Saturday, April 7, 2012

Calling all fish!

  It was a lazy hot summer day, probably a Saturday, when the three of us were sitting around at Walter's house trying to decide on something to do with our time. It wasn't often when all three of us didn't have something going on, whether it was a job, ballgame, or something. The talk soon turned from the activities at school, to girls, and then to fishing.( I'm pretty sure that wasn't the order of importance) We oughta go fishin one of us suggested. That was a great idea the other two of us thought, but where should we go. Well, we go could go up to Aunt Susan's. No, it's all the way up in Oklahoma, and besides, none of us had ever caught anything very big up there, and if we were going to spend our valuable time we wanted trophy sized fish! You know, I personally never knew who the heck Aunt Susan was. I just knew that there was a swimming and fishing hole up in Oklahoma where we would occasionally go. It was more than likely a relative of the Hennighs', or the Howards'. How about just down on the creek. No, wasn't anything down there but mudcat and carp. What about going out to the Grove, yeah there has got to be some monster bass there, everybody always talks about losing at least a ten to twelve pounder there. The grove was a group of cottonwood trees out on the Duke ranch, with a spring fed creek running through it.

  OK, the Grove it was, but how were we gonna catch that monster fish there? We had tried all kinds of bait there before. Spinners, plastic worms, buzz bait, live bait, hula poppers you name it we had tried it. Man if we only had some dynamite, someone said. That would certainly get the big ones! Yeah, but it might blow it to pieces, then we wouldn't be able to see just how big it was, and anyway none of us knew where we could get any dynamite at anyway. Then Walter came up with an idea, "we could shock the fish, and that way it wouldn't kill them, and we could throw the little ones back in." That was a good idea, but how were we gonna be able to shock them. We couldn't run an extension cord out there and throw it in the water. Then Walter said, " I know where there is an old crank type telephone that we could get." The old crank telephones had a crank arm on the side of it that when turned would generate an electrical current that would travel down the phone line and cause a bell to ring on someone Else's telephone, or possibly send it out into the water to stun some fish.

   So we set out to gather up the required supplies for our trophy bass fishing trip. After having found everything that we thought we would need, we set off for the Grove. There was a lengthy discussion on the ride down about which fishing hole would be the best candidate for our experiment. We finally decided on one that we  thought was sure to have the hawg in it. We carried the telephone, two pieces of wire  that were approximately five to six feet long. We hooked the wires up to the phone, and threw the other ends into the water. Our palms were sweaty, our mouths dry, and our hearts were beating faster in anticipation of the coming carnage. Since it was Walter's idea we gave him first crank. Walter spun the handle with elegance, grace, and enough speed that it should have sent an electrical impulse all the way to New York City! We waited for the fish to begin floating up to the surface, but none appeared. Walter once again spun the crank, nothing. Calvin said, " let me give it a spin." Once again no fish appeared. So I tried my luck with the phone. It turned out I was no better at calling up the fish than they were.

  What could we possibly be doing wrong? After some discussion it was decided that we had the ends of the wires too close together. The reasoning being, that maybe the fish had to be between the wires in order to get shocked. Maybe we had actually learned something in Mr.Vickery's Ag class! (not about shocking fish, but about electrical currents) After we had gathered up some more wire, we once again set about our task. This time we had a wire on one side of the bank, and the other strung to the other side. That had ought to have them fish covered this time. The crank was spun again, and once again we waited as no fish surfaced. Perhaps we really are stunning them, only they are getting caught in the moss and weeds, and that's not letting them float to the surface or, maybe the telephone crank wasn't creating an electrical charge, but how would we be able to find out?

  As we were standing there contemplating this dilemma, I saw Walter take a wire in each hand, and he then told Calvin, "I'll hold these, and you turn the handle once really slow, and I will be able to tell if it's sending out a current or not." I can still see that smile, or maybe it was a smirk creeping across Calvin's face just before he spun that crank as fast as he could!  I remember thinking, just before Walter's eyes bugged out, and he started shaking all over, and falling to the ground , peeing his pants, and flopping around, like how those fish shoulda been doin. Walter, are you really gonna let Calvin spin that handle, while your holding those wires in your hands, because Ive known Calvin nearly as long as you have, and I sure as heck ain't gonna trust him to do that to me!

  After a few minutes, Walter began to regain his senses, and after talking to him for a bit, we figured there probably wasn't any permanent brain damage, and anyhow, at least we knew that the telephone crank was in perfect working condition. You know, maybe we just need more volts. So, back into the car, and off we went to find a portable electrical generator!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Rodeo

  I think all kids growing up in a small western town probably have the same dreams, one of those dreams is of being a cowboy. We were no different in Darrouzett than anywhere else, so whenever someone had a horse in town everyone showed up. Somehow we all knew, whether it was a sixth sense or what I'm not sure, but a horse in town drew the same attention as an ice cream truck in a city, and everyone came to see if they could get a ride. If you were lucky enough to get on your thoughts quickly turned to winning  some event at the National Finals Rodeo, whether it be roping, pole bending, or the biggy, the bronc busting event. Although most horses that people would let us ride were, well usually so old and broken down that they posed absolutely no danger to anyone, except if they happened to fall over dead while you were on them. Except for one, one called Ticket.

  Ticket was a Shetland pony, and for anyone that does not know what a Shetland pony is, it's a small horse that is somewhere between the size of a normal size horse, and a miniature horse, with the temperament of an attack dog. Now, I'm sure that there are mild and timid Shetlands somewhere out in the world, but I personally have not met one yet. Ticket was without question the meanest horse that has ever eaten oats, and pooped in a field. We all felt sure that if Lucifer himself were trying to take over the earth, he would be mounted majestically on the back of Ticket. The people that owned Ticket claimed that they were at a carnival or something, and they purchased a raffle ticket and won the horse. I always thought they should have held out for whatever the second prize was, but they didn't, and so Ticket the rodeo horse was what they got.

  It was a warm summer afternoon when Pete and Bobby brought Ticket to town. Word quickly spread that Ticket was in town, and if you wanted to ride him you needed to get up to the hotel before the brothers took him back to his pen. So, like I said, with visions of riding the winning bronc at the rodeo, I started off to the backyard which was the rodeo arena. I had seen others ride, and attempt to ride him. Sometimes it went well, and then sometimes, more times than not it didn't. There just seemed to be something about somebody on Ticket's back that must have really annoyed him, because as soon as anyone sat down in the saddle he would begin snorting and bucking for all he was worth. I'm pretty sure that he wasn't actually jumping 10 feet in the air and reaching back and biting pieces out of your legs, but in my mind that was exactly what was happening!

  "Who wants to go first?" Bobby yelled. We all just stood there looking at each other, nobody wanting to volunteer for the suicide mission. "C'mon you pansies, don't be a bunch of babies. There's nothing to be afraid of" Bobby chided us. Suddenly, as if being controlled by some outside force, I felt my hand being raised, and my voice saying I'll go. By the time I realized what was happening, it was too late, I was committed, that is unless I wanted to be considered, and called a chicken the rest of my life, and no kid wanted that. I had to prove my bravery to all my friends.

  Slowly I approached Ticket. Bobby was holding him by the reins and smiling like an executioner about to pull the handle. I petted Ticket a time or two, thinking maybe if I made friends with him he would like me and take it easy on me. I placed a foot in the stirrup and stood up, kicked my leg over, and sat down in the saddle. So far so good I thought as I stuck my other foot in the stirrup. Just about then I thought I had to be on Seabiscuit, Secretariat, or some other race horse, because Ticket took off like he was shot out of a gun. By the time I got my head up off of his butt he began to buck. I was holding on for my very life. Every time that his feet hit the ground my jaws popped together so hard that everything went dark for a second, and my ears would ring. Slobber and snot was flying everywhere. I wasn't sure if it was his or mine, but it was all over the place. I knew that in a proper rodeo if you held on for 8 seconds you had fulfilled your obligation, and could get off. I was pretty sure it had not been that long, but surprisingly I hadn't been bucked off yet! Maybe I was going to be the one who tamed the beast.

  We were right over by where everyone was standing and watching, when all of a sudden I saw Pete shoot out of the crowd and fall to the ground, get up, and then take off running. What the heck was going on? Well, it seems that Bobby had pushed Pete out in front of us, and whenever someone would run then Ticket would chase them. Yep, you guessed it, just like a dog chases someone! So, I'm sure Ticket was thinking, hey this is more fun than trying to buck somebody off. Well Pete is running around in the backyard, with me and Ticket hot on his heels. I'm pulling back on the reins as hard as I can, but it's doing no good at all. Then for some reason that is still not known Pete decides the best way out was to run underneath the clothesline. I saw the wires coming at me, but instead of ducking, falling off, or anything, I froze.

  You know how they say that sometimes in situations your life flashes before your eyes, well it's true. Only as young as I was there was only like 2 or 3 pictures that flashed in my mind before the wire hit my throat. Now, clothesline wire is made out of #9 wire, which is about the size of a Bic ink pen, and it is strung between two 2" x 4" boards at the ends. I'm not sure how long I was unconscious, but I don't think it was very long. When I opened my eyes I saw all of these faces looking down at me. I noticed their mouths moving, but I couldn't hear anything. Slowly as my hearing started returning I could tell they were asking if I was alright. No I wasn't alright, I had just had a killer horse try to do me in! I started wondering, where was that devil horse, because I just knew he was waiting for everyone to move so he could come over and trample me. They told me that I had broken the wire and both 2" x 4" boards at each end.

  The rest of the day was just a blur and has since sunk into the recesses of my memories. I do however remember making a promise to myself that I would never ever under any circumstances get on a horse again, and that I had absolutely no desire to become a cowboy. As I have gotten older every now and then I would catch myself looking at some cowboy boots, thinking man those are some good looking boots, but reality would hit me again and I would remember the rodeo at the hotel all those years back..  Well to this day I have kept my little promise to myself!