June 7th, 2004

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Mom's Homemade Fishin' Pond
By Richard A. "Dick" Taylor (Grn Mt Man), Fincastle, VA

"Boy dad! Those are some really big bullhead. Did you catch all of them or did Red give you his too?"

I couldn't believe that dad had caught two huge buckets of those "whisker" fish all by himself. When my sister and I woke up early those summer Saturday mornings the first thing we did was to go to the kitchen and check to see if dad had caught any fish the previous night. He liked to fish for catfish at the lake, by lantern light, from the end of a friends dock. He and his constant buddy fished from sundown to sunup most every Friday night during the summer. We looked forward to the early morning scramble to the kitchen in high hopes that he had caught some more of those delicious fish.

"Well, I insisted "are we going to keep 'em all or give some away? Mom probably wouldn't want to clean that whole mess of fish. I know gramps wants the heads and guts to use in the garden cause he said there ain't no better fertilizer then fresh fish; especially for his corn."

Dad said we'd keep most of this mess and share the rest of them with our neighbors. Nothing tasted better n' mom's freshly fried catfish fillets with plenty of coleslaw and hush puppies.

Now, we had a strange partnership going in my house when it came to fur, fish and fowl cleaning. Dad would never admit to it; but, I know for a fact that he had what mom called "a weak stomach" when it came to cleaning fresh game. So, they shared an unspoken ritual. When it came to fish he would bring them home and put them in the freezer and when they were almost board-stiff mom would get them out and proceed with her half of the bargain. She kept a very sharp pair of gigantic scissors just for the fish processing chore. First she cut the heads off with a sharp butcher knife. Looked Paul Bunyanesque sized to my ten year old eyes. Then she used the scissors to open those babies from the tail to the gizzard; or, as she once colorfully described it, "From the pee hole to the neck!" Then it was a simple matter of lifting the not quite rigidly frozen mass of "guts and stuff" out of the stomach cavity in one mostly blood-less swoop. Mom had perfected this technique from thousands of fish de-bowelings over the years.

On the particular morning in mind, sis and I arrived in the kitchen to find two completely full buckets of lively bullheads; still squirming and making that peculiar "poppin'" sound when out of water. Probably would sound sort of like a croaker to a sea shore dweller.

My sister was concerned that those poor fish needed to be back in the water. And so, was set the stage for one of our finest hours.

About an hour later dad hit the floor running, after only an hours shut eye, when roused by a blood curdling scream from the upstairs bathroom. Mom was hittin' all the finest high notes that woulda made an opera singer proud and long for the same reproduction.

Next sound to be heard was from dad; "You kids better git your butts up here this instant!" The decibel level of that admonition meant that we weren't being summoned for anything good!

Now, we couldn't understand all the commotion cause all we did was afford them poor, water deprived fish a little re-lubrication and relaxation. Of course, when mom entered the bathroom and spied about twenty-five catfish contentedly cruisin' the tub, she was not amused.

Sister and self then spent the next few minutes draining the tub, returning the fish to their bucket homes and disinfecting the tub with copious amounts of soap, water and alcohol and something else that mom contributed. She said it would smell lots better then all that fish poop and stuff in the tub.

I'm here to tell you that those were the best tasting, if not the most memorable fish, I ever ate.

However, the fresh water eel that gramps caught... Well that's a whole 'nother story! ~ Dick

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