August 15th, 2005

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Grandpa's Secret Weapon
By Richard A. Taylor

Another warm summer evening in the "green mountains" of Vermont.

Growing up there in the 40's and 50's was a special time with a much slower pace then the frenetic abundance of organized activities available for a ten year old in today's world.

One had to rely on one's own initiative to occupy the day's events with fun, games or other fulfilling projects.

Friday evenings usually meant visiting my grand parents home, a scant three blocks away, unless you cut through a couple of neighbors yards "as the crow flies."

Gram and Gramps had an expansive and very level lawn that was ideal for a croquet set up. Many a pleasant summers eve was spent smacking croquet balls through little wire hoops. Or, when the opportunity presented, having the chance to place your ball next to an opponent's, whackin' the fire out of it, and sending them way back on the course.

After the evenings "sets" were completed Gramps liked to sit in his rocker on the side porch while he smoked a pipe of "Half & Half." While the aroma was fairly pleasant, and oft remembered nowadays, I used to wonder, "Half of what?"

This particular evening, watching the fireflies light the night sky, Gramps asked how I'd like to go with him in the morning and catch some frogs at a local pond.

Having been an accomplice on a few other interesting trips with Gramps, this fell right into the category of another probable adventure worth the undertaking.

Early next morn after breakfast, which consisted of Gramps ritual consumption of two raw eggs in a glass of milk flavored with a small sprinkling of cinnamon, we made plans for the outing. He also ate freshly ground horseradish at every meal of the day. Said he never had a cold his whole life and that was the reason. Later in life, I told him it was because he smelled so bad that all the other people carrying the cold germs didn't want to get near him!

The first order of the day was for me to get my new "Red Ryder" gazillion shot repeater BB gun while he emerged from the basement with a short, metallic rod; to which was attached a funny looking reel.

"What's that for Gramps?"

"Why, to catch some frogs, of course!"

"Where are we headed now?"

"Going down to Eddy Ice Pond."

Not Eddie's nor Eddy's just Eddy! It was a family surname, not a first name.

Eddy Ice Pond was about three acres in circumference, of undetermined depth; but plenty deep enough to freeze to the three foot level or more in the winter. It was ringed by a gently sloping, treeless hill side, with a huge barn-like storage facility a short haul away. Lily pads were abundantly scattered all around the perimeter of the pond; but, they didn't extend out very far; probably due to the depth and the ice cold water.

In the winter time huge blocks of ice were sawn out of the pure spring water-fed pond and placed in sawdust storage for later dispersal in the summer. This again was in the days of non-electric refrigerators, when the "iceman," that great big rubber-caped crusader, delivered blocks of ice to all the neighborhoods; slinging these hefty blocks over his shoulder and holding them there with those wicked looking two-pronged tongs. In the meantime, we sneaked up to the back of his truck to purloin pieces of delicious, cold, crystalline ice fragments left behind from where he chopped the larger squares to fit the individual boxes.

Gramps said he'd give me first "shot," literally, at the frogs; so, I cocked the BB gun and nailed the first one without a hitch. The long handled net took care of the retrieval with one quick scoop by Gramps.

Now it was time for the "Secret Weapon" to be revealed.

In a few quick stretches, Gramps had that metal rod extended to it's full potential and about six more feet longer then it's original four. Voila a ten foot metallic fly rod, with reel, line and hook attached.

So, what did that have to do with catching frogs you ask?

Well, the next part of the secret was produced when Gramps reached into his vest pocket and pulled out a small, square patch of red flannel. This he promptly attached to the hook at the end of his line.

"What are you going to do with that?"

"Catch frogs;" was the succinct reply!

"Why else did we come here?"

He then walked along the pond till he located the next lily pad dwelling "menu object." Reaching out with the rod he dangled that flannel patch just over its head. He gently swung it back and forth a couple of times and then the water erupted as that amphibious critter suddenly became a trapeze artist and performed an amazingly high flying leap. It gulped down that red flannel, like a June bug lunch offering, and promptly was as well lip hooked as your best trout take.

Into the burlap sack it went, to join my "Red Ryder" frog, and we proceeded to fill a goodly portion of it in a few hours. Grandma welcomed the frog leg supper that appeared at her kitchen door a few hours later.

"Gramps" and I never did fish the Eddy Ice Pond again; but, that memory still returns every time a pretty little lily padded pond comes into view. ~ Richard A. (Dick) Taylor (Grn Mt Man)

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