North Carolina Newspapers

laced, and your lines and rods in strict
society form, and your outfit right enough
that you could go up Fifth avenue in New
York with it and be hailed as a leader
umong men. The first rude jolt comes
when you see that the real fishermen are
barefoot and are wading out into the
muddy bottoms carrying clubs about three
feet long, and that they are catching fish
in that plebeian style of hitting a big
fellow just back of the ears as soon as he
is located in the mud where the water is
falling away until his back sticks up far
enough to show where he is. Well, it is
all off. You recognize at the first glimpse
that all the fish you catch in that Okla
lioma rush will not crowd your basket and
you snort out a few explosive adjectives,
and then you awaken enough interest to
watch. Without any good second it is
the muddiest job I ever clapped eyes on,
and I used to see the wagons flounder in
the mud in the Pennsylvania oil country
in the spring, and in the Illinois prairie
mud when it was juicy before the good
roads movement swept westward, and in
various other places where they think they
know what mud is. But you draw the
water out of a mill pond where silt has
been settling all over the bottom of the
pond for years and then turn the popu
lation of the township into that mud and
set them to chasing up and down the lake
threshing the mud with clubs and tramp
ing it in every direction, and the chocolate
mass that is stirred up would make devils
food cakes to supply the whole east end
of North Carolina during a six weeks
camp meeting season. Now you are aware
that the bottom of the pond was not
graded and rolled in the past, and in a
minute a husky fisherman trips over an
old log and falls his full length in the
soup. He comes up looking more inter
esting than agreeable. The next fellow
sinks in the mud in a soft spot, and when
he wallows out he has a coat from about
his elbows to his hair that is not a mate
for the rest of him. The vast majority
of the fishers from about the waist down
look as though they were made of that
old geography day matter that figures in
the construction of the earth land and
water, and it is a proper mixture of land
and water, too. As the water draws down
the mixture is more amusing. The acci
dents are more frequent. It gets pictur
esque. You are disgusted at the event
as far as fishing goes, but you realize
that you could not have missed it for
a quarter.
The dam has fish all right, and the fel
lows that have the spleen to wade in the
mud and poke around in the mixture
every now and then start one out. You
can't see anything but a troubling of the
muddy mixture. You could no more see
a fish in that soupy dose than you could
see a . black cat down cellar at mid
night. But you can see the surface dis
turbed a little, and then down comes the
club, and perhaps the fisherman has a fish.
Perhaps he has not. The fish does not
always wait to be hit. It has its business
to attend to also, and it wastes no time
fooling around with these folks who are
out only for fun. Every now and then
some fellow makes a kill, and the fish
floats up on the water and is grabbed up
and tucked into the tow sack slung over
the shoulder of the lucky fisherman. It
may be as big as a whale or not much
larger than a mosquito, for you can never
tell how big a fish is in the mixture of a
mass of mud until you dig it out. In
fact you are not always sure it is a
fish. One of the most interesting varie
ties of fish in the waters of this section
of the USA is the ancistrodon piscivorous
which if you do not know how to talk
latin to it you simply call a water moc
casin. The water moccasin is a somewhat
domestic fowl and he likes to live around
mill ponds and places where men have
made some improvements that he can
crawl under. When the mill pond is
drained he is there; evening clothes on,
ready like an Irishman for a fight or a
frolic. Not certain at the begining just
what : your intentions are he is just as
likely to start out on the theory that it is
a fight and he is usually correct. But a
crack with a club generally gets him out
of the notion of fight, although not
always. And when he does fight he
never gives any imitations. He has Ger
man blood in him after he gets started.
Tom Holder used to tell us about the moc
casins that would grab hold of the rails
he tried to kill them with, and Tom said
those snakes would shake those rails and
growl like a dog when they were pestered
too much. I have to confess that Tom
did not always handle truth with- the
mathematical precision we expect in deal
ing with columns of figures, and often
he managed to work off on us some tales
that perhaps were better because they
were not too strictly accurate. Where
would Baron Munchausen be if you put
him on the witness stand and allowed, a
modern lawyer to cross question him, and
hold him down to the things as he actual
ly saw them? Or Homer, or any. honest
man when he is giving figures to the in
come tax assessor, or the folks who give
out the weather reports or who originate
information concerning the European war,
or the virtues of the other political party?
Tom had a lot of experience with fish.
Down in Alabama where he lived after he
went away from here the fish got so bad
in the spring of the year when the rivers
came up and flooded, the low ground that
after the water went down it left the
ground so covered with fish that you had
to farm that ground for sanitary precau
tions. Eight away after the ground was
dry enough you had to get in there with
plows and plow the fish under and plant
corn there and the farmers out on the
hill country sued out an injunction
against the lumber camps on the river
for making corn so cheap that the real
farmers could not raise corn in competi
tion with them, and a great agricultural
industry was threatened with extinction.
The lumbermen on the river said they
would quit making corn if the farmers
would come down and remove the fish, and
the farmers agreed to that, and that is
what made the lower Alabama river val
leys such remarkable farming country for
miles back into the high ground.
No doubt Isaac Walton would not ap
preciate this kind of fishing that you do
at the mill pond, for it lacks some of
those quiet and reposeful features that
he liked. Here around tne mm uama
biff trees, and tangles of undergrowth,
and on the banks are slopes where a man
i lie and smoke and dream and nsn.
Pint vou don't lie on the ground when
you fish at a drawn off mill pond. Proba
bly a man lies less of a fishing expedition
(Concluded on page eleven) '
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