---- — The weather had been dry lately, so for Grandpa to be able to coax the worms out of the ground, he had to turn on the sprinkler for awhile so that they would be easier for us to catch. After supper was over and the sun was beginning to dip below the horizon, Grandpa and I headed outside with a bucket full of dampened newspaper, and a flashlight with a red bandana covering the lens. The filtered light would keep the worms from being so sensitive to the light as we shined it on the ground.
Grandpa and I both scanned the ground beneath our feet in search of any kind of movement among the blades of grass. I hollered to Grandpa and said, “Look, there is a really big one slithering across the sidewalk.” I quickly made a grab for it . Once I felt the slimy ooze the worm emitted onto my hand, I just as quickly dropped it back toward the ground. Grandpa pushed me out of the way and made quick work of getting it into our worm bucket. I then was mildly scolded for making way too much noise. After a few more brave attempts on my part, I was soon getting the knack of yanking those tantalizing tidbits out of their holes. After about an hour or so, we had all we needed for tomorrow’s fishing expedition.
As I lay in bed that night, waiting to go to sleep, I could hear the 10 p.m. news echoing down the hallway. As the weatherman finished up his report, I could vaguely hear him mention something about thunderstorms tomorrow afternoon, as I finally drifted off to sleep. I loved sleeping at Grandpa and Grandma’s house because the over-stuffed feather bed seemed to wrap me up like a cocoon, and the handmade quilt kept me warm on cool nights.
Just like clockwork, Grandpa came barreling into my room at around five in the morning, asking me if I was going to sleep the entire day away. Barely able to see through the “Mr. Sleepy” that was in my eyes, I slowly stumbled toward the bathroom and washed my face and quickly dressed. Breakfast was nearly ready as the last of the fried sausage mush sizzled and popped on the gas stove. A steaming bowl of oatmeal was already waiting for me to smother in brown sugar and milk. I can still see Grandpa sitting across the table from me with oatmeal leaking from the corners of his mouth, as he reached down to stir sugar into his black coffee. It seems strange now to think about it, but I don’t remember Grandma ever sitting down to eat breakfast. However, I can still picture her in my mind, sometime after her morning stories (soaps) came on, she always seemed to have a cup of coffee in one hand, while dipping potato chips in it with her other one.
Grandpa always said that I made too much noise getting into the boat and that if I didn’t stop it, I would scare all of the fish out of the river. I’ve often wondered, if I did scare them out of the river, where in the world would they go? With fishing poles, bait, tackle box and worms safely secured in the bottom of the boat, Grandpa began the task of pushing us out toward the center of the river. He stood on the bow of that boat with a 10-foot pole in his hands, looking as confident as a wise riverboat captain setting sail on the mighty Mississippi River. With a wide-brimmed straw hat on his head and a smoking pipe wedged tightly between his teeth, he guided us across the river toward a still cove surrounded by weed beds. Grandpa said, “The fish will swim into that protected area to get out of the fast water so they can rest and feed a spell.” After we each released the anchor that lay near our feet, the green rowboat that kept us dry and safe from snapping turtles soon settled quietly in the still bayou.
Grandpa always knew where the fish would be, since he had nearly every single rock and deep hole memorized in the Wabash River. I, on the other hand, didn’t know from beans, where those elusive catfish and other swimming creatures were hiding. When I was very young, it seemed that Grandpa was reeling in one fish after another while I just sat and watched in amazement. After a spell, I did get bored and began to make-believe that I had fish biting on my hook. Grandpa would just laugh and say, “R. L., I think you are just getting water bites!” Oh, occasionally I would snag a pieced of wood or something else drifting downstream that had found its way onto my hook. It took years of watching and studying Grandpa, who I thought was the greatest fisherman in the world, before I could even begin to catch anything worth taking home for Grandma to fry for our supper.
At least once while I stayed at my grandparents, we would pack a picnic lunch and take a trip to some point of interest. One of those trips took us to a large rock that overlooked a river. Now I don’t know if it was the Wabash or not, but legend has it that two Indian braves fought over an Indian princess high atop that rocky outcrop. As the story goes, during the scuffle, one of those men fell to his death as a result of that battle over love.I have so many spring break memories, and none of them include crowded beaches in Florida or bathtubs filled with beer or mind-altering drugs. They don’t include bikini-clad girls, although I wouldn’t have minded a few (several actually) waiting on the riverside. But that’s okay. The memories that I have will never be diluted, nor will I ever have to make up any stories or exaggerate anything to impress my friends. The above story was and always will be the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.
Contact Raymond Snoke at email@example.com.