Herald Outdoors Columnist
Somehow it all seems fitting; sitting on the bank, feet in the mud, leisurely angling for channel catfish. The overturned five-gallon bucket imprints a red-rimmed circle on my butt through the denim of my well-worn jeans. The gore of freshly dissected cut bait and sun-ripened chicken livers is drying to a thick, sticky crust on my palms and turning into reddish-brown putty beneath my fingernails. The resulting fragrance is such that I would not be surprised to see a circle of soaring vultures in the sky directly overhead. Reminds me some of a disgusting stinkbait once concocted by the demented mind of Cletus Monroe.
Yet, here I am, disgustingly happy and mouth-wateringly hungry. Strange, isn’t it, how the anticipated aroma of breaded catfish fillets in hot grease so easily overcomes the odor associated with their capture?
Yep, it all seems fitting somehow. Like this is precisely the place I should be at this given point in time. It is a most pleasant reverie. I am in many ways a boy again. The outdoor writer whose life is normally inundated with the glitz and glamour of the tournament bass fishing circuit and steeped in the mythical tradition of English tweed, pipe smoke, and mountain trout has returned this day to his Deep-South roots. I can barely resist the urge to kick off my shoes and dig my toes into the mud at the water’s edge. The plug of Red Man in my mouth could have been stolen from my grandpa’s overalls!
Today’s fishing buddy smiles knowingly. He’s not Cletus, who wouldn’t understand or tolerate my lapse into sentimental nostalgia. He reads me well, very much aware that I feel this way on a quiet Sunday morning beside the still waters of a small back-in-the-woods fish pond.
“Some things you just don’t outgrow,” he says. “When it’s all said and done, I’ll still take plain old catfishing over any other kind.”
“I see your point,” I answer, not at all ashamed that some urbane sophisticate might spy me here doing what common folks do and loving every minute of it. Too bad many of us have come to view such an activity as being just a bit beneath us. Heck, this is Huck Finn and Jim stuff. I’m loving it.
I have run nonstop most of this weekend, jumping from guide to guide, boat to boat, interview to interview, in search of story material. During down times I’ve stressed myself over malfunctioning cameras and dying batteries in my tape recorder, cursing all my looming deadlines. Today, however, I have saved myself just by sitting down on the bank of a catfish pond. Who’d have thought it?
Best of all, today I unearth more stories in just two hours than I could possibly have dug up during the past two days of harried searching. This is a place for storytelling. It is a place like the places where such stories were born years ago.
I hear of my buddy’s dad and fishing trips past. He hears of my grandfather and like excursions. We swap favorite catfish bait recipes, many of which I have not thought of in years. We laugh together, grow nostalgic at times, and even debate and argue once in awhile. All this is fodder for the creative mill. I shall go home with my mind in better shape than it has been in months. Mud, filthy hands and smelly fingers be hanged.
There is but one notion that clouds today’s unusually clear thoughts. It is Sunday, and some folks (including my mother) will surely wag fingers and pass judgment that I should be starched and ironed and sitting on a church pew instead of being where I am. They could be right, I suppose. I don’t pretend to know about such things. Rightly or wrongly, I never give much thought to it.
I do know one thing, though. This simple catfish pond, carved into the earth years ago and abandoned in lieu of other agricultural pursuits, is a good place for ol’ Bob to be at this particular moment. Somehow it breathes new life into me.
I think hard on that and soon my mind is made up.
Despite what some might say, I don’t believe the Lord minds my being here at all. Leastwise, I hope not!
Questions? Comments? E-mail Bob Kornegay at firstname.lastname@example.org