The pond was always muddy because cattle stirred the water to keep cool. Nobody cared that it was overpopulated with less-desirable fish species. Willow trees leaned out over the dam and spillway.
Angling was a new experience for three brothers. Fishing gear was simple–willow pole, cotton line, bobber, and hooks. Bait was plentiful–grasshoppers, earthworms, crickets. Securing bait took a modicum of effort. It was fun for a time, until reality set in.
Fish could be lousy, unrepentant bait thieves. There were days when fish were lazy and wouldn’t bite. It was back and forth to the house–the screen door slammed constantly.
“Mom, the fish just won’t bite. I’ll bet I could put a dollar bill on a hook and they still wouldn’t bite.” Not that fish had any interest in paper money.
“Maybe they’re just not hungry?” Mom suggested. She was probably right, but us three brothers were persistent.
“Why don’t you try chicken guts?” Mom said, out of the blue. It took a while to sink in.
“Chicken guts? That’s disgusting.” “You want to catch fish–don’t you?” Came the reply.
We raised chickens for eggs and to eat, so there were leftover chicken guts aplenty.
Mom’s brothers were sportsmen–knew about fishing and hunting.
Fishing resumed with a bucket of smelly chicken guts, accompanied by Tags, the dog, and a few hunting cats. Every kid needed a hunting cat or two or three. We had plenty to spare.
Hunting cats descended from barn cats–to father’s chagrin. Tamed by us kids, they no longer caught barn rats and mice.
My orange tabby tomcat came along–stayed in the shade. Chicken guts were baited on hooks to the tune of disgusted “ewwws” and “yucks.” They proved enticing to snapping turtles and catfish.
Disaster struck. My tomcat seized a piece of chicken gut on a baited hook. He yowled, clawed at his mouth. The hook was stuck fast to the roof of his mouth. He fought rescuers tooth and claw.
Dad came to tomcat’s rescue with pliers. The hook was removed, after first inserting the business end of hapless cat in an old boot. The rest of us held the boot tight–that way doctoring could be done without arms being clawed to shreds.
Tomcat wasn’t the least bit grateful–ran back to the house. The cat may have lost one or two of his nine lives in the process. He spent the remainder of his life (lives) doing things that hunting cats did.
—Editor’s Note: I’m in the middle of the picture holding a cat (not the cat in my story). My older brother isn’t pictured. Tags, the dog is in the picture.