This little trip down memory lane was brought on by me responding to a tweet…
…which led to an invitation…
…and an explanation.
There’s a little more to the story. My mother ruefully remembers the first time she helped me hunt nightcrawlers, indeed in the dark, on hands and knees, on a freshly watered lawn, resulting in fatal stains to a pair of white jeans worn in a moment of wardrobe insanity. I remember she often helped, holding the container I dropped the nightcrawlers into or holding the light, or getting down and capturing them with her own hands to pitch in on occasion. Oh, the ridiculous things moms and dads do for kids, huh?
I still remember the technique. A quick grab when the red light dimly shows the glistening body of a worm protruding from the soil. A gentle tug to stretch it out, but not too hard because nightcrawlers have little bristles on some segments to grip the soil. If you pull too hard, they’ll break in half. But if you hold them stretched out for a moment, patiently, with a little tension, you can feel them relax their little worm muscles for a split second in an attempt to get a better grip and you can slide them right out whole and plop them into a bucket to serve fish-hungry anglers. Or, if you like, you can drop them in your potted plants to aerate the soil and break down the little organic bits they eat and poop out, making the plants healthier.
You could eat them if you want, too. Worms are virtually pure protein. Might be the meat of the future, who knows? But that’s a subject for another post.
Oh, why didn’t I run a lemonade stand like a normal kid? I lived in rural Wisconsin, along a two-lane country road with a 55 mph speed limit. Getting someone to pull over at a trailer park for lemonade was WAY more of a longshot than getting someone on the way to one of the many lakes and streams in the area to pull over before getting to their fishing hole.
Just for the heck of it, here are some pics from my favorite fishing hole. Fishing is relaxing and meditative for me, so I do quite a bit of it because STRESS BILLS WORRY CAR REPAIRS LIFE STUFF WHEN WILL I SELL MORE BOOKS AM I WRITING ENOUGH DOES THE STORY I’M WORKING ON NOW SUCK EEEEEK after writing that I want to go fishing right now.
But seriously, it’s a beautiful little spot. I get lots of little fishing companions even when I don’t bring along my 6 year old son (I’ve told the 4 year old that he may come along when he’s 5 because he’s a tad wild and unfocused still and I don’t want him flailing around with a hook).
Not pictured: there are always dragonflies in warm weather. And mosquitoes, but I bring repellent for them. Usually herons and egrets, sometimes a hawk or a duck or a water snake of mystery variety because I give them plenty of space.
Above, mantises and lizard. And lots of duckweed this year, unlike last year. I suspect the mild winter and very hot summer have something to do with it, and maybe a lot of watering and lawn fertilizing going on at the posh homes on one side of the lake.
This, by the way, is the location and activity that inspired the story Basshole, which appears in my Maladapt mini-collection. In that one, a transhuman living in a robotic body does a lot of fishing for 200 years because he’s all messed up about his ex-wife, leaving his fleshly body behind, and just what it is you do with a life anyway. There’s a lot of inner turmoil for him to sort through, but wouldn’t you be thrown off by your 200-years-ago wife showing up in her old human body, out of the blue? I think I would.
In any event, hope you enjoyed the view. I do.
Here’s our 5 year old proudly displaying the first fish he ever caught, just a couple of days ago. Itty-bitty little bluegill — and he went on to catch four more somewhat larger ones while I caught a decent sunfish, a crappie, and a smallmouth bass.
He was THRILLED to have caught more fish than I did. 🙂
When I was a kid we threw small panfish like that bluegill back. I have come to learn that panfish spawn eggs by the thousands, and in small lakes like the one we were fishing in they’ll generate a huge population quickly if someone isn’t eating them.
I’m sure the local bass, herons, and cranes eat way more than our little catch, but we took them home.
Small fish are good practice for my needs-work filleting skills. 5 year old Victor got an education in where food comes from: with my hands guiding his, he cleaned the very first fish he caught, and he ate it as a lightly breaded quick-fried fish nugget side dish.
If we eat meat, and all of us do but our 18 year old vegetarian, we should be aware of its origins, yes?
Also, with such tiny fish there need be little waste. The same light cornstarch & cornmeal dusting and a longer fry in slightly cooler oil, and you can eat the remaining bones and meat like crunchy fish potato crisps. But fishy and full of calcium. Chew carefully. Take small bites.
When I was a kid, we threw the little ones back, even though we often suffered food insecurity in the first 10 years of my life, when we lived in Wisconsin and our main income was my dad’s construction work — which tends to be seasonal, oddly enough, up north where it’s cold as hell in the winter. If we’d had more sense, or less pride, or thought of fishing as a way to get food instead of recreation, we’d have eaten them. Interesting, how our minds partition things based on our life experience. Dad was a city kid from Detroit, mom from a middle class background in a small town in Wisconsin. Fishing was something you did to have a good time, not to eat.
Well, times are tough and my family lives below the poverty line. I’ll be damned if I’m paying for a fishing licence and not turning a profit on it in seafood! (Side note: I’m trying to write our way above the poverty line — look above, there’s a tab marked “Support me on Patreon.” Look to the right, there are links to places to buy my ebooks. Even picking up a free one makes me a smidge more visible on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or wherever you get it from. I appreciate the hell our of anything you might do to make my dreams come true and my family’s bottom line healthier!)
And I hope you’ve had something wonderful in your life recently, something that compares with watching your kid catch his first fish.
I’m still smiling about it. 🙂
AP (UN Regional Headquarters 8, international waters, Central Pacific)
29 August 2241
UNBE (United Nations Bureau of Enforcement) officers arrested eight individuals alleged to be the top coordinators of a tuna poaching, smuggling, and sale ring with operations spanning from the east coast of India to the western and eastern shores of the northern and equatorial Pacific Ocean. In accordance with UN law, UNBE did not release the identities of the arrested or their professions or other personal information pending the notification or appointment of the arrested parties’ legal counsel and the formal declaration of charges, which much occur within thirty full calendar days.
Nearly all surviving species of tuna are classified as critically endangered and fishing or otherwise taking even a single tuna for any purpose is a felony under UN law as well as under most local subordinate codes of nation-states and corporate states. A UNBE official stated the numbers of tuna involved are “estimated in the thousands, perhaps even ten or twenty thousand.” Charges of criminal conspiracy and tax evasion are also expected to be levied against the accused.
Tuna poaching is an ongoing threat to the recovery of the animals’ populations, which have never recovered from the overfishing of the 20th and 21st centuries. Several species are believed extinct, and legal commercially available tuna is either farmed under strict oversight or laboratory cultivated.
Tuna poaching is a longstanding problem for law enforcement due to the profitability of black-market fish in general and tuna in particular. According to UNBE estimates and past convictions, an angler may receive as much as 1 Globo per gram of their catch; a single fish weighing 5 kilograms may match the median yearly income of semiskilled laborers in poorer nations or buy a two-seat personal automobile in richer ones.
At the table, this value is considerably enhanced. A single slice of sashimi, generally between 10 and 20 grams may cost a well-heeled black market diner 500 Globos.
I’ve been posting a piece of microfiction each month for Patreon patrons (a whole buck a month is the minimum pledge to see them) since March. This month’s offering is a vignette about a young man fishing in a place that makes the familiar Earth seem very alien indeed. It’s about hope and death and life and duty, and maybe a few other things, too. While a vignette isn’t quite a story of its own, this one sketches the edges of at least three big stories for your — and maybe my, in future works — imagination to work on.
You should read it. I think it’s worth seeing.