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(Jim Horan - 1998) Copyright ©  All Rights Reserved.

Coach John Cooper finally had his way with Michigan. That revelation gives one who strives to overcome the odds of many defeats, great hope and expectations. If Coop can do it, then isn't it possible that this year we might overcome HIS sly, crass imposition upon our enjoyment of a dinner of the "Bird" (euphemism for Turkey, which we can't say as it causes Dottie to completely surrender to hysterics)?

In the past we had tried to cook it in the dryer. Not good. Then we tried to smoke it in closed garage...further not good. There had to be a way.

We read where Cooper prepared for Michigan by "not making it a big deal". We could do that. Just needed something of a technique where we could "not make it a big deal."

This past week we had the unfortunate yearly sad experience of taking the boat from the lake and preparing it for Winter. While aboard and unloading all the gear, I happened to open the "Live Well" and then it struck me. "Why not?" Hardly ever use it as all Catfish are released with but a lip print on their forehead before returning them to grow bigger for next year. It looked about the size to hold a nice "Bird". Thus the planning began.

We could trailer the Pontoon Boat into Kroger's parking lot, pick up all the goodies the day before and store them on the boat overnight in near freezing temperatures. Then we'd proceed to park the boat in the drive way keeping the cover intact. In fact we would keep the cover intact during the whole meal experience...just in case. It all seemed so clear, much as the clarity a drunken driver has just before the telephone pole divides the front seat of his fast moving vehicle. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We had 2 problems to overcome before we could drink deep of the Cup Of Victory. First we had never brought the boat into the drive way before and we needed a cover story to dispel HIS suspicions. Second, while we had found a perfect place to hide the "Bird", it would be in need of a cooking.

The first problem took a little thought before we would explain to HIM what that large object was in the driveway, as HE sat in the sun drenched window with near clenched eyes, hiding HIS total disdain for anything we had to say. Of course the endearment of "Dinner is served", would stimulate some rather quick movement away from warmth. HE inquired, "What the hell is that thing?" We casually replied, "It's a cosmic radiation modulator that entwines the negative Pi Mu Mesons that gather on the tip of a Finches' feather to produce positive thermal units of a proportional nature as to ensure good health and happiness to all who do NOT gaze at it." To this HE responded with, "Oh", promptly broke wind and fell into a slumber. We had figured that the 2 silver pontoons would confuse HIS technological senses and make our cover story more believable.

The second problem took a bit more solution time to insure success of this venture. How the hell would we get heat into the live well, in sufficient amount as to make the "Bird" warmer than frozen? The live well was made of steel, so it could take heat, but there wasn't room to put any heating element underneath. By chance we have a friend who is a Chemistry teacher and had been telling us about some of the techniques he used in his classroom to demonstrate the properties of various elements. He had told us that he kept "Phosphorus" in liquid as when it came in contact with air, it would burst into flames. Perfect! We'd get some Phosphorus and drop pellets into the live well and quickly slam the cover down to allow the "Bird" to cook. Should be simple.

Thanksgiving morning. As Dottie and I gazed across the breakfast table, with smiles hidden by our particular cups of morning beverage, we felt it could be nothing but a great day. Everything had been done off-property so as not to cause any attention to be drawn to our efforts. We had even stopped at the local kitchen supply house to purchase all necessary instruments, plates, and cutlery. Then we had driven the boat to a chemical supply firm to acquire the necessary magical ingredient. We even bought 2 large jars of the substance as we were unable to find a prescribed amount mentioned in any of Dottie's cookbooks. We were crossing new snow and had to extrapolate the proper quantities. Ah well, a small difficulty.

Dottie and I went to the closet and started to don winter wear as I announced, "we're going for a long walk and will be back in 6-7 hours", to no one apparent, as HE and HIS accomplice were undoubtedly taking their post-Breakfast, Pre-Lunch naps. We strolled out the door, down the driveway and headed around the block. We then proceeded to climb over and through the neighbors shrubs and rose bushes to the side of the boat hidden from the windows...just in case. Lifting the side flap of the cover 14 1/2 inches we drew our bloodied bodies into the boat and reattached the flaps. Of course, we had to move about on our stomachs as we prepared the feast-to-be. It would have been nice if we had had sufficient sun on the boat to dry the carpet, or at least thaw the ice that remained from the freezing temperatures of the night before. No matter, except for a few slips we were able to uncover all ingredients and place them in the live well. We completed our check list with all but the final "silver bullets" to be put in place.

It should be noted here a few precautions that were considered. Of course the biggest obstacle would be the determination of the exact correct amount of the "substance" to add. We had gone to the internet and looked up the BTU's given off by Phosphorus and it's coefficient of expansion. Of course while all specifications were dealt with in "grams", one could assume if the proper ratios were maintained, well...pounds...grams...same difference. Yes, the "substance" would burst into flames and thus create some pressure. Not a problem, as those of you with live wells know. A live well is connected at the bottom with a drain tube to allow for gravity to empty the water from within. We also took the precaution of wrapping the "Bird" in aluminum foil to forestall any possibility of toxic contamination, as well as all other goodies, i.e.: mashed potatoes (frozen), gravy (frozen), dressing (frozen) and assorted veggies (frozen).

(Editors note: It should be mentioned here that the author's previous chemical experience included a promise never again to enter the Chemistry Building at Iowa State Univ. in 1958, with the reciprocal agreement by the Chemistry Prof. to issue a "withdrawn" grade instead of an "F". With the exception of the time he mixed chlorine bleach with ammonia to clean a tub, his chemistry abstinence has been somewhat complete.)

As I uncapped the jar containing the "substance" and placed the tongs on some of the pellets, we thought we felt a slight vibration within the live well. We waited and nothing further. Not to worry. This operation was way in excess of "WELL PLANNED"! But...wait a minute. Maybe we had under estimated our adversaries and what if THEY didn't sleep the established patterned time? It was then I came up with an inspiration, one that has served me well in the past. If one is good, two is faster and better! We'd just dump both jars and halve the cooking time. It seemed sooo perfect.

.....The Firemen, as always at the standby, due to the neighbors insistence, helped us reconstruct what occurred next. It seems they saw some furry paws extending a peeled potato into the end of the drain tube, thus blocking any release of pressure from within. Dottie and I were blown out respective sides of the boat through the aluminum railings. The "Bird" blew right through the canvas cover like a moon shot at Canaveral, only to land into the 4 fur covered paws awaiting below. It seemed the friction from the end of re-entry vaporized the foil wrapper. Therefore upon contact with the paws, it instantly disappeared in a fashion that caused even the battle hardened Firemen to loose their lunch. Thereafter it was told THEY leapt in the air, paws fully extended and yelled, "Another 3.4 seconds off the old record!"...and dashed back into the warmth of the house, only to reappear in the window with an expression best described as bemused.

Luckily we were not conscious enough from the blast to witness either the complete demise of the "Bird" nor ...the boat. The neighbors reported that it was truly spectacular, since they have become accustomed to gathering out front each Thanksgiving for the "show". We do have 2 reasonably conditioned pontoons remaining that could be crafted into a couple of 18' kayaks I'd guess.

As we lay in the Emergency Services Truck, again requested by the neighbors, we were pleased that this year they had gone to the trouble to acquire some gravy flavored IV's. As we savored the moment, our thoughts went to John Cooper. That SOB just had to be some kind of lucky!

To all of you and your families we extend best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving.