A buddy and me went cat-fishing the other night. We left about 7 in the evening so that we could get there and get set up properly before nightfall when they start to bite. The trip involved a walk through head-high corn for about 3/4 of a mile. He toted three poles and I toted the rest of the gear in a five gallon bucket as well as collapsible chairs, a small tackle box - and, of course, beer. My now 8-month old Pit-Lab puppy, Buckethead was happy to join in on the trip. He carried nothing except for his own clumsy body and his big, empty head, his bucket.
It was still in the high 80s when we left for the retention pond. The Georgian sunlight never fails to burn hotly. My friend, older than I, has lived in the area all of his life. He said that the pond was created by the government back in the 1930s as a method of controlling soil erosion. They government, in times when they actually cared for the environment, would employ men without jobs to live in the countryside while they dug these retention ponds. Their earnings were sent to their families so that they could sustain themselves. Imagine that, a government that actually tried to help the American family to survive and weather difficult times.
Of course, today, people here in Georgia have no need to worry about their soil being washed away; this year is yet another of severe drought. I hear stories of flooding in the Midwest and feel almost envious. There's not a green blade of grass within a hundred miles of my house. My ever-withering garden consistently cries out to me for cooling water, but the government says that I am not allowed to provide it. I do it anyway though. I figure that if the cattle farmers can go through millions and millions of gallons of water every day to supply the country with disease-causing bovine muscle, then surely, I should be allowed to water a few tomato and cucumber plants.
The pond was, of course, low. The water there was actually almost stagnated. As we approached, it was obvious that there were plenty of fish there. Their smell was thick in the air.
As darkness drew nearer, we settled in under a black walnut tree and readied the gear. Buckethead was instantly knee-deep in mud on the banks and then neck-deep in the murky, smelly water. He didn't seem to mind a bit. As a matter of fact, he thoroughly enjoyed himself. It seems the stinkier something seems to me, the more that he wants to wallow in it, drink it, eat it or anything else that he can do to be a part of it. A dirty dog, but very happy. He would look up at me as if to beckon me to join him for a cool dip. I declined several invitations.
With the very first cast, we started to reel in the catfish. This place was a hot spot for catfish action! No monsters, just one-pound, right for a skillet.
The muddy pond had, of course, affected the muscle tissues of the fish. I knew that they would require a nice salty buttermilk soak before cooking. About four fun-filled hours later, my older Georgian friend drunk on beer, and Buckethead literally exhausted and drunk on stupidity, we decided to pack it up. It was after 1 in the morning. We packed the gear out as we had in, being sure to leave no trash behind. The emptied beer cans weighed less than before, yet the weight of the catfish, now residing in the five-gallon bucket, more than made up for it.
My buddy fell flat at least three times on the return trip through the corn field as we forged a path home in the darkness. His sons awaited him here at the house. They provided his safe transport homeward.
I filled the bucket with extra water and hit the sack. The next morning, I rose early to beat the heat and clean the fish for freezing. We had brought home 18 single-serving catfish and I proceeded to clean them all. I soaked them in salt water for a day; soaked them further in salty buttermilk for another day, rinsed them thoroughly, patted them dry and put them in freezer-safe packaging for an icy storage.
I made the first batch of catfish nuggets for my dinner last night. Delicious. I felt good to know that they were natural products - ones that had never been exposed to pesticides, herbicides, steroids or other mass-produced food toxins. I felt honored by the fish - them having sacrificed their lives for my nutritional gain.
I felt no wrong for having ended their lives because I understand that nature works that way. I would feel wrong however, if I were to drive through McDonald's and order a fish sandwich. I believe that it is important to exercise for your food (the cornfield walks); process it yourself; prepare it yourself and to truly understand where it comes from. I believe that those catfish were proud to be my dinner.
Take a break from the rat race sometime and rediscover the beauty of a simple evening of fishing with a drunken redneck friend and a dirty, mentally challenged puppy dog. You will probably learn a lot about the appreciation of life and of living in general.
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