For more than 60 years,
a publication centered on life in Mississippi.
Today is September 24, 2019

Outdoors

AN OLD MAN’S MEMORIES OF AUGUST

By Tony Kinton

AN OLD MAN’S MEMORIES OF AUGUST

While not the same stream the boy fished in his youth, he surely would have celebrated one this clear and serene. Photo by Tony Kinton.

Once upon a time and far, far away, there was a boy. “Wait,” someone will shout. “That sounds like an elementary opening to a fairy tale. Can’t you write a better lead than that?” Perhaps, but I hold to the one offered above. There are fairies and giants and heroes; still, the following story is unlike others we have heard or read in that genre. It falls short of the common definition with which we are familiar because it is true.

This boy in question lived on a poor-dirt farm. Other than Sunday church, Vacation Bible School and the annual practice of week-long revival services, he had little exposure during summers to the world outside those 80 acres. Work on that farm began early on with milder duties but morphed with years into more detailed and complex chores. Preparing for and planting crops, maintenance of those crops and harvesting them became common. So did tinkering with equipment to keep it serviceable.    

Regarding equipment in that boy’s day, it was most rudimentary. A disk was the primary tool. And there was a stalk cutter made from cast-off road grader blades welded to a steel pipe which, in theory anyway, chopped the residue of corn and cotton after gathering. Planting of said crops, though done mechanically, was accomplished one row at a time. Plowing too. But life was good. Everything was not hot and dirty work.

Portions of a day or two per week involved walking to a creek less than a mile away, cane pole and a can of worms accompanying the boy. Most of these adventures were reserved for late afternoons, with redbellies the preferred specimen. But the occasional catfish or bass came. That latter was colloquially known as trout in those days. The boy thought them exotic, though he preferred the taste of redbellies. He would take his catch home threaded onto a spindly green limb as shadows lengthened. He quickly prepared and presented the entire package to his mama. She always congratulated him, and would more times than not fry them right then for supper. This exercise was usually in August when gardens had been set aside and cotton-picking or corn pulling not yet underway.

And there were other August days when the boy went with his daddy to the Pearl River, a much more adventurous journey than that one to the creek. His daddy liked to fish, and August generally initiated a season that worked well for spotted cats, his daddy’s favorite. The man knew how to catch spotted cats. August, for the most part, saw waters low, currents gentle and sandbars embracing edges all along the river’s course. The boy’s daddy understood that spotted cats would be there, cloistered in holes along steep banks or tucked snugly in debris of downed trees that eroding currents had unearthed from those banks. He would dangle limb hooks there. It was glorious.

When I think about the entire matter more, this story definitely has a fairy-tale flavor. There was that once-upon-a-time thing, mid-1950s or so. There was that far, far away element.  Today, however, that is more accurately measured by chronology than geography. And there definitely was a boy; I knew him.

There were fairies, seen by the boy, in sunlight glittering on the surface of placid water; dragonflies sitting on cattail stalks; green herons fishing the shallows. There were giants too. Some were only perceived, like an owl hooting in the distance. But there was a real giant out there; his name was Fear. And there was heroism; this displayed not so much in the boy as it was in his parents. Often times, heroism required nothing more from them than to just be there. That, the boy later realized, was a feat demanding the strength of Atlas.  

I haven’t seen the boy in nigh on 60 years. I hear, however, that he is doing well. Since he is my age, that is quite the accomplishment. I hear that he has experienced pain and pleasure, sorrow and joy, failure and success. He has stood nose-to-nose with that giant. I am told he credits his resolve and endurance to that upbringing of hard work and proper teaching. He kept his eyes, now failing him, on the goal. And a key component in all this, he has said, were those youthful days at that little church down the road from where he grew up.

This, as it turns out, is a genuine fairy tale after all.

Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. His latest book is “Rambling Through Pleasant Memories.” Visit www.tonykinton.com for more information.

Site designed by Marketing Alliance, Inc.