When you’re not getting to fish much, there’s only a few things you can do. You can dream about fishing, which I do daily. Another option is moping around. That happens occasionally as well, and I become a sulking beast just waiting for an opportunity to bite. Lately, I’m trying to redirect my angst into writing. I feel this is more productive than moping, and, in combination with dreaming, can make for some interesting stuff. In the right hands at least. One thing I’m learning is that my hands are rarely the right ones when it comes to fiction. You folks have the unfortunate opportunity to observe my development (or stagnation or even degradation I suppose).
Everyone, please keep Reed Curry over at Overmywaders in your thoughts and prayers. He’s having some health problems and will be absent from the web for awhile. His wonderful insights and witty Insane-directed jabs will be sorely missed. Get well soon, Reed!
And now for my next story. This one is written in true Southern English where “they” and “there” are interchangeable in actual conversation, although any Southerner (who can read – the majority of us) could tell you the difference in the written words. I kept the vernacular spelling to a relative minimum simply because if the entire thing was written the way we actually speak, you’d probably never be able to get through it. As always, feel free to let me know what you think.
by Nathan Kennedy
I remember the day we found it. Weâ€™d heard stories about it being back there in them woods. Daddy told us that swamp had a pond out there in the middle somewhere, but we didnâ€™t really believe him. We thought weâ€™d covered just about ever inch of it, well, at least what you didnâ€™t need a boat for. There wasnâ€™t no pond, thatâ€™s what weâ€™d of told you.
But then one day we, my brother David and me, was following a rabbit trail from the back yard out through the big southern pines you could see towering over the lower end of the swamp. The bushes and vines and such was thick back in there. We pretty much had to crawl through it all, following that little trail of mashed down leaves and grass.
I donâ€™t know what we had in mind really. I guess we figured we was hunting, but we wouldnâ€™t of killed nothing. I killed that rabbit before, and it about made me sick. They seemed like little pets, them that came up in our back yard out of the swamp, and I cried when I killed that one with my BB gun. I wouldnâ€™t of cried if weâ€™d been out hunting on the management area with Daddy. It was just I wished I hadnâ€™t of killed that one in the back yard. Anyway, we always carried them BB guns with us when we went down in the swamp. I guess for snakes and stuff and to feel like we was real hunters.
We followed that little rabbit trail through the big pines till we came out in this little clearing of fruit trees. Probably an old farm had been there way back a long time ago. It was pretty there. There wouldnâ€™t much undergrowth, just old dead leaves all over the ground and them pretty fruit trees still with some apples and peaches on them. Somehow we hadnâ€™t ever been to that part of the woods. We followed the rabbit trail across the dead leaves to the edge of the clearing where the woods got darker and changed to sweetgums big around as a supper table and clumpy, thick grass on the ground. Between the clumps the ground was wet and squishy, so we knew we were getting on closer to the swamp. We came to this one real big tree where the rabbit trail disappeared into the swamp water. I remember thinking that I didnâ€™t know rabbits went swimming. I saw what looked like a trail going around the edge of the water on the other side of the tree. We had to jump on roots and big clumps of grass to stay dry for awhile, but then we found dry ground with a stand of little pine trees and oaks and we lost the rabbit trail.
The trees got real thick on this little ridge, and we could see water back through them. It looked different from the swamp though, open and not with sweegums standing in it. It hit us pretty quick that this was the pond Daddy was talking about. You ainâ€™t never seen a couple kids get so excited as me and David. Our very own secret fishing hole!
It didnâ€™t look like anybodyâ€™d been around in a long time. The whole bank was covered with thick stands of saplings. We wouldnâ€™t ever be able to cast like that, so we cut out a couple places to cast from. We had to come back another day to try the fishing. For some reason, we didnâ€™t take a honest-to-goodness rod and reel. I guess we wanted it to be real primitive-like, so we just took line and a hook. We tied that to a long limb and caught a cricket for bait. We didnâ€™t catch nothing and just figured they wouldnâ€™t nothing in there. We was let down a little, but we didnâ€™t care too much because it was still just our place alone.
It was a good time later, after school one day, when I took my bass rod with a little topwater shad bait down there. I donâ€™t know why I did it. Just one last hope of something being in there I guess, and Iâ€™d seen some big things moving wakes in the water. Well, our casting spots had grown up pretty bad, so I flattened a sapling, bending it out in the water and standing on it. I thought I saw three or four torpedo wakes shoot out toward it from various spots around the pond when it hit the water, but I figured it was my imagination. When I twitched that bait, well, let me tell you, a big old bass blew up all over it! I wrestled him in and just held him for a minute up in the air. He probably went about three pounds. My heart was beating blood faster than my brain could take it, and I didnâ€™t know what to do. I wanted to show it off to David and Daddy, but I knew itâ€™d die if I carried it back home. I thought about tying it up, but I just threw it back and ran home like I had the devil after me.
David got so tore up when I told him that he grabbed his rod and we ran down there even though it was going on pitch black dark. Daddy just laughed and laughed and looked real proud and said to just watch out for snakes. David had this little bass-colored jerk bait about three inches long, and he cast it over towards a log that was laying out from the far bank. He didnâ€™t hardly twitch it once before a big bass nearly took it away from him. He got it in, and it was even bigger than mine, maybe five pounds. I was a little jealous I guess, but I was so excited than it didnâ€™t bother me too long.
I reckon it went on like that for seven or eight years, till I got out of high school. Weâ€™d go down there no more than once a month, and weâ€™d only catch two fish at a time. We ran it like real conservationists because we knew it was too small to take much fishing, and we only showed it to a couple close buddies. Fellows we knewâ€™d take care of it like we did. We caught a couple better than six pounds and lost a couple that looked even bigger, but probably wasnâ€™t. You know how big bass always seem bigger when you lose them.
I loved that little spot down in the woods. I was always sort of a loner, and it was where Iâ€™d go to get away. It was like my little bit of wilderness, even though it was only a little shallow bass pond in the middle of sixty acres of swampy bottom land. Lots of times I wouldnâ€™t even fish, especially if Iâ€™d already used up my one day a month. Iâ€™d just sit with my back against an old fence post that was standing back aways from the pond. Iâ€™d sit there and just look at the water and at those fisher birds and mallards thatâ€™d fly in to the pond if you was real quiet. My favorite was days where itâ€™d be raining real light. Everthing seemed so still and quiet, and Iâ€™d stay dry under them thick pines and they smelled so good when they got wet. Iâ€™d think a lot there, about who Iâ€™d marry and where weâ€™d live and what adventures Iâ€™d have. And sometimes Iâ€™d think sadder things like how I missed Grandpa and if there really was a God and even crazy stuff like if Iâ€™d be able to go fishing in Heaven or if it was all just singing and praising. I figured Heaven must have a place in it like this pond where people like me could sit and think and be quiet.
Thatâ€™s why I was so excited about taking my boy there. You see, weâ€™d moved off to Idaho not long after I got out of high school, me and Judy. I wouldnâ€™t crazy about it, but she had folks out there, and she liked those mountains, and weâ€™d done got married. Those mountains and big rivers made my little pond look pitiful, but I never forgot it, and, somehow, it always seemed wilder than even them big mountains which felt like they just had too much space for thinking. We never visited my parents any after that because me and Daddy got into it over that stupid stuff about me not going to college. Now him and Mamaâ€™s been gone for a while, but my cousin Paul bought the old house. I figured weâ€™d stop by and see him while we were in town for our twenty-fifth reunion. I really just wanted to take my boy down to the pond. He was real excited about it because I told him about the big bass that was so easy to catch.
When we turned on the old county road I knew they wouldnâ€™t be no fishing. They wasnâ€™t a blamed tree hardly left standing in the old swamp. It was all bulldozed down. Thousand wonders, but there was still a fruit tree standing where that little clearing used to be. They filled in the old pond I guess because everthing was just flat raised-up Alabama clay dirt now, and all of it was divided into neat little plots for houses. Sign said, â€œHomes from low $200s.â€ They were already coming up on three of them. Big ones, with 2-car garages and swimming pools. I parked at the old house and walked with my boy down to the edge of Paulâ€™s yard without even telling Paul â€œHi.â€ I just stood and looked and felt real sad.
â€œDaddy, there wouldnâ€™t ever no big bass pond down in there,â€ my boy told me, sounding for all the world like I played some kind of joke on him.
â€œNo son, maybe youâ€™re right. Maybe it was just a dream.â€
Perhaps too lofty a quote for such a silly little story, but I like it:
Our life is no dream, but it should and will perhaps become one. â€“ Novalis, as translated (I suppose) by George MacDonald in Lilith