished along the sides of the truck. 

"To an old mill pond.”

"What kind of fish will we catch?"

“There should be some nice bream, maybe a jack or a bass.”

“Is the mill still there?"

“No, it burned.” 

“When was that?” I asked.

“I’m not sure.” 

“But the pond is still here?”

“Yeah, the beavers have damned it back up.”

“When you were a boy, did you ever bring grain down here to be milled? 

“No, it was before my time.” 

Realizing I wasn’t going to learn anything about the mill, I thought I might see if there was anything to know about the current residents. “When did the beavers move in here?”

“In the late forties, I think.  Your dad was a boy.”  He paused for a moment as he drove the truck into some brush so he wouldn’t be blocking the road.  It didn’t seem to matter much to me, for the road didn't appear to be well traveled. 

“You sure ask a lot of questions,” my granddad said as he turned the engine off.  Getting out, we sprayed ourselves with Off™, grabbed our rods and stuff and walked back toward the dam which the beavers had restored.  

On the edge of the dam, we dropped our gear.  The vegetation was thick around the pond.  Granddaddy wouldn’t be using a fly rod in here.  We’d both be fishing with worms.  I tied a hook to the line, put a small weight just above it, and attached a bobber about 2 feet high.  The pond was pretty shallow.  Once I had my rod rigged, I stepped out on the edge of the dam and cast into the middle of the pond, just shy of a water moccasin bathing on a log in the waning sun.   Granddaddy headed around the pond and found a place where he could cast his line out and be freed of more questions. 

My bobber floated undisturbed, as I swatted mosquitoes and deer flies which swarmed around my head, pausing occasionally to wipe the sweat from my brow.  It was a hot and stifling in the swamp.  After a few minutes with no action, I was becoming bored.  I slowly reeled in the line, and cast it again, right beside that big snake.  I didn’t faze it, but neither did anything nibble on my worm.  I pulled my line in again. 

“If you don’t leave your line in water, you won’t catch any fish.”  Granddaddy yelled over at me.  He normally didn’t say much when fishing.  He didn't want the fish to be spooked by the talk.  

I cast again, this time dropping the hook just inches in front of that big old moccasin’s head. 
I waited: ten seconds, twenty seconds, thirty seconds, a minute.  Nothing was biting.   After a few more minutes, I retrieved my line and made another cast and then another.  The whole time that water moccasin held his position.  I wondered if it was dead, but I knew better.   Maybe it was mocking me.   I could feel the snake getting under my skin.  I retrieved my line again.  Looking in my tackle box, I pulled out a large jitterbug, a top floating lure that works wonders on the bass right around dark.  I tied it on my line, and cast it just short of the moccasin.  I reeled it in, the lure jittering back and forth across the water.  

“What are you doing fishing with that?” my granddad asked.

A Jitterbug
 “Nothing was taking the worms,” I answered as I made another cast, just to the other side of that moccasin.  The snake didn’t move with the line lying across its back.  I slowly reeled, bringing the lure up beside of the log upon which the snake had perched itself.  Then I jerked the rod back hard and snagged the snake in the back with the lure’s treble hook.  The snake snapped around, his cottonmouth angrily exposed.  Then he slipped off the log and started swimming away with my lure.  I let him have some line, but tightened the drag. 

“What did you do that for?”  My grandfather yell, as he beat a path over to me.  “That snake wasn’t bothering you.” 

The snake turned around.  Instead of fighting the line, it started swimming toward me.

“What are you going to do now?”  He asked.

I pulled out my Kabar knife and held it along with my rod.

“What are you going to do with that?” he asked.

“I’ll stick him,” I said.

“Put that knife away,” he yelled as he picked up a stick what was maybe five feet long.  “Use this,” he said handing it to me.  “You hooked him, you take care of him.”  

It had seemed like a good idea, but now I wasn't so sure of it as this was one large angry and deadly poisonous snake.  Thankfully, when about twenty feet away, the snake shook the lure free, then turned and swam in another direction.  I reeled my lure in.  I’d been saved from an angry snake, but now I had to contend with an angry grandfather.

“We’re done fishing,” he said, packing up his gear.

As we walked back to the truck, I heard distant thunder.  A cloud was building that would bring an end to this hot day.  I crawled into the passenger side of the truck.  I knew better than to ask any more questions and my granddad maintained silence for the drive home. 

I was pretty sure there would be no ice cream and Pepsi float before bed.   At least the wind from the approaching stormed would cool the house.  

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40 comments:

  1. Man, being a kid is tough! I had a grandfather a bit like that. He never took me fishing - probably for the best.

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    1. My grandfather was a good man, but very quiet. He certainly thought my actions that day were uncalled for.

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    2. I went to my first baseball game with my granddad. An old semipro player himself, he was definitely in his element. I learned a lot.

      Grandfathers are important.

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  2. I think all boys get that yank back from a grown man. I think it's one of the instructive moment in life, or at least in the development of a good man for it exposes their casual thoughtless cruelty when they project the sight of their actions through the eyes of a respected other.
    It is a 'blink' moment, and the beginning of a long road.

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    1. it is interesting how this story has stayed with me. The worst part wasn't missing the ice cream float that he usually had int he evening, it was disappointing him.

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  3. Yeah, I had a grandfather/water moccasin issue once myself. It was right after I came to live with my grandparents. Grandad and I went fishing in Black River and not long after we started a moccasin dropped down into the boat from a weeping willow tree limb above.
    I totally freaked out, caused by a previous encounter. My grandad just looked at me disgusted, calmly walked over to the snake, grabbed him at the base of the head and flung it back into the water.
    After that we went home as well.

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    1. I'm curious about the previous encounter

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  4. One of our grand-children has enjoyed fishing with Grandad Eddie (my husband), it was a very rainy day, but he was so happy when he caught a fish...
    Will it be fishing weather this weekend - I wonder!

    Have a great July

    All the best Jan

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    1. I only fish occasionally now--mainly when I am with my dad.

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  5. One of our grand-children has enjoyed fishing with Grandad Eddie (my husband), it was a very rainy day, but he was so happy when he caught a fish...
    Will it be fishing weather this weekend - I wonder!

    Have a great July

    All the best Jan

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  6. My nephew hooked a big moccassin once, but it was by mistake

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  7. You're a wonderful storyteller - I could picture this all the way through!

    Fishing is a love I've acquired later in life. We have bream and bass in our pond (plus crappie and catfish), but I don't know what a "jack" is ... though we use to have Jacks (and Jennies) in our pasture. ;)

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    1. It is a chain pickerel or southern pike, however in small streams they don't get very large. They are also very bony (like their counterpart, the northern pike).

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  8. Love your stories Sage always fun and interesting :)

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  9. Love your stories Sage always fun and interesting :)

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  10. Great story! Sometimes we just do spur-of-the-moment things without thinking it through, especially when we are kids. I'm glad you didn't have to tangle with the snake up close and personal.

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  11. This was very well written and engaging. I could close my eyes and see this unfold before me. Nice job.

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  12. Never knew any of my grandfathers, much less learned from them. consider yourself fortunate, the old man had your back if the snake and you had to settle up.

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    1. You got it--he did have my back (and it would have been stupid to have tried to "stick the snake" with a knife... I was pretty good at throwing a knife, but not that good

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  13. Great post, it's always a pleasure to read your stories!
    Kisses, Paola.

    Expressyourself

    My Facebook

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  14. Even though it's not a traditional happy ending, what a special day you had with your grandfather.

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  15. Wonderful, Sage! You have captured such a feeling of time and space! If I were still teaching I would have used this in my classroom as an example of excellent writing. I would have had my kiddos brainstorm about all the things that made this piece so good, then go have them write a story based on their own experiences. You'd be amazed with what insights and ideas third graders can come up with! I have to laugh though, because your story reminds me of so many reasons why I don't like to fish! LOL Have a good one!

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    1. thank you, I am humbled by your comments.

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  16. Great post!
    Have a nice week-end!
    Photographer Gil Zetbase
    http://www.gilzetbase.com/

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  17. I have a Kabar knife and just think it is the most perfect knife in the world for a sheath knife. Perfectly balanced, comfortable to hold onto and just the right size.

    Great story too!

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  18. I remember being a child and being upset and not understanding things, but as an adult I get it. Great glimpse into a childhood event.

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  19. Beautiful snapshot of your childhood. Loved it.

    Greetings from London.

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  20. Nice piece of writing, reminded me of Ruark's "Old Man and the Boy"

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    1. That's a compliment! Ruark grew up across the river from where I did. Last December, I went to his old home for his 100th birthday party (he didn't make it, but having enjoyed his writing, I'm glad I did). I blogged about it, too, either in Dec or Jan.

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  21. fishing with your grandfather seems a good way to learn life lessons...

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  22. And why do boys always do things like that? I had two son and they both wouldn't have been able to leave that snake alone either. Your grandfather let you learn a good lesson that day.

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  23. Good thing you didn't reel that snake in and he got off. That might have turned out very bad. Like C Lee, I imagine my brother (when he was younger) and my nephews doing the same.

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  24. I would have run in the other direction - oh, I hate snakes. :) A good life lesson your grandpa taught you.

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  25. Very interesting story. I didn't know my grandparents growing up and when I read things like this I realize how much I missed out on. Sounds like you have some wonderful memories.

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  26. That angry snake would have scared me! I'm glad it eventually turned and went the other way.

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  27. This sure captured my heart, and memories, because my fondest memories of childhood always centered around the elders in our family. My grandfather and grandmother from my father's side, and my his grandmother, my dear sweet great-grandmother, they are top of the list. I know I am a product of them! Thanks for sharing your memory with us.

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  28. This post brought back some memories for me, Sage. I used to go fishing with my uncle and grandpa as a little boy. Good times :)

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