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Stories My Dad Told, Chiggers and Fishing

My father was a plumber and an electrical repairman as well as a general do-it-yourself repairman. He taught me many valuable lessons.

The Ohio River

The Ohio River

The Sleepy Banks of the Ohio River

I can imagine my father growing up like Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn, running barefoot along the river, building rafts, fishing, and hunting.

In the summer months, they are plagued by chiggers. As I understand it from my father’s description, they are little blood-sucking critters like ticks but smaller, that burrow under the skin and itch. They inhabit the tall grasses and weeds in the woods so you have to be off the main roads to get them on your legs. But my father ran through the woods barefoot and with his trousers rolled up so he had chiggers often. My Dad’s mother told me all you had to do was a bath in warm salty water and the chiggers would retreat and die but bathing wasn’t something young boys liked to do in those days (or now either).

And so our mothers and grandmothers have, more often than not anonymously, handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see – or like a sealed letter they could not plainly read.

— Alice Walker

Inspired by a Rockwell painting

Inspired by a Rockwell painting


Ever’ summer we went a berry pickin’ or jus’ chasin’ ol’ Shep and come home with chiggers. Now you youngin’s may not know ‘bout chiggers but they’s little critters. They get under yer skin and itch jus’ like Hogan’s goat! Wayell, we was always lookin’ for some way ta get rid a them varments ‘cause they’d itch far days. They’d make ya crazy like two squirrels in a sack. Nothin’ much worked on ‘em. It was like pullin’ hen’s teeth to get rid of ‘em.

One day ma gran’ma tol’ me I could get rid a them critters if’n I poured kerosene over ma legs soon as I got home. Now if you don’t know anythin’ ‘about kerosene ya should know it stings like all getout in open wounds. But if ya had chiggers, you’d know why I’d be ‘bout willin’ ta try anything. I know better today. I reckon I did some hollerin’ and runnin’ around in circles some.

Ever’ whip-stitch I’d catch ma gran’ma a chucklin’ over than.

Photo of a river barge.

Photo of a river barge.


I reckon he got his sense of humor from her. I wish he had told more stories about her because I never knew much about her besides her name. She must have been something.

The thing I hate about an argument is that it always interrupts a discussion.

— G. K. Chesterton

Dad fishing by the river.

Dad fishing by the river.

Butch and Fishing

One story I got from Uncle Butch and not from my father was a hum-dinger. I could see my dad doing this too.

Living right on the Ohio River like they did, fishing was a natural pastime as well as a source of food. Dad said they would get up at 4 in the morning and fish on the river from little rowboats or boats with outboard motors when they could afford them. They usually brought home catfish. Here is the story.

One day, after fishin’ on the river, that outboard motor wouldn’t start up. Ah had Butch along and day was abreakin’. Ah tugged and pulled at that pull cord but nothin’ happened. Ah was ‘bout 16 and thought I knew it all, sos I tuck off the motor cover an commenced ta tinkering around. Butch kep askin’ if he could help. "Cun ah help?" "Comm-on, lit me help." "Thar mus be sommin' ah can do ta help." The more he asked the angrier I got. Finally, I said, sure and handed him two wires.

“You can help by holding these here wires.”

Then I gave another pull at the pull cord and Butch lit up like Christmas. It gave him a respectable jolt and took the curl outa his hair. I thanked him and took the wires back.

“Wayell, it ain’t the battery,” and I returned to tinkerin’. He didn’t ask if’n he could help again.


My Dad was a character but then so was his whole family. I remember while visiting one summer, my grandfather, Dad’s father, started telling a story about his bout with a gallbladder attack. He had that same smooth, easy way of talking that Dad had and as he told the story about eating pickled pig’s feet, my grandmother, Dad’s mother, was trying to interrupt. It was hysterical to see because he paid no attention to her at all. She started mumbling that that wasn’t the way it happened at all. Then he’s say something that she must have thought was an out-in-out lie and she’d get loud addressing him directly, but he continued to ignore her.

“Now, Clinton, you know that neve' happened.” Then shed mumble toward the women in the group, “he’s got that story the way he wants to tell it and they ain’t a word a truth to it.” Then again he’s say something and she’d loudly interject, “That ain’t the way it happened an you know it.” Then she’d start mumbling again trying to tell how it really happened but not getting it all out because he'd say something again that set her off. "Clinton Scott, that's a bald-faced lie!" but he ignored her and continued his story.

I never heard his story. It was too entertaining hearing her try to tell it right and correct him to hear his story at all. After this went on for 20 minutes or more and we all laughed, I asked my mother if they even liked each other. She told me something I have always remembered. “Dear,” she said, “some people love a good fuss.” I guess they enjoyed life together because they had plenty of fusses.

Dad with his parents

Dad with his parents

Arguing is the Olympics of talking.

— Stewart Stafford

Final Thoughts

How much do you know about your grandparents and parents? Do you have stories to tell? I’d love to hear about it. Let me know your thoughts and stories in the comments below.


Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 17, 2021:

Linda Crampton,

Yes, I love thinking about my grandparents and parents and my childhood. As the years roll by it is nice to remember good times and not sad ones. Thanks for commenting.



Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 15, 2021:

This is an interesting article accompanied by some lovely illustrations. Your descriptions of your relatives are entertaining. I enjoy thinking about my grandparents and life in the past.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 13, 2021:

Peggy Woods,

That is lucky. We lived many states away from my paternal grandparents and so I didn't get to see them often. One of dad's sisters passed from the coronavirus this last year and I still remember her as a young woman, the one I met the last time I visited Indiana. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 13, 2021:

Pamela Oglesby,

I'm happy to remind you of a simpler and happier time. It's times like these when the world faces great danger and changes that it is a form of escapism to remember happy times in childhood but that's what I do to cope. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 13, 2021:

Rosina S Khan,

It is a special thing to meet grandparents and get a sense of how your parents grew up. Even harsh grandparents are better than none. My maternal grandmother didn't like me and was often very critical of me but I realize I get my artistic talents from her. Thanks for sharing your experience with your extended family with me.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 13, 2021:

Peg Cole,

I don't know about you, but I couldn't live like that. It takes special people to "argue" all the time and still love each other. I'm too transparent for that. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 13, 2021:

Bill Holland,

You know I thought he made chiggers up. Being from California I never experienced such things and even when I visited Indiana, I didn't go tromping through the tall grass in the woods. I had to do research to find those little critters are real. Who knew. I wouldn't put it past my dad to make such a thing up, you know. As for fishing, we nagged Dad until he took us girls out fishing once, middle of the day, and we caught nothing but mosquito bites. He just laid there taking a nap and I swore afterwards that all that fishing talk was nonsense. He had to have purchased the fish from a store. No way can you drop a line in the water and catch a fish... so I thought. I learned we should have gone out early in the day or late when the fish are hungry. Dad did that on purpose to appease us and get a nap. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 13, 2021:

Ann Carr,

I'm surprised they both survived that. I think I would have tried to take my brother to the bottom of the river if he had tried that on me. I'm glad your partner found this amusing. Thanks for commenting.



Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 12, 2021:

I love your family stories and your art. I was lucky. I grew up next to my maternal grandparents and knew my paternal grandmother well. We were really close to all of them.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 12, 2021:

I didn't see my grandparents as often as I would like, but I loved the time we did spend together. I really enjoy your stories whether they are from your father or another relative. Thanks for sharing, Denise, as your stories remind me of my childhood.

Rosina S Khan on March 12, 2021:

It is great Denise that you have so many hilarious family stories to tell. Apart from that the images are wonderful.

Both my paternal and maternal granddads had already passed on by the time I was born. After a year younger sister was born, we left for abroad because Dad wanted to teach abroad as a Professor. We came for vacations in our home country.

During those times I chanced to meet my maternal grandma though I never saw my paternal grandma because she lived in another direction far away from Dhaka. While we were still abroad, both my grandmas passed on.

So you can see I had very little interaction with my grandparents. Any stories we hear about them also is through our Mom.

Thanks for sharing your awesome family stories.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on March 12, 2021:

These stories were truly entertaining. I love the accents and the way you captured the characters. I can imagine them talking as the story unfolded. That's the mark of a good story.

I really loved the part where your mom told you, " “Dear,” she said, “some people love a good fuss.” My Aunt Leila and Uncle Ken were like that. They ran a restaurant and were all the time yelling across the room at each other. If you didn't know them, you'd think they were arguing.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 12, 2021:

My dad would not go fishing when I was a kid. He said all they ate during the Great Depression was catfish, and he'd be damned if he'd spend one more minute with a pole in his hand. He would take me fishing, but not once did I ever see him, in twenty years, actually cast a line out in the water. :) Loved your story and I know chiggers intimately.

Ann Carr from SW England on March 12, 2021:

This is priceless, Denise! I can hear them all talking and the tale of the two brothers is just hilarious! I'm surprised he survived that. I read it out to my partner and he laughed his socks off.

I also love your sketches. They are so good. You have a talent, both for your artwork (collage, sketching..) and your storytelling - you must get that from your Dad!



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 12, 2021:


I felt the same way. Just after dad died 28 years ago, I thought I would forget all his stories and I immediately wrote them down. Now I'm revisiting them and adding things I remember but mostly, I'm glad I wrote them when they were still fresh in my memory. Thanks for commenting.



Liz Westwood from UK on March 12, 2021:

I enjoy reading your family stories. You retell them very well. It leaves me racking my brains for any I can remember from my grandparents. I wish I had kept a note at the time.

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