Saturday, June 28, 2003

Fishin on the footbridge


Summertime in the mountains is a time to enjoy life. It is a time when ever'one is outdoors most times. Folks see each other passin' by more often an' "howdy" can turn into a good conversation merely by stoppin' for a minute as ye pass.

Early evenin' is a good time to visit with folks. Chores are done and most families sit out on the porch to enjoy the cool breezes come down from the hills into the hollers.

The holler where Uncle Billy lived was mostly populated by kin. His sister lived just past his cabin an' on the other side of the creek about a hundred yards up. Down the creek a good ways his younger brother lived with his wife. Further up the creek Hap Collins lived on a hill that looked down into the little valley the holler made an' where Uncle Billy's ancestral home was. Uncle Billy was the fourth generation to live in the cabin. Although his youngins still loved the place and came home when they could, he doubted any of 'em would ever live there.

For a couple of days now, his sister Goldie had family in. Her oldest boy J.C. was in from up north. J. C. brought his wife and two boys down ever' summer for a week or two to spend with his mama. They had walked down with Goldie last night an' spent the evenin' sittin' on the porch visitin'. Goldie had made blackberry dumplin's an' ever'body had filled their belly with hot blackberry dumplin's an' cold milk.

This mornin' as Uncle Billy worked in the field he saw J.C.'s boys playin' in the creek. All they had on was short pants. They played barefoot in the water for hours on end. They caught crawdads an' was a savin' 'em up in a half gallon mason jar. They fell in more times than Uncle Billy could count. He suspected their mama had tol' them to stay out o' the water in the early mornin' coolness. 'Course, bein' mountain boys, they listened for about ten minutes before one of 'em "slipped".

When he hitched up his two big ol' red mules they came over to watch and ask a million questions. Both wanted to try to plow with the mules. That would have been a sight to see. Them mules would have pulled them from here plumb over to tomorrow.

Later in the day he saw Jimmy, the oldest playin' by himself in the creek. Jimmy was a buildin' some sort of dam with rocks an' was a tryin' to chase little ol' silver minners into it. Uncle Billy watched as Jimmy tried more than once, only to see silver shadows flit the other way in the clear stream.

He walked over to the footbridge that crossed the creek an' stood an' watched for the longest time. As he watched, he couldn't help but remember the days he spent in the same creek. He reckoned he had chased the ancestors of them very minners when he was a youngin'.

"Jimmy, what are you'uns tryin' to do?"

"Uncle Billy, I am tryin to corner these here minners into a little pond so I can git them for fishin'. Daddy said he was a goin' fishin' later this week an' I want minners to catch me some crappie. I got me one in there now." He pointed to a little hole of water he had closed off and sure enough, there was one lone minner trapped an' surrounded by carefully placed rocks.

Uncle Billy chuckled and watched as Jimmy tried to splash a couple of the little fish into the rock circle.

"I reckon I know a way for ye to get ye more minners a little easier. Come on over to the house an' we'll see what we can do to set ye up for catchin' all the minners you'uns want."

Jimmy jumped out o' the creek an' followed Uncle Billy closely. He slipped and grabbed Uncle Billy's hand. He held to the hand as they walked up to the house, lettin' go only when they were standing on the rough boards of the porch.

"Son, take my Case knife an' go over yonder to that willer tree an' cut you a limb - more like a switch than a stick. Know what I mean?"

"Yessir, my Daddy made me cut a switch from here last year when I broke Gramma's window. I'll cut ye a good 'un."

"Don't open that knife up as ye walk, Jimmy. Wait till ye get there an' open it. A feller don't want to walk with a knife open an' fall on it."

"Yessir"

Uncle Billy wandered into the darkness of the ol' cabin an' Jimmy went over an' cut a switch. He pulled the leaves off it and put it under his arm as he closed the Case knife back up. By the time he was back on the porch, Uncle Billy reappeared with Aunt' Del's sewin' basket.

"Let's sit down here an' see what we can do." Uncle Billy said as he sat in the porch swing. He dug through the basket till he found some strong black string an' a little bitty safety pin. He tied about three foot o' thread on the willer switch and tied the open safety pin to the other end. He carefully bent the pointed end o' the pin just the least little bit. He handed this rig to Jimmy an' disappeared into the house once more. When he returned he had a slice of white bread.

"Now, ye need to go down an' sit on that footbridge. Take a little bitty piece of white bread an' roll it to a tight ball. Put that on the end o' your safety pin an go a fishin' for some minners."

"Yessir. Do you reckon it will work, Uncle Billy? I ain't never fished for minners before."

"It'll work, Jimmy. Just be sure to pull 'em in fast. Your hook don't have no barb to keep 'em on there."

They both walked down to the footbridge together. As they walked, Jimmy slipped his hand into Uncle Billy's hand. Jimmy sat on the side of the bridge, feet danglin' an' baited his hook with a little ball of white bread. He had no more than put it in the water till a minner bit it. In his excitement he pulled hard enough to land a bass. The minner flipped off an' fell back into the creek.

Uncle Billy laughed with Jimmy an' gave more instructions on the subtle art of minner fishin'. As Jimmy got the hang of it, he would pull a minner up and quickly move it over his little ol' "pond" he had made. The pond was quickly fillin' with minners.

"Uncle Billy, this is the neatest thing I ever done. It is even better than fishin' for bluegill." Jimmy said with a grin on his face.

Uncle Billy watched for a while them went over to visit for a bit with J.C. and his wife. Jimmy sat on that footbridge all day catchin' minners. His Daddy looked out the window more than once to see the little boy sittin' in the golden sun, shirt an' shoes off as he fished for minners.

Later in the day little brother Eddie had to have a minner rod an' both boys fished and talked till evenin' came an' the shadows climbed down the mountains to the holler below.
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