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Learning to fish

Laugh Tracks in the Dust
Milo Yield
Damphewmore Acres, Kan.

I had a fun experience last weekend when ol’ Nevah and I had the opportunity to “day host” two fine young men, ages 12 and 10, for three days.

They are from the Branson, Mo., area and their dad wuz participating in a big international “Disc Golf” championship in Emporia for three days. We got to host the young fellas during the days while their dad flung his professional “frisbee.”

The young guys brought their fishing equipment and they proved quite patient in learning the fishing ropes in my pond. They fished for several hours each day and caught nice baskets of fish each day.

They learned to bait their own hooks with earthworms and minnows and to take fish off their hooks, unless it wuz a really tough case. They even learned to fillet their fish and, as their reward, took home three quart baggies of fresh fish fillets.

The most fun moment wuz when I hooked a large fish on my rod, but the fish got tangled in weeds or rocks and I couldn’t move it. So, I just anchored my rod and let it rest in hopes the fish would disentangle itself. As luck would have it, that’s just what it did and the 10-year-old saw the fishing line moving and politely asked it he could try to reel it in. I said, “Get after it.”

My fishing rod is a left-handed crank and the kid was used to cranking right handed. But, he gamely kept cranking. As the big fish got closer and closer to the bank, the young man’s eyes got bigger and bigger and we could see it wuz a catfish.

Eventually, the fish got close enuf to the bank for me to net it. It wuz a nice 5-pound channel catfish. The first thing the kid says to me is, “Can I tell my dad that I caught it?” I said, “Sure. It wuz on my rod, but you definitely caught it.” He wuz so excited.

I hope both boys enjoyed their days here enuf to become life-long fishermen. While they were here, we also played cards and the “Corn Toss” game, which they were both pretty salty at playing.

•••

All us old country boys can remember drinking cold well water, or cold spring water, during the hot, muggy summer days. I swear it wuz more refreshing than a cold soda pop (which I never drink anymore) or a tall glass of iced tea (which I drink all the time).

Just thinking about that refreshingly cold well water, reminds me of an old joke that I’ll dust off for this column.

It wuz back in the 1950s before rural water districts and old Dusty Rhoades wuz traveling the Ozarks selling livestock mineral to the farmers and ranchers who raised hogs and cattle.

It wuz a blistering hot August day and the Ozarks were withering in the heat and humidity when he arrived at a run-down, end-of-the-road farmstead that belonged to a 80-somethingish-old bachelor who had a sizable herd of surprisingly good Charolais cattle. Dusty’s old Ford pickup wuz loaded down with salt and mineral blocks that he wuz delivering.

Well, by the time Dusty got those salt and mineral blocks unloaded and stacked, he wuz drenched in sweat and his mouth wuz so parched all he could think about wuz getting a cold, refreshing drink of water.

So, he asked his elderly customer where he could get a drink of water and the old gent pointed to a hand-pump water well just off the porch. “Dipper’s right there for you,” he offered.

That’s when Dusty took a really close look at his customer. The old gent had a scruffy two-week stubble of beard. He was toothless. Plus, he had a nasty stream of Red Man tobacco juice dribbling equally out both sides of his mouth. You might say he wuz level headed in that way.

Dusty looked at the long-handled dipper hanging by a baling wire hook so invitingly on the well-pump. Then he looked again at his customer’s mouth and his first inclination wuz to make an excuse not to drink. But, then he felt his parched throat and began to think rationally to himself.

He muttered to himself, “Ninety percent of all people are right handed, so I’ll take a drink from the dipper with my left hand — and just to be on the safe side, I’ll twist the dipper as bit as an extra precaution.

When Dusty finished his awkward, but immensely satisfying two dippers-full of cold well water, he thanks his customer for his hospitality and his business, and prepared to leave.

That’s when the old guy wiped the ‘baccer juice from his mouth with a filthy shirt sleeve and says to Dusty, “Young feller. I’ve lived out here on this old farm for nigh on 80 years, and I must have drunk a million gallons of that cold well water, but you’re the first person I ever saw who held that dipper just exactly like I do.”

•••

I got an email from a friend who suggested the following statements might serve as this week’s words of wisdom. So, here goes:

• “Modern slaves are not in chains. They are in debt.”

• “No matter how educated, talented, rich or cool you believe you are, how you treat people ultimately tells all.”

• “Don’t trust everything you see. Even salt looks like sugar.”

• “Anger is a punishment we give ourselves for somebody else’s mistake.”

• “In life, it’s important to know when to stop arguing with people and simply let them be wrong.”

That last one is my favorite. Hope you had a safe July Fourth and have a good ‘un. ❖


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