So you thought this was going to be about shooting rats,
did you? Well, it is, but I will take my time getting to it. If
you have a problem with folks shooting rats than probably
you should turn out, 'cause I am actually going to write about
it. And yes, it does have something to do with fly fishing. Really.
I abide by the theory that some of the things a young fellow
starts out doing in life sort of forms a mold and probably
influences things he does in his future. I can see quite a few in
my background like that. For instance. Fishing. I can remember
two distinct times but I am not sure which one came first, but I
think fishing for pan fish with some grubs we dug out of a horse
manure pile for bait might have been. We were in a row boat,
poles over the side, I had a bobber with my grub a couple of feet
under it. I thought I saw it wiggle so I pulled it in. My uncle gave
me heck for doing it because he said there had not been a fish on it.
I remember I got 'unhappy' at that point and when the dang bobber
went plumb out of sight I still didn't pull it in. Caught heck for that too.
Should have been paying better attention.
So, that first time with horse manure, white grubs panfish and
bobbers did not go really well. The next time I do remember
was for multi-colored brookies in a babbling tiny creek with a
stick and a hook that my grandmother found somewhere. Used
a bit of bread dough on it. Caught the fish first time too. Hooked
from then on. Castwell may have been born on that day.
Oh yes, so now you are supposed to dig around in your past
and notice things that may have had some impact on how you
do things today. I am sure you have many, I think we all do.
Perhaps family habits and traditions came into play, a number
of uncles, brothers, even sisters could have helped shape the
mold from which you emerged. But, remember, shoot rats.
Have you ever ice fished? We did, my dad and I, we must have
gone every winter out on Saginaw Bay, chomped an exciting hole
through the ice and jigged for Yellow Perch. Got to be about the
best eating fish in the world. Nasty to 'scale,' but we did a lot of it.
Like many, we totted a bucket with us and turned it over and sat
on it on the ice. Started off with a tiny pearl spoon. Jiggled it until
we got a fish and then using the spoon for a handle and the hook
part for a gouge, deftly slipped it under the eye of the first fish and
used the eye for bait on the spoon.
Actually, it did not occur to me that the perch were in any great
difficulty just laying there freezing and suffocating on the ice.
Natural events. We fished. We caught fish. We ate them. Lots
of them. Actually, we fished for perch year round I guess; from
the ice, a row boat, off the gunnels of our duck-boat, a lake up
north, in 'dredge-cuts' that led to Saginaw Bay. But, there was
only one winter, fall actually, late fall that we shot rats. Not the
collective 'we' but, dad and I would go, he drove of course, I
was only ten or so, to the dump.
Did you know, sure you remember, stuff at the dump in the 'olden
days' was on fire. Always. That was the way things were done. Pile
it up and burn it. Well, it settles down and the edges cool some and
at night, evening actually, rats poke about in it and on it looking for
dinner de jour. Dad had given me a bb gun. A Benjamin, one of the
ones you can pump up for more and more power. We had a target
range set up in the basement and would spend hours down there
boinking those old lead bb's around. Mostly they stayed in the target
back, but the odd one would get loose and we never did find all of
them. Forever kept popping out from places all the rest of the years
we lived there. Anyway, the range was just past the little alcove that
was under the basement stairway, where our lady Chesapeake dog
had her pups. That was an event. Wow. Anyhow, I would rest my
forearm on a water pipe that went up the side of the water heater and
I could shoot quite a distance to the other end. Got pretty good of
course. Show me any kid with his own bb gun and I will show you
a crack shot. So we went to the dump and shot rats.
Can you tell me for sure what happens when you shoot a rat with
a bb gun? You could if you had/have ever shot one. For those of
you who have never shot a rat, want to guess? Do they just plop
over? Blow up? (not with a bb gun silly!) Just croak? Give up?
They jump. Straight up, they jump. Like a spring went off under
them. You may not have ever thought about it, but a rat can really
jump well. Great powerful hind legs, tough critters, streamlined,
lots going for them in the jumping department. But anyway, that
is what they do. They jump up. They still do. I know they do. I
still shoot them.
I was thinking a few days ago that it has been almost seventy
years ago that I started shooting rats. And how a very short
distance I seem to have come. It's this way, you see. I have a
large cedar tree in my back yard with a hanging bird feeder in
it, exactly forty-six feet from the sliding glass livingroom door.
I keep the feeder filled with sunflower seeds and the birds and
squirrels know it. So do the rats.
I no longer have the bb gun though. This one I only have to
pump once, it is a 177 cal. and is very accurate. Oh yes, the
feeder has a large set of bamboo wind-chimes hanging from it
and when ever something takes a seed I can hear them. Even in
the evening I can. And, if I rise from my easy chair, make my
way to the glass door and gently open it a few inches, rest my
'old reliable' on the top of my 'already set in position camera
tripod' and holding the high powered flashlight with my left
Well, you understand. Some things are just ingrained. Things
not under my control actually. Probably has something to do
with my childhood, who knows. Inherited maybe. Did I ever
tell you about how my dad used to shoot crows? Back about
1910, southern Michigan, on the farm, he would line up kernels
of corn on a long board and then ~ James Castwell