Have you ever seen a 40-pound catfish? How about two of them at the same time? How about in real life? I have. In fact, I helped catch them.
It was a blistering summer morning in East Texas on Lake Fork, just on the outskirts of Quitman and Emory. I was at my Uncle Kent and Aunt Gatha's house for the 4th of July, as was the case every year. It was a nice tradition. My dad and I would drive up a few days before the fireworks festival, and my brothers Kenny and Kyle would drive up a day after. This was a special 4th of July. Kenny was going to be shipped off to Pensacola for Navy boot camp at the end of the summer, and this was the last 4th that he would be home during for the next four years.
It was a wonderful week filled with crawfish boils, fish fry, and of course, BBQ. The night after the glowing, booming spectacle that was fireworks by the lakeside, my Uncle Kent pitched a grand idea. "What you boys think 'bout puttin' out some jug lines, see if we can't catch us a few good cats to fry up before y'all head out tomorrow?" my Uncle asked, with his Texas twang and lip full of dip. Of course, my brothers and I were all on board with the plan, so we grabbed our fishing poles, long red and polished things of beauty, from the rusted sheet medal shed on the dock.
We spent hours fishing for just the right size perch to catch "eatin' size" catfish, as Uncle Kent would say. At around midnight my uncle came down to the dock and looked in the perch bucket. He didn't need to say that we had enough perch, all he needed to do was grab the bucket, and get in the boat. We quickly followed suit.
When we went to set jug lines, we didn't use the big loud motor that we use for speed boating, we used the small motor that made a nice low pitched hum. As we hummed our way to the stumps to set the jugs out, I gazed over the glass lake. The lake was beautiful. The sun reflected off the still water, protruding trees with all life taken from them reached for the sky with their wooden tendrils.
If you're from the American south, you may feel that you share a unique bond with other southerners. Traditions, values, speech patterns, and even favorite foods bind them together in a way that "outsiders"" may find hard to understand. Pulitzer Prize winning contemporary author Rick Bragg builds upon the powerful legacy of other southern writers, such as Eudora Welty and William Faulkner, but with a style all his own, making his real-life stories of growing up poor in Alabama poignant and often humorous. Rick Bragg is an extremely gifted writer whose works have acquired a universal audie...