Friday, November 30, 2007

My first "big fish" !!! !!!

This rather tacky picture of me and my first "big fish" capture one of the highlights of my entire life. My family and I had fished the creeks around Laytonville, and I had caught many trout, but I begged and pleaded that I wanted to catch a “big” fish, like the rest of my family had.

My real grandfather had died before I was born and my Grandmother eventually remarried. One day my step-grandfather said that he was going to take me fishing, but we had to get up early, and we had to drive a long way, and if I whimpered even once that he was going to turn around and come straight back home. We lived in Laytonville and the place that he took me fishing was just north of Dean Creek by Garberville. The rock that I stood on when I caught the fish is now buried under the freeway right next to the Avenue of the Giants information sign. We traveled about sixty miles to get there. That was a long trip for a four and a half year old kid, but I didn’t whimper even once, because I knew Grampa Ed didn’t fool around, and if I if I had whimpered he would have turned right around, and it would have been all over!

I think that my Grandmother must have made Grandpa Ed a “deal” to take me fishing because she knew that I wanted to catch a big fish so badly.

I remember feeling my pole quiver like I had a real big fish, and I hollered FISH!!!, Ed grabbed the pole from me and he gave it a big yank upwards. I didn’t know what I had done wrong, and my bottom lip was out about a half inch longer than my top lip, then my LIP started to quiver, I was starting to get that physical feeling in my chest that a person gets when their heart is actually breaking in two. Then Ed gave me back the pole, and he said with a gentle smile on his face; “Hang on tight... It’s a big one.” I found out later that he was just setting the hook for me, because he didn't want it to get away. I started smiling again, and I started reeling it in. The fish took off with the line because Ed had set the “drag” light so the fish wouldn’t pull the pole out of my hand. I keep wanting to grab the reel so it wouldn't spool out, but Ed said that it was okay, that the fish would stop before it got all the line. I remember saying a lot of times “It’s A Big Fish”.

When I finally got it to shore, Ed had a gaff hook that he used to land the fish, and I kept hollering “Gaff it Ed, gaff it”. I was terrified that the fish would get away because I had seen my dad lose one just as he got it to shore. Needless to say Ed “Gaffed it” and I don’t remember the trip home. So I must have slept. But I remember catching the big fish like it was yesterday, and I am now sixty-two and three-quarters. It was years before I could talk about that fish without getting that silly smile on my face, like you see in the pictures. In fact, if I looked in the mirror, I think that I could still see it.

The pictures of the fish were taken the next day. I think that it was my mother that took them. All I remember about the pictures is that I wanted the pigs and the dogs to be in them. So you can thank me if you are enjoying the backdrop of the wonderful pig pen that was on the family ranch. The black and white critters under my left hand are the pigs in their "Wallow". Pigs love "wallowing".

Whenever I had a picture taken, I always wanted my pets to be in them. If you look at the pictures, you will see “Suzy” the black momma dog, and the little black puppy licking the fish is “speed”. The dog, “speed”, grew up to become a Laytonville legend as a hunting dog. My dad said that the dog was so good at gathering up deer, that all he had to do was lower the tailgate and speed would do the rest. He said that speed could tell the difference between a buck and a doe. They were a mixed breed of dog, but like most ranch dogs, they had MacNabb shepherd in them.

The saw in my left hand was a “real saw”, and I was proud that I could saw a board clear in two with it, so it had to be in the picture. The truck was a Brand new ‘49 Chevy ton-and-a-half that my grandmother had just bought for ranch use. It was a big deal, so it had to be in the picture.

I hope that “Eel River Ernie” see’s this, because I don’t want him to think that he’s the only Ernie that can catch a fish. He will probably take the prize for most fish though. My friends and I always had a bet before we went fishing. It was a dollar apiece for first, most, biggest, and last. A lot of times I got all four dollars. What’s the fun of telling a fish story if you can't tell at least one lie!

Now for a little history; if you click on any of the photos they will enlarge to a huge scale. The house in the upper left of the third photo down (Beyond the pig pen) was a hand built Board on Bat balloon frame house, built with a minimum of lumber. No decoration, no Verge rafter, no trim. It belonged to my Great Grand-Father Lafayette Middleton and my Grandmother Laura. The building to it’s immediate right is the wood shed and the building further up the hill was the chicken house and the small building this side and in front of the chicken house, was the outhouse. Then the last real small building on the right is a dog house that the dog was penned up in at night to scare predators away from the chickens. The smokehouse that was used for curing meats is not shown, It's further up the hill. There was a barn and a milk cow also not shown and the barn had all the farm implements in it that was used for plowing and mowing hay. In the early days most homesteads had at least two horses that were used for everything. The vegetable garden was between the house and the chicken house. That was a typical frontier homestead building arrangement. All of the modern buildings on the ranch were behind the camera. That is modern for 1949


Carol said...

Sweet photos! Thank you for sharing!

Mike Buettner said...

And the memories!

That handwriting on the snapshots looks just like my dad's.

Carson Park Ranger said...

The puppies eating the fish is one of the funniest photos I've ever seen.