You know, being poor and struggling is not a fun thing. But sometimes when you are mired down in it, you have to make the best of it.
Daddy was always trying to find ways to make money to feed the family. One of the things he did was to decide to sell fish to people who were always looking for a bargain. And of course, this was a family affair. On one or two Saturday mornings a month, in the summer, we would get up, load up the car and head out in the country to a farm he had found. They allowed us to use their pond to haul away as much fish as we wanted. Sounds good right? Well not so fast. Let me break down the reality of this seemingly beautiful scenario.
First of all daddy came up with a creative way of getting lots of fish with minimum effort. He bought a rubber raft which he tied down to the roof of the car. Then he also used chicken wire which he formed into a round circle ( about 5 feet wide) that he would throw into the pond to trap the fish. Once he did that he would then just scoop them out with a net. The pond, by the way, was very shallow and only about 3 or 4 feet deep until you got out in the middle. We always stayed right off the shore area.
Now one important fact I need to add is, the pond area was infested with pockets of water moccasins or maybe northern water snakes. I never knew which exactly since my dad said they were water moccasins. And he often used fear as a control for us, such as scaring us into behaving. Believe me it worked. My job, if I went in the boat with daddy, was to use one of the wooden oars he made, to hit at any snake that came near the boat to keep them from biting the rubber. Let’s see, if I think back, I often heard him yell “Watch out! Here comes one!” or “Hit it harder!”
Daddy did give us choices though. We could sit in the car with mama, with what seemed like hours while he fished. She never, ever got out of the car. Or we could walk to the edges of the pond and do our own fishing. This required several things. First you had to have your boots on to keep from being bit. You had to have a stick so you could scatter potential snakes before you came up on them. You had your fishing pole; cane, not a rod, and you had your bait. If we didn’t get the worms ourselves in the early morning dew, we often made bait balls from bread. Then as we stood and fished, our eyes were constantly scanning the ground around us, in case a snake came up on us. Once my sister caught a fish, and in her joy in jumping around, looked down and realized she was jumping on a little snake; a trauma that I never got over.
Well anyway, that was our foray into fishing. But things continued once we got home. Daddy would get as little as 10 and as many as upwards to 30-40 fish, at times. The fish he did not sell, I think for 20 cents a pound, we would have to clean. That again is another story. I absolutely hated gutting and or scaling a fish. I would say this overall outing was a pretty traumatic childhood experience. But I survived and am now able to laugh with my siblings about these memorable Saturday mornings. But I still cannot walk along a lake shore or grassy pond without looking down….constantly!