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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.

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