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(Jim Horan 1995) Copyright © All Rights Reserved.

Catfishing is an art! Leastways, that's what we came to know as kids growing up on the Mississippi River in Ft. Madison, Iowa in the 40's. Guess I have to give some credit to ol' Skeeter, for all the good times and learning experiences we had together. You see, we were taught that to be a great Catfisherman, one must experience the same olfactory experiences that a Catfish does. Which is to say, the really good Catfisherman must smell worst than their bait, so, as I expect, that the bait isn't all that offensive to them.

Well, ol' Skeeter was destined to be a great one! See, he came from a lineage...well, take his Grandfather, Zeb. Grampa Zeb was effected by severe gastro-intestinal disturbances, which would cause his bride of 58 years to cry out on occasion... "Don't always mind the smell, just so terrible hard on my eyes"! 'Course his diet of sauerkraut and salted possum gave her many an opportunity to repeat that exclamation. Anyway, ol' Skeeter just came by some of his scent naturally I guess. We gave him his nickname of Skeeter, as a tribute and appreciation for the fact that not many mosquitoes would dare near his presence. We fished lots down at the bottoms, a swampy low land area. Since this was before any knowledge of repellents, Skeeter got asked frequently to accompany us. Though, it was always with the understanding that once we anchored our makeshift raft off shore, he would occupy the downwind section of it.

Skeeter had a special bait he would prepare and bury in a can in the back yard. Though the exact contents were never fully revealed to any of us, it was a well known fact that the streets always appeared clean and free of road kill in his neighborhood when he was about to produce a batch of his bait. Another piece of the puzzle was in the observance of his visiting houses when young babies in diapers were in residence. We never quite figured that ingredient out until years later, when he was married and kept his kids in diapers until they were near 16 years old. The final step in his preparation of his bait was burying it in a can in the yard on a special hot day, where it would remain for about a week. Those of us with more conventional fishing habits liked to gather in his yard, though not too close to the burial site, and scoop up large quantities of the worms that would attempt to flee the environment. The local Audubon Society would raise hell with Skeeter, 'cause birds flying over his dwelling would fall from the skies and be crushed upon impact with the ground. Skeeter didn't seem to mind as most of them landed head first and after a proper drying period, would provide him with a rack to park his bike.

Should be told that Skeeter wasn't always a Catfisherman. Fact is he earned an early high stature in the community for his exploits at Turtle Catching. Seems he had a foolproof method of getting some nice size Snapping Turtles every time he went out. He'd mix a batch of peanut butter and spoiled goat liver together. Then he'd sit on the raft with his shoes off, smearing the concoction between his toes and dropping his feet into the swampy water.

At first he wasn't so successful since he'd spend most of the time licking his toes and thus removing any incentive for the turtles to come forth. After awhile he figured out his mistake and took to bringing a separate jar of the mixture for his snacks while he awaited the arrival of the hard shelled reptiles. The trick was to dangle the "bait" in front of a turtle and just as the jaws would appear to open and clamp down on the bait he'd try and snatch the "bait" away and grasp the turtle around the neck to drag him from the water.

Worked well, for quite a spell. Then Skeeter discovered corn squeezin's. As would have it, the squeezin's got to be a bit of a problem as it slowed Skeeter's reflexes a tad. So when he would try and extract his bait covered toes, it got to be the custom that the turtles would still be attached. Well, at first Skeeter didn't seem to mind all that much as he figured he still had 9 left. But several turtles later, Skeeter got to looking at his diminished number of bait-holders and came to appreciate that maybe he wouldn't have many turtle catchin' days in front of him 'less he redid his technique. Being a creature of strong habit, he just up and quit the turtles and took up Catfishing.... all 3 toes of him still intact... with the 2 being on the left foot. Helped him considerably in later years, learning his right from his left.

Shoot! I gotta go. Never did get around to Skeeter's Catfishing skills. Well, we'll save that for next time we get together.