I never see that phrase about fish without a flash of memory.
During the 1950s drought stock ponds were drying up all over the southwest. There came a day a lot like this one, though it was probably warmer, when a kid named David Cagle and I were wandering around the ruins of cow country and came across a pond that was maybe five acres of surface and about three inches deep in water. Every square foot of water had a fish flopping in it. I’ve never seen anything like it.
A few hundred yards from the pond was an abandoned barn where we’d noticed an old galvanized washtub someone had probably used to water calves when there was still water, or feed them when there was still food. We hoofed over to that barn and snagged the tub, waded into that fish and cow-mud calf deep throwing fish into the tub.
We glowed over that tub full of fish all the way home, him on one handle, me on the other, thinking how deeeeeelighted our folks would be with the treasure we were bringing them.
Both of us smelled a joyous combination of cow-mud and fish when we got to David’s house, went in through the kitchen door and watched his mama shriek even before she turned around and saw the fish.
“Get those fish out of this house!”
We got them out and she followed us into the yard to hose him down before she’d allow him inside. Me, she ordered to take those fish with me and head down the road.
My own mom took a more circumspect view of things, mainly because she wasn’t home when I got there. I cleaned myself up and filled the kitchen sink with all the fish it would hold and started killing and gutting them. The job was far enough along to make quitting a moot point when she got home.
I gutted a lot of fish over the next couple of days, though I did move the operation out into the back yard.
My mom’s one of those kind of people who remember such things after she can’t remember her own name. I’m not sure I’ve ever returned to her company during the past 50 years without being reminded of it.
Give a person a fish and he might not appreciate it, but he won’t starve until the fish is digested.
But give a person a fishing pole and he’ll almost surely hook an ear or nostril before it’s over.
Sons of the Pioneers– Cool Clear Water
Woody Guthrie–Dust Bowl Blues