Frank was a fisherman. He loved to go fishing. Wouldn’t you know he wasn’t a fisherman who liked to get in a boat, find a good place to fish and stop or have a special place along a bank somewhere. Oh, no! He was one who loved “Trot Line Fishing.” This kind of fishing is work, not the quiet peaceful kind. It really takes two to put out a trot line and you can guess who was his helper. In the days before one could buy fish bait we had to seine the creeks and ponds for bait. One hot day we were seining a pond where the Country Club is now located when I slipped in the mud and down I went. Frank didn’t even look to see if I had drowned he just yelled at me to hold the seine up.
We always knew when spring was just around the corner because he would start sharpening his fish hooks. Even when he could no longer fish he still sharpened the hooks. It takes a long time to set out a trot line. First you have to stretch the line across the river from bank to bank, then you put weights on the line to keep it under the water. Old window weights were the best although rocks or bricks can be used. Next comes putting the hooks on the line baiting them as you drop them in the water. That is all work. The fun begins when you get up before daylight to run your lines and pull up a ten or twelve pound catfish. The largest one we ever caught was sixty nine and a half pounds when fishing on the Petit Jean River. Frank’s brother, Eldon, was in the boat at that time. He jumped out of the boat into the water to help get the fish in the boat. I can tell you that made a lot of fish fillets. When the fish was being cleaned hanging from a tree limb it looked like hog killing time.
In the summer we made a lot of trips to Belleville or Berta to fish on the Petit Jean River. Most of the time there would be Frank’s brother, Sam, and his wife, Demaris. We looked like The Grapes of Wrath. Homemade wooden boat on the top of the car with all of our supplies in it. Often times were would be several couples along. No one had a tent or cots. We slept out in the open on the ground. Most of us had feather beds to sleep on. Nothing tasted any better than breakfast of bacon and eggs cooked over a camp fire with coffee made in an old pot boiled over the fire. We really liked to fish on Petit Jean near Berta where a family let us camp in their pasture near the river. We were the only people they let camp there. One time the late Paul Cathers, who was a Game Warden, and the late Arlie Mizell went with us. I guess Frank took me along to cook. In the night the mosquitoes got so bad we had to move a distance from the river. Some time during the night here came a train. What we didn’t know we had settled right by the railroad track. I still have to laugh about the reaction of those two guys when that train came through.
Many times on our fishing trips there would be Sam and Demaris, Eldon, Lee and Ramona McDaniels, Nell and Pop Pevehouse, Hallie and Leoma Turner and Frank and me. They are all gone now so I can tell whatever fish tales I want to tell. The late Kitty Bailey, “Dr. Charles Mother”, loved to go with us early in the morning when we would run our trot lines before Frank went to work. We set out our lines near Arbuckle Island. She stayed in the car with Bob and Connie who would still be asleep. She would get so excited when we pulled up a fish. We could never get her to go on an overnight fishing trip. The foolish thing about our fishing the rivers was no one had a life jacket. I don’t think we knew of such a thing and what made it worse I can’t swim.
One hot Fourth of July we were out at Mamas. Frank kept wanting to go fishing. Finally Mama said, “Drucilla go fishing with that boy.” My reply, “Mama, his kind of fishing is work.” If a task is once begun, never leave it till it’s done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all..