Listening in the distance, I can hear the water lapping over onto itself. Very small crests make it to the bank from the light breeze blowing across the water. A camp fire has been built with twigs, sticks and small limbs, mostly mesquite limbs that we gathered in the daylight. It is warm and feels good with the cool breeze blowing. The fire is orange, and is crackling, tiny red colored embers lift themselves from the wood and for just a second are free to be a color that fades into the darkness. We didn’t have a boat, so our rod and reels were strung across the bank. A forked limb had been whittled and stuck in the ground to hold the rod off of the ground. The day before, my brothers and I would go to the gin on the east side of town. It hasn’t been up and running since I was a young boy. A small creek ran through the south side of it, a perfect environment for growing fishing worms. It usually didn’t take long to have a bucket full of squirmy, wiggling worms. After that had been done, we would then go to the city park and a place called Skunks Hollow that had a small creek that ran through it too. There were a lot of those prehistoric relatives of the lobster that lived there, only smaller, they were called crawdads and could pinch the crud out of you if you weren’t paying attention. We would put bacon on a string to catch them. They would latch onto the bacon and we would lift them out of the water. If there weren’t enough there, dad knew where a small pond was south of town where he would take us to seine crawdads. For those of you who don’t know what a seine is, it is a net about 3 feet wide with floats on the top and small sinkers on the bottom. One of us boys would get on one end and one on the other. One of us would wade to the other side and we would walk the length of the pond. Sometimes you had to be careful, because at times, crawdads weren’t the only things that were caught. Sometimes you might catch a water snake and if we did, it was time for me to go home. We would usually go to A. Jones’ sporting goods and get some minnows if dad didn’t have enough in the shelterbelt. We also had to have chicken livers for bait. Bait was never lacking, and we usually brought more of that back than we did fish. We would bring a blanket or two along and spread them out, often one of us would fall asleep, but most of the time we stayed awake, because fishing with my dad was a treat, one of my greatest joys and memories I have with him. This trip he has brought us to Possum Kingdom Lake, fairly good-sized lake. Many people had boats and you could see the lights setting on top of the water. My dad would always make sure he brought Vienna sausage, crackers and beanie weenies for snacks. We made sure we would bring a couple of gallons of water from home and bring some Shasta drinks, grape, orange and cola. Throughout the night, an occasional flashlight would come on when the rods started to bend. Most of the time at night we would catch catfish. I can remember the channel catfish we would catch. They were already glistening in the moonlight as they reached the bank. The silver shine with black spots was a beautiful arrangement. If they were big enough, they would go on the stringer. Often, we would have a lot of them caught by morning. By keeping them on a stringer, you had to pay attention that turtles weren’t around. If they came around, they would eat your fish. As daylight approached, dad would get out his fishing knife and we would start gutting and cleaning the fish, washing them with lake water and putting them in a cooler with ice. As it became daylight, dad would often go for a swim, he didn’t care what the water looked like, he was going to get in it. I always admired the way he swam, gliding through the water as if he were one of the fish. Throughout my life, I never became a great swimmer. I could save my self, but anyone else would have to fiend for themselves. We would have breakfast of our Vienna sausages, crackers and a soda and then begin to fish for a while longer. When it started getting too hot, we would load up the old truck. This is when it was ok to ride in the back of the pickup. Buddy and I always road in the back of the truck. The wind sometimes whipped around so strong it would nearly take your breath or slap your hair in your eyes. It was nearly impossible to keep your cap on. These are the memories I often think of when I miss my dad. He was wonderful at times, the best. He showed us how to put a worm on the hook, so the fish wouldn’t just pull it off. He showed us how to put chicken liver on the hook so that it just didn’t fall or break off the hook, and he showed us how to put those prehistoric crawdads on too. Sometimes dad would clean them and throw them in the fire, pull them out and eat them like popcorn shrimp. They were pretty tasty. He showed me how to tie a knot in the line through a hook so that it wouldn’t slide out. He was often my friend and teacher; for those reasons, the good memories outweigh the bad. As evening approached, we would start home, looking probably a lot like what the Clampetts looked like on their way to Hollywood. We had an awesome time, sunburned and all. Cane poles and rod and reels, the semblance of my childhood.
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