It is difficult to get my dad to do much of anything with me if it doesn't take place in his shop, or at least has a guitar involved. Last summer though, I got him to take me fishing up in the mountain behind our house, telling me stories of when he went with his dad when he was younger.
I was reminded of this story when on Friday evening my husband and I went to a fancy restaurant, even nicer than my dad's go-to gourmet haunt, The Cracker Barrel, if you can believe it, and I was deciding between two entrees. After consulting with Stewart, our server, he warned me that the trout entree for the evening had its head and tail still intact, in case that would be a problem for me. In my typical, endearing (maybe?), unfiltered fashion, I proceeded to tell him about the time Leah and I caught a trout from the creek and bludgeoned it to death with a stick, then attempted to fillet it following directions we found on Youtube. We then proceeded to bake it intact because the flimsy knife and large plastic plate adorned with Christmas scenes proved to be inadequate for successfully butchering a whole fish. (You can read a more indepth account in a past blog entry titled Gone Fishing, if you really want to.) He went away, probably filled with pity/concern for my poor husband, assuming I am definitely insane, but also hopefully with the understanding that I a head-on trout for dinner is the least of my worries. If you were wondering, I decided to order the grouper entree because I am obviously already an expert on catching and preparing trout.
Anyway, I asked my dad to go fishing with me, and he heartily agreed, much to my surprise. We dug out the fishing rods Leah and I had been using earlier in the summer, and set about finding bait. My dad said he always dug worms from a special spot in Granny's yard, right next to the branch. (That is Rugby talk for a small stream, not the appendage of a tree.) We loaded up a shovel and went to digging holes in her yard near the bank. I am not sure how many earthworms we actually found, but they filled a styrofoam coffee cup pretty sufficiently. After gathering our worms we headed out to the creek (the bit of a water network that is a step bigger than a branch). My dad told me he used to catch minnows in the branch and use them in lieu of worms, but it takes significant patience to do that, and neither of us felt it would behoove us to work all day to catch little fish in order to catch more fish. We just wanted to go straight for the big prize.
As I plunked my line into the water and proceeded to wait on the bank, my dad told me that his dad showed him how to fish long ago. It isn't just throwing a line into the water and hoping for something to bite, there is actually skill and strategy to it. (I thought my strategy of plunking was right, but apparently not.) Apparently, using a method works though, as my grandfather could catch ten fish when everyone else would be lucky to catch one. The game warden, John Emerson, lived just up the street from my grandparent's house, and apparently, he wasn't the best hunter. He knew my Grandfather Walt was, so he would always invite him to fish or hunt with him every chance he could. He would 'confiscate' any game over the limit that my grandfather had procured, citing official game warden rules of course. My grandfather would happily oblige since Mr. Emerson would often fail to ticket him while hunting or fishing alone, and my grandfather brought home anything over the imposed limit. Mr. Emerson would be sure to take two or three fish from my grandfather's catch though, just to teach him a lesson.
My dad instructed me to crouch behind rocks, and, "don't let the fish know you are there." I didn't really understand because how is a fish going to see me when I am perched quietly, albeit precariously, on a rock above white rushing bubbly water? "I don't know how, but hey can," he assured me. I don't typically associate my dad with acts of stealth, except maybe when he is unleashing the mongoose on some poor gullible victim in his shop, so I was impressed to see him slither between the boulders lining the creek with surprising ease and expertise. I followed his advice, slipping behind a mossy rock and tossing my line into the water. After a while lo and behold, I caught one! When I triumphantly looked up to show my dad, he had already caught two fish, and was proceeding to clean them on bank. That was where Leah and I went wrong, you are supposed to bust out your trusty pocket knife and dig out the fish guts right there on a rock, not take the whole fish home in an emptied salt and pepper kettle chip bag. After he cleaned my little fish for me, we caught a few more and headed home, deciding we had a sufficient amount for dinner.
I baked the trout, heads and tails and all, in a pan filled with fresh onions, zucchini and squash from Herb's garden. Aside from my other trout catching-to-eating adventure, it was my favorite dinner I have ever made. And those who know me, know I can make a pretty delicious dinner. So maybe the main reason I love summer in Rugby so much is because I am surrounded by amazing fresh produce, and if I want, I can pluck my dinner straight from the creek with (hopefully) only a bit of struggle. The extra work of preparing my own food is worth so much more to me than having the money to purchase similar ingredients from a store. I know it hasn't always seemed like a luxury for my family to have to tend to a garden and take care of livestock while living on a farm, but I am so thankful my Granny, Aunt Shirleen, and my dad have taught me how to do that so I am able to fully appreciate where my food comes from.