Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Old Dirt Road : The Catfish Hole

One mile from where the pavement ends stands the old homestead where my catfish tale begins.

 About a three quarters of a mile east of our house and maybe another half mile north through an orange grove was another one of our favorite fishing holes. That was the best catfish hole ever.

  The only thing we ever caught out of that little pond was catfish. Any time we wanted catfish, that was the place to get em. That’s why we called it “The Catfish Hole“. Never was there a time when we couldn’t catch all the catfish we wanted out of that little pond.

 Then one hot summer day when I was about fourteen years old. My brother James came running into the yard all out of breath and yelling, “The catfish hole is dryin up.”

 “Whaddaya mean, it’s dryin up?” I asked.

 “It’s almost all dried up.” he said “I took a shortcut on the way home  and went by there. There’s just a little bit of water left in the middle, and the fish are all crowded together in it.”

 “We better go get em before they all die.” I said. “Let’s go see if Ray’ll take us back up there.

 When our brother Ray agreed to take us to the catfish hole, we went around to the back of the house where we got two big tubs and a long handled fish net and loaded them on his truck.

 When we got to the catfish hole it was just like James had said, but I couldn’t have imagined what I saw before actually seeing it for myself. It looked like thousands of catfish all squishing together in a little puddle of water maybe about five to six feet in diameter. They were thrashing and jumping, all of them trying to get deeper in that little bit of water. We knew they couldn’t survive in such a little bit of water, and besides, catfish have those needle like thorns on their backs and sides and we figured they’d be stabbing each other to death with all that thrashing around just trying to stay in the water.

 We backed  the truck as close to the edge of the pond as we could and started filling the tubs with the catfish. About twenty or thirty minutes of scooping with the net and we had both tubs full, but we had hardly made a dent in the pond, it looked about the same as before we’d ever started.

 “What're we gonna do with all these fish?”  Ray asked.

 “Well, we can eat some and put some in the freezer, but there’s more than that just in these two tubs.” I said. “Why don’t we try to give em away? That’d be better than just lettin em all die.”

 We climbed in the truck again and went to our friends, Joe and Calvin’s house to see about getting rid of some of the fish. Sure enough,  when we explained what we were doing, they took as much as they thought they could and got some of their neighbors to do the same. We managed to empty both of the tubs before we left, and some more of the neighbors said they’d take some if we had any more. We made three more trips back there and gave away six more tubs of catfish.

 Finally we went back and got the tubs full one more time and took them home to our house. Then of course we had to clean them all. It took us till late that night to get it all done because nobody wanted to help, so it was just James and me. What a job! By the time we were finished, neither of us wanted to clean another catfish for a long, long time.

 We went back to the catfish hole the next day to see if we had done any good for the fish that were still there.

 We couldn’t see any fish crowding together this time, so we figured they might be alright now.

  All together we had taken ten of those big old tubs full of fish from that little hole of water and we thought it would dry up completely, but it never did. When the rains came again, that replenished the water and that little hole was once more what it always had been, The Catfish Hole.

  None of us went cat fishing for quite a while after that though, we had  enough catfish to last us a good long time.

 The last time I saw the catfish hole was about ten years later and it looked about the same as it always had except for that one really dry summer.

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