Whitesburg KY

Working my way back home

Once again I find myself thinking of the past and my mode of survival far from these old hills of home that I love so well.

I enlisted in the Army Jan. 8, 1960, and received my second and last discharge Jan. 7, 1966, having served six years active duty — 38 months of it in Europe.

I saw France, where I spent the major portion of my time. I saw Germany, Newfoundland, England and the Azores, never being on American soil the entire time President Kennedy was in offi ce. The rest of my time was spent in the Mojave Desert, with the sidewinders, scorpions and the tarantulas, and the 100-degree heat.

I was discharged in California where I worked for the ATSF Railroad and Civil Service on a Marine base. But it just wasn’t home, so I started working my way toward the hills of home.

I stopped in Georgia and worked at a Colonial Supermarket, Lykes Meat Packing Co., Hatfield Logging and Lumber, Pulpwood Cutting, and Chapman Construction, which was building prefab homes in Dothan, Ala.

I lived in Georgia, but it was only about a 20-minute drive to Dothan, Ala. I was a commercial fisherman in Georgia, also. I fished in Lake Seminole, which separates Georgia and Florida. A couple other men and I worked the same area. We sold all of our catfish to the game warden, who ran a fish camp where catfish dinners were served on a daily basis. We got 60 cents a pound for dressed catfish, and 50 cents a pound for turtle meat, which was used to make turtle hash.

Besides having a fishing license, we had to have a tag for each trotline and each turtle trap, and each trotline had to be marked with a buoy. If anyone was caught raising a line, that line had better have that person’s name on the tag or he was in a peck of trouble.

Me and another fellow were working together in one area and kept finding catfish with only the part above the dorsal fin on the hook, fish which would have weighed two or three pounds. They looked as if they had been sliced off with a knife, a sharp knife.

This fellow kept saying that there was a big cooter in there somewhere, and sure enough we caught it one night. The hook was embedded under one of his back legs, where he couldn’t get his foot to it to rip it out. We finally got it into the boat.

He was driving, so I had the honor of watching the turtle until we got back to the dock, which was about a quarter of a mile away. I would turn it over onto its back, and it would promptly roll over onto its legs. I sure was wishing that johnboat would go a little bit faster, before I got eat up. Its mouth was big enough to put my fist in.

After what seemed like an hour, I grabbed a railroad spike attached to about 18 inches of nylon line that we used for weights at intervals of about 50 feet. I laid that spike crossways in its mouth while I had it on its back, and it chomped on that spike the rest of the way to the dock.

It dressed out at 19 pounds of meat, which amounted to $9.50 for us. For bait we’d used pond worms, which are a little bigger than our nightcrawlers. We cut them into pieces about a half an inch long, and that is all we put on a hook, just enough to cover the point of the hook.

We also used honeybees, one bee to a hook. The cheapest bait was to cut 3/8-inch cubes of foam rubber and dip them in melted cheese before putting them on the hooks. The fish really liked it, too.

Just for the record, if you fishermen get finned by a fish, rub its tail on the puncture real good, because that slime layer on the fish is the antidote for the puncture. The better you rub it in, the less it will hurt.

And that’s all from the funny farm until next time.

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