June 23rd, 2003

Carp... A four letter word
By James Castwell


They are all into it these days; I should go fly-fishing for carp. Hell, we all should. I think every magazine and TV program and all the guru's are hot and bothered about carp. Not me.

I feel a bit badly about having to say this now, one of our featured columns this week is about them, but I can't help myself. Carp fishing is not for me.

Now before you start e-mailing me and punching the buttons on your cell-phones, give me a minute to try to explain. It's not my fault. It's Vernie's; I confess, he did it. And my dad went along with it too!

Ones childhood memories should be about nice things, at least that is what I try to tell myself, mine include carp. Big, fat, yellow, slimy, stinky, bug-eyed, slippery, ugly as hell, 'freshly speared carp!' No kid should have had to endure what I had gleefully accepted. The offer of a whole damn wagon load of them.

I lived in Michigan, near Lake Huron, well Saginaw Bay actually. An enterprising little squirt right from the start, I would pick 'night-crawlers' and set up a small stand on a road thru town and try to sell them to passing motorists, sales were notably slow; nothing like a box of 'the day before yesterdays' left over bait to disgust a guy. Door-to-door sales were fun too. I got into making small plaques out of plaster with a little picture cut from a magazine stuck to them. Sold a few of those as well. Of course I had a 'paper-route' but, didn't everybody? But, of all my ventures, the carp were a complete flop.

It was during one of the summers of my misspent youth, I was about ten or so and naive as a puppy but game as hell for anything that might make me a buck. On day my dad's buddy Vern (everyone called him Vernie) stopped by our house with a load of carp. He had been out in the marshes by the bay and had speared a whole mess of them. I was small and the carp were big, hell, I was impressed. In fact, I was usually impressed with anything Vernie did, he was a 'cool' guy, hunted and fished with my dad a lot.

I also remember the time he told us to go out to the marsh one bitter cold Thanksgiving day and 'paddle' frogs. They had not yet burrowed into the mud for the winter and an off-shore wind had blown all the water out. The frogs were laying exposed on the sand and all we had to do was smack them with a special wooden paddle (that naturally Vernie had invented). We went, mom, dad and I and got a big gunny sack full.

Dad called Vernie when we got home and asked what the next step should be. He told us to put them by the furnace (coal fired, heat producing, large appliance in the basement) so they could thaw out, it would make it easier to clean them. Wrong! Not! We practically had to sit on the bag to keep it from leaping around the room. (I should have known better when Vernie showed up with the darn carp, but, like I said, I didn't.) By the way, a pair of scissors does get the frogs cleaned rather expediently. And, really, they were fine eating.

But, back to the carp. The day was sunny and hot (I will not forget the 'hot' part) as I trundled off to ply my trade, that of peddler of 'Freshly Speared Carp.' I spent the whole afternoon and early evening pestering the neighbors of every street in the neighborhood. In desperation I finally offered the things for free. But, alas, it was not to be. I returned a saddened, dejected kid. A complete failure at fish-mongering. And to make matters even worse, I still had to figure out how to dispose of the ugly fish and somehow get my wagon clean if ever possible.

Dad came to my rescue with an idea, bury them under mom's roses. More work, but not too bad, I at least could take the wagon from plant to plant as I got rid of them. Mom's flowers did very well that season as I recall but, somehow my red wagon never again seemed to be the same.

I think somehow the whole experience may have made a lasting impression on me which seems to have remained to this day. Even years later when I was offered some 'smoked carp,' delicious I was told, I took their word for it. I have eaten some odd foods over the years, horse (during the second world war), bear, muskrat and even rattlesnake. I will pass on the carp, thank you.

Now, please don't get me wrong here. I think it is just dandy for you to fly-fish for the things. But, for me? I think I will pass. ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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