I Caught a Mess of Cane Pole Fishing
Do You Recall The First Time
that you read the “Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn?” These two books were not wonderful, but simply magnificent. I hold Mark Twain very high on my List of People Whom I Admire. Twain is either first or second at the top.
The very first memory of cane fishing, (or what my dad called) Pole Fishing, is still burned into my memory like branding a few spring calves. Something this important and special will certainly stay with you. I have proof.
I hope that you are not hoping to find a series of jokes to share, because I don’t. I have researched the Cane Pole, and I want to present it with the respect and love that it deserves. When I was growing up, I can still remember (that) day and time when the adults, both men and women, only used cane poles to go fishing—due to the fact that the economics of (our) place in the Mid-South, 1953, were not that lucrative. So the adults had to do what they could in order to put food on the table—and if that meant heading to their favorite fishing holes to catch the food, not buy in the local grocery store, that is what the people did to feed their families.
This Story is True
because it affected me. My dad did not work for the public. He was one of the many sharecroppers who worked for the richer landowners and that was the way it was from on day to the other. I even began to think that life for my family and I was going to be sharecropping for the rest of our lives.
A person thrown into such positions thinks like this. Thinking of the work in the hot sun—plowing, planting, then harvesting your crops in the fall. It was work. Hard work, but we didn’t mind it where we grew up in Northwest Alabama, Marion Co. to be exact. There wasn’t many sharecroppers around from 1950 through the mid 60s thanks to most of the families that we knew all locating in the Northern states—Michigan, Wisconsin, and other Northern locations when the Automotive Industry was going wide-open and all that a man had to do in order to get himself a good paying job was walk inside the plant and ask for it. I kid you not.
But . . .back down South, it was (mostly) sharecropping that we thought of as a “job,” and that did help feed our families, but there was always a time when my dad and mom along with other people would “hit the creek banks” in their favorite place from late evening throughout the night and Pole Fish all night long. During the summer months, these ingenious men and women had a secret way to fight off the mosquitoes so they could focus on fishing: the folks brought an old, worn-out rubber tire and set it afire so the dark smoke would billow slowly throughout the night, and if you are from the south, you know what I mean by telling you about a “Gnat Smoke.” It was funny at times, but it always worked. There wasn’t money to throw about for “Hot Shot” Insect Killer, so my dad and other people relied on their wits. This also worked.
The Choices of Fishing Holes for Cane Pole Fishermen
were names like: Sipsey Bottom; Buttahatchee; The White Rock; Henson Springs and Bull Mountain. These were fishing holes, not state (or personally) owned lakes for local sportsmen. Our economy was so unsure, that even the older generation who were still living, held tight of their money because they feared if they invested in our town or county, they would lose their money—The Crash of ‘29 was still in their minds and even as a kid of 12, I understood this matter of economics,
On a given evening, my parents would prepare for a night of Pole Fishing, which was truthfully, Cane Fishing, preparations such as boiling the coffee as black as the coal that we used for heat in the winter. My mom would wrap some left-over cornbread and a jar of peaches that we consumed for a late-night supper break, but if the fish were biting, we went ahead and fished all that we could, for fish are very mysterious and cannot be found in the same place.
My dad loved Sipsey Bottom and Bull Mountain for our most-successful sites for Cane Fishing. Even if the rains had been light, the water in these two places were deep enough for us to catch our dinner and sometimes, depending on the fishing the night before, we ate fish for breakfast—because in (our place of residence), you didn’t roll to the local supermarket and throw down a pound or two of tasty bacon—many is the time we ate fish and the apples from the apple trees that grew on the west side of our house and that went for delicious Apple Pie, which I love.
My dad loved to catch, clean, and fry Catfish that he would catch at Bull Mountain, where we had a nice, clean place for camping and fishing. But he also loved Blue Gill if the Catfish were hiding deeper than his bait. I always admired my dad for his mastery of life, Cane Pole Fishing, and many other things in life.
My mom was the same way, but talented in the kitchen when it pertained to preparing and cooking the fish that her, dad, and myself would catch—and by eating some and saving some, we had food for the next day or night.
I am going to share this recipe with you that my mom used to use when she was going to fry-up “a mess” of fresh fish. And please do not ask me to define what the term, “mess of,” means because if you lived in the country, you knew what it meant.
Firstly, you clean your fish with cold water and before you wash them, you can descale them by using a Butcher’s Knife and when the fish is slick, you drop them into a bowl of fresh Buttermilk and then place them into a bowl of Corn Meal, Black and Cayenne Pepper then gently place them into the Skillet or Fryer with Vegetable Oil and let the fish come to the top when they are brown . . .then take them and lay them on a Paper Towel to allow them to dry. If you like, you can add a little Cayenne Pepper to the tops of the fish and eat food as good as Manna from Heaven.
We Didn’t Really Consider
our times of Pole Creek-Bank Fishing as being deprived. Not in the least. Many times, my family and I would take or or two households with us for a night of Cane Pole Fishing—there is just something about being with good neighbors that are life-long friends because we knew that they had our backs and we had theirs.
And I have to credit these good friends and wonderful memories that were both derived from Cane Pole Fishing.
March 2, 2019___________________________________
© 2019 Kenneth Avery