Hey everybody! How’s it going?
The old “Great Recession” seems to still have a lot of steam left, doesn’t it? Well, let me tell you, things are pretty sparse around the old Begley household while I wait for my next paycheck.
The other day we were down to our last jar of peanut better with only dribs and drabs left. We had one final piece of bread, as well. So, being the good dad that I am, I decided to make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the kids got full benefit.
I had all the kids gathered around me when Brenda said, “Hey, ain’t you going to share that with us?!?!”
“Brenda, there isn’t much more than a mouthful here. I thought I’d eat it and then tell you guys what it tasted like, just to be fair to everyone.”
Before I could get the folded over slice of bread to my mouth, a small food riot took place and I was left bitterly disappointed.
That’s what’s wrong with kids today. No discipline.
It was about that time I told Cindy I was going to supplement the Begley diet the old fashion way.
“What, hold a sign up saying ‘will work for food’ and stand at a red-light?”
“No, that’s the new fashion way. I’m going to take up fishing.”
Cindy looked at me skeptically and said, “Who’s going to teach you to fish?”
“Why, none other than the greatest fisherman Washington County ever produced, Richard Keene. The man has fished every stream, pond, and river in Kentucky.”
“Let me get this straight. Richard Keene volunteered to take you fishing?”
At this point Cindy began crying.
“What are you crying about?”
“Richard. I like Richard. I didn’t know he was losing his mind.”
Wives! What do they know, anyway?
Everybody likes Richard. He’s such a nice and easygoing guy. Always calm, always smiling. Nothing gets him excited, except for fishing, which I was about to learn.
I went off to Richard’s house one crisp Saturday morning and met him in his garage.
Actually there wasn’t any room for cars in the garage. Once he pulled up the door, it looked like an outfitters shop for Captain Ahab before he went looking for Moby Dick. He had every kind of lure, plug, popper, spoon, simmer, hook, weight, and tackle box known to man. Mounted on the wall were 47 various kinds of fishing poles.
“Good lord, Richard! What do we do first?”
“Oh, just grab you a pole, Ken, while I get everything else we’ll need into the truck.”
“Which one do I take?”
“It doesn’t matter, take any one you want.”
I looked around in awe for a couple of minutes while Richard was busily loading up. One pole caught my eye.
It was under a glass case on the wall and looked really neat. I raised the case door when suddenly everything went black.
I looked up a minute later and saw a five-pound rubber mallet poised over my head. It was attached to Richard’s arm.
Very calmly, Richard said with a kindly smile, “I’m sorry, Ken. I meant any pole but that one. That’s my pole, ‘Stella,’ and no one fishes with her but me. I’m a little bit fond of that pole.”
I rubbed my head and felt a big goose egg up there, then said, “Uh, sure Richard. Sorry I reached for it. I’ll take that one over there.”
The trip to the pond was a bit chilly. Maybe because it was 30 degrees out and Richard had me ride in the pickup truck’s bed with the fishing gear. It seems there was only room for him and “Stella” up front in the cab.
We started on blacktop, went to gravel, and ended on dirt before coming to a stop, then started hiking. Richard held “Stella” while he strapped the other 100 pounds of equipment to my back. I kept noticing signs that said “Posted” as we hiked and asked Richard what they meant.
“Hey,” said Richard, “Do I look like a mailman? Help me over this fence.”
Later, my sixth sense made me suspect we didn’t have permission to fish this pond.
“You sure it’s OK for us to fish here, Richard?’
“Sure it’s OK. Why you ask?”
“I don’t know. I guess it was just the way you said, “duck” and shoved me into the bushes when that old farmer rode by on a tractor.”
“Think nothing of it, Ken. Just a little game of ‘hide and seek’ we’ve been playing together for years. He’s gone now. Let’s go.”
We got to this huge, beautiful pond in a large open field. We were setting everything up for a long day of fishing and shooting the breeze.
“Hey, Richard, everyone says you’re the best fisherman in Washington County.”
“That’s right, Ken.”
“Who’s the second best?”
About that time, I heard a thundering truck engine over by the fence line where we crossed. Suddenly, a little red pickup truck burst through carrying a few small trees and part of the fence with it in the bumper.
“Speak of the devil,” I said, “There’s Billy now.”
“Yeah, we might as well go. There won’t be any fish for us in a minute.”
“Why do you say that? I thought you said Billy was the second best fisherman and you were the best.”
“Yeah, but me and Stella use more ‘finesse’ when fishing than Billy does.”
Billy pulled up to the pond with a great big smile and said, “Hey Richard, have you caught your limit yet?”
“No, Billy. Why don’t you give us a few minutes before you start fishing?”
“I would Richard, but I’m in a real rush today. We’re having a big cookout at the house tonight. You guys can come if you want.”
Suddenly, Billy pulled a big wooden crate out of the bed of the truck. Richard jumped to the ground with Stella and yelled over his shoulder to me, “Run for cover, Ken. Billy’s about to fish.”
This was all a bit disconcerting and puzzling to me, as I looked at Richard huddled on the ground. I then looked back and saw Billy pull a brick out of the wooden box with a stick of dynamite primed with waterproof cannon fuse duct taped to it. He lit up the fuse and flung it into the middle of the pond, then dove under his truck. I made my own leap for the ground at the same time.
Five minutes later, I awoke from the concussion from the blast to see Billy wading out into the pond in a pair of hip boots, picking up all the floating fish in a net.
He was driving away through the fence line when he yelled out from the cab “Hey boys, I think that pond is fished out. Better try somewhere else.”
Suddenly, the farmer came running through the field at us with a shotgun.
“I guess you lose the ‘hide and seek’ game, Richard. Here comes your farmer friend.”
I turned to look at Richard, but all I saw was his back and heels of his shoes.
About that time, a blast from the shotgun went out over my head.
I guessed they also like to play ‘chase,’ and I took off after Richard.
I got home later that day and Cindy said, “How did you get that knot on your head?”
“Me and Richard got in a fight over Stella.”
“Looks like Richard won. Where are the fish?”
“Billy Hilton’s house. Load up the kids.”
Writer’s note: It’s a lie that Billy uses bricks and dynamite when fishing. Billy would never waste a good brick when any old rock will do. It’s also a lie that Richard has a five-pound rubber mallet. It’s more like three.