By LARRY M. JONES
Despite having a half-mile of Brazos riverfront on the “pore farm,” my father rarely went fishing with my brother and me when we were growing up. Instead, we mostly went to the field in the summertime. A fact born largely out of necessity, my father was an extremely hard-working man, rarely taking time off to relax and “smell the roses.” To his credit, it kept the wolves at bay, and we never went to bed hungry.
One exception was an annual fishing trip in August when the crops were “laid by.” Once the fields were hoed and plowed a last time before harvest, we could work on fences, barns, equipment and, occasionally, have a little fun.
When I think of fishing, it is not like what most folks today would regard as fishing. I’m not talking about big bass tournaments or crappie fishing in large lakes. Down on Route One Millsap, we set out trot lines in the river. I admit such methodology isn’t particularly glamorous, but it could be quite effective in putting a mess of fried catfish on the dinner table. I previously inferred the fishing was fun, but I suppose the definition of “fun” can be somewhat relative and subjective. Seining or catching bait, setting out the lines, and baiting them can be very hard work when you do it right. If I had to burn that many calories in the field, I would have griped and protested with passion.
Uncle Leon, my mother’s half-brother, was an old bachelor who lived in Millsap and worked at the Acme Brick plant in Bennett as a manual laborer. He was an honest, hard-working and simple man with simple needs. He loved to fish. Each year in August he would take his week of vacation and go fishing with us. He would buy the finest hooks and line material from Don Price’s Western Auto Store in Mineral Wells and work all year making the fanciest trot lines imaginable. He would put brass swivels on each hook staging and would make a few strong enough to subdue the mightiest yellow cat. He took great care in selecting just the right hook for the job.
To some, Uncle Leon didn’t seem to have sense enough to come in out of the rain, yet he could talk for lengths about the attributes of a one aught (1/0) Eagle Claw or a Norwegian Mustad hook. He would always proudly bring the lines and equipment for our annual fishing expedition. To me, his gear was so new and lovingly crafted, it was a shame to get it wet, muddy, smelling of fish and occasionally broken. Yet, each year he always had a new supply of the finest trot lines available.
August is a horrible time to fish the Brazos because it’s normally very low, the water temperatures are high and the fish are lethargic and slow to bite. Despite having to fish in a less-than-optimal time of year, we always managed to catch a good mess or two of channel cats and occasionally a larger, and even more delightful, yellow cat.
My Uncle Leon made some of the finest trot lines in the country, but his true forté was eating my mom’s fried catfish and greasy fried potatoes.
Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.