Sounds a Bit Fishy to Me: The “Catch 2”

Sounds a Bit Fishy to Me: The “Catch 2”

 James R. Aist

Just a couple of years before, we had built our pond on Snyder Hill, near Ithaca, New York and stocked it with “baby” largemouth bass. By this time, these bass had finally grown to a length (ten inches) that was legal to catch, and I figured it was time to start fishing. So, one Saturday morning in June, my 10-year-old son, Greg, and I decided to go fishing for the first time in our new pond.

In eager anticipation, we gathered up our fishing gear and headed for the pond, just 100 feet from our house. Now, these young bass had never even seen a fishhook, much less an artificial lure, so we figured it would be easy to fool them using plastic worms that I had rigged with multiple fishhooks (My good friend, John, had long ago taught me to put a tiny hook right at the tail end of the plastic worm, just in case a small fish would decide to bite there). The water was clear enough for us to see the plastic worms – and the fish following them – as we reeled in the line. This was going to be fun!

We took up our positions on either side of the swimming dock I had built on the far side of the pond, where the deep water was. Then we began casting, slowly reeling in our plastic worms so as to make them rotate, giving the impression that they were wriggling their way toward the bank. With my very first cast, several bass began to follow the lure, and one of them bit the worm near the middle and got hooked. So, I quickly jerked the rod to “set the hook” and reeled him in immediately. After catching another bass on my second cast, I noticed that even after a bass was hooked, other bass would continue to follow and nip at the “wriggling” tip of the plastic worm, where I had strategically placed the small fishhook.

After landing a bass with each of my first three casts, I was filled with confidence, pride and mischief. It was then that it occurred to me how I might impress Greg with my advanced fishing skills. So, I told Greg to watch my next cast, because I was going to catch two fish with one cast (shades of Babe Ruth and his famous homer, for you Yankee fans). At first, he thought I was just kidding around, but I confidently, and at the risk of appearing braggadocios, insisted that I was not. What happened next both blew his mind and vindicated me.

I cast my plastic worm out as far as I could toward the middle of the pond. Right away, a bass struck and got himself hooked toward the middle of the plastic worm, and I set the hook. But this time, I didn’t real him in right away. Instead, I “played” him for a while (i.e., I let him swim back-and-forth trying to get away). The idea was that if I played the first bass long enough, then one of the other bass would continue nipping at the free end of the worm and also get hooked, on the tiny hook at the tip. That way I could catch two bass with one cast. So I did, and I did; I caught two bass on the same worm with just one cast! That was thrilling, indeed, the more so because the water was clear enough for me to see the entire episode as it unfolded.

Well, Greg was duly impressed, and I was both impressed (with myself) and relieved that I had made good on my brag. We had really good fishing that day, and for the next few months as well, because the bass had not yet caught on to the ruse that we were perpetrating on them with artificial lures. But, all too soon, the bass began to grow out of their naiveté and catch (pun intended) on to us. That’s when we, too, had to become smarter, in order to catch them with any regularity. But, we never forgot that epic first day, when the bass were young and naïve, and we could have our way with them, even to the extent of this “two for one” fishing tale (which, by the way, is truly a true tale, really).

(For more of my True Tales, click HERE)

Déjà vu All Over Again…Almost!

BonnieDéjà vu All Over Again…Almost!

James R. Aist

If you have cats, you know that they are consummate creatures of habit. And it is often said that they usually forget things after a few weeks. Well, this true story may well be proof positive of those two kitty characteristics.

It all happened on Snyder Hill, just a little southeast of Ithaca, in upstate New York, about 15 years ago. We had two cats, Bonnie and Clyde, but we had to let Clyde “go” because he became mean and unruly. That left just Bonnie, whose personality blossomed after Clyde’s departure, especially her assertiveness. And it was a good thing, too.

One hot summer evening (yes, it does occasionally get hot in upstate New York, believe it or not), Bonnie and I were in the living room when we heard a neighborhood cat let out a menacing verbalization that can best be described as a long-drawn-out, blood-curdling “scrowl.” When this announcement was repeated, it became obvious to both of us that this intruder was approaching the living room window, which was open, with only the window screen between us and him. So, Bonnie took it upon herself to fend off this intruder at all costs, and she began to answer his threats in like manner. As he got closer and closer to the window from the outside, so, too, did Bonnie get closer and closer to it from the inside. Now, both of these ferocious beasts were exchanging the most insidious of threatening insults with seriously hurtful intentions. Suddenly, Bonnie jumped up onto the back of the couch with her face just inches away from the screen. I knew that something violent was about to come down, so I summoned my wife, Janet, to come quickly, so she wouldn’t miss out on the ensuing encounter.

Just as Janet entered the room, the intruder leapt onto the screen with a fierce scream and a menacing glare on his face. In a split second, Bonnie joined him on the screen in like manner. I am constrained to relate exactly the “words” that were rapidly exchanged between the two cats suspended in this pose for a few moments, but suffice it to say that there was no love lost between challenger and defender. Then, realizing that there was no way that he was going to get at Bonnie with the screen separating the two of them, the would-be intruder gingerly relinquished his grip on the screen, dropped to the ground…kerplunk, and slinked away into the night. Convinced that she had won the day, Bonnie then abandoned the screen and returned to her place in the living room, as proud as a peacock. And we, too, were quite impressed and proud of our vicious little attack cat.

But, that’s not the end of the story, not by a long shot. Fast forward a few months. It’s now Fall, the nights are cold, the screen was up and the glass sash was in its lowered position. The evening began innocently enough, but we were in for some exceptional entertainment. Bonnie and I were, once again, in the living room when we heard the same neighborhood cat let out a menacing verbalization that can best be described as a long-drawn-out, blood-curdling “scrowl.” When this announcement was repeated, it became obvious to both of us that this intruder was, once again, approaching the living room window, which was now closed, with only the window glass between us and him. So, again, Bonnie took it upon herself to fend off this intruder at all costs, and she began to answer his threats. As he got closer and closer to the window from the outside, so, too, did Bonnie get closer and closer to it from the inside. Now, both of these ferocious beasts were exchanging the most insidious of threatening insults with seriously hurtful intentions. By this time, I was already saying to myself, “No-no-no, surely he wouldn’t, not with the glass in place now. I don’t know if I can survive the intensity of the ensuing laughter if he were to do that again.” But, just in case, I beckoned Janet into the living room once again, so she wouldn’t miss out on the fun. Anticipating what might be coming, we were already about to burst out in laughter when, low and behold, it happened.

Bonnie jumped up onto the back of the couch with her face just inches away from the glass. As anticipated, the would-be intruder leapt onto the glass with a fierce scream and a menacing glare on his face. In a split second, Bonnie joined him on the glass in like manner. I am constrained to relate exactly the “words” that were rapidly exchanged between the two cats suspended in this pose for a split second, but that pose didn’t last long. Like Wiley Coyote who, chasing feverishly after the Road Runner, failed to make the turn just before the cliff and was briefly suspended in mid-air before crashing to the ground…kuh-thump, so, too, these valiant feline warriors seemed suspended in time for a brief moment before the reality of gravity set in, and, bug-eyed and terrified, they came crashing (more precisely, sliding rapidly) down. At this point we were so consumed by uncontrollable laughter that we had zero concern for Bonnie’s well being following her fall. But, not to worry, we finally regained our composure to find that the couch was soft and had afforded her a perfect landing place. I can’t say that the other cat fared as well, though.

And that was the last we heard from this unwelcome, wannabe intruder. I guess his memory must have lasted more than a few weeks that time!

(For more True Tales on my website, click HERE)

Robbing the Bee Tree

Robbing the Bee Tree

by Angie Brown, Guest Author

Ken found a bee tree and asked us if we wanted them to cut the tree up for honey.  It’s an old tree, gnarled and lying on its side, so Ken felt justified in cutting it and taking some of the honey.  This opportunity was too inviting to turn down, so we agreed to go along. We were told to wear warm clothing and heavy shoes.  This was November in upstate New York, and the woods are chilly this time of year. Ken’s wife, Doris, had supper ready when we got to our rendezvous, their house.  After supper chores were finished, we began to layer our sweats and jackets on, putting on warm mittens too.

The three men walked ahead of us with a large lantern.  The two 12-year-old boys also carried a lantern, and the three teenage girls and three women trailed behind, grasping a shared lantern.  Watching our footing carefully, we walked through the grazing meadow – about a quarter of a mile – into the dark woods.  How quiet the woods were after dark.  I remember hearing the sound of a small animal scurrying through the leaves now and then.  Once, we were startled by the hoot of an owl.  And the pleasant smell of evergreens, moss, and old logs wafted through the air, completing the sensory experience as we walked along.

Reaching the old bee tree, the men prepared to get the sulfur going to calm the bees.  When the axe split the hard trunk, opening up the hive, we were amazed at the quantity of honey inside it.  This tree must have been home to the bees for many years.  Some of the bees moved around in a stupor, even crawling on the men’s clothing, but they were too lethargic to sting.  The inside of the tree was carpeted with layers of honey comb, a dark color near the wood and a gradually lighter color near the entrance to the hive.  We filled three pails with the combs, enough for each family.  And Ken made sure that there was plenty of honey left for the bees to survive the winter.

While the men worked on the cleanup, the girls began to feel cold, so the women decided we would go back to the house.  It was slow walking.  To make matters worse, the lantern carrier tripped, extinguishing the light.  Since we had no way of re-lighting the lantern, Doris said, “We’d better head for the road.” Almost everything was pitch dark, but looking up at the sky, we could distinguish between the tree line and the dim light of the sky.  That helped us to get our bearings. While we were making our way to the road, one of the bolder ones mentioned something about animals passing in the dark, inspiring us to walk faster. Before long, we had made it safely back to our rendezvous.

Doris made hot chocolate and brought out some cookies to go with it. Before long, we began to warm up.  The men finally came in with the pails of honey.  It is amazing how such small honeybees can amass such a bountiful delight.  (So it is with us, as we work together, how much we can accomplish.)  After our snack, we drove away exhilarated.  A walk in the woods at night can be an eventful and memorable experience, indeed!

After we got back home, I strained the honey and filled several jars to use in making cookies, breads, and desserts.  Wild honey has a unique taste, much different from clover honey, and stronger too.  If you would like to try your hand at making something with wild honey, I recommend the following:

Recipe for Honey Drops:

1 c. soft shortening (partly butter)

1 c. brown sugar

3 Tbsp. wild honey

3 Tbsp. white sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

3-1/2 c. flour

2 tsp. soda

2 eggs

Mix and chill thoroughly.  Form into balls the size of walnuts.  Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  This makes about 40 cookies.

(For more articles by Angie Brown, click HERE)

Mrs. Butterworth Teaches a Lesson

A maple syrup tapMrs. Butterworth Teaches a Lesson

By Angie Brown, Guest Author

This true story took place many years ago in a small town on the outskirts of Olean in western New York State. One spring day, on his way home from school, my 10-year-old son, Leo, noticed all the pails hanging on the sugar maple trees to collect fresh sap that was to be boiled down to make maple syrup.  He rushed into the house, saying, “Hey, Mom, let’s make some maple syrup, OK?” Now, the making of maple syrup was not exactly one of my priorities, mind you, but I didn’t want to squelch his enthusiasm. So, I thought, “Why not?  We could give it a try.  It might be fun.” And so, the ill-fated plan was hatched.

We waited until the following Saturday morning. Then, Leo borrowed his father’s drill and made holes in several nearby sugar maple trees.  Inserting the spouts and pounding in nails to hold the collecting pails, he was now ready for the sap to start running. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before we had enough sap to start with. So we collected the sap from all of our pails into one larger container, strained the impurities out and poured the sap into my canning kettle.  Setting it on the stove, we fired up the burner and began to envision delicious, homemade maple syrup for our pancakes. What a special treat that was going to be! Or so we thought.

The sap simmered slowly for several hours, and I wondered, “Why do people go to all the trouble of making a fire outside in a well-ventilated sugar shack, getting cold and standing around all bundled up, when it was so easy to do it right in the comfort of your own kitchen?” Then I went about my housework while the boiling continued.  I checked the kettle periodically and noticed that the boiling sap was just beginning to change to a very light brown color, characteristic of a high-grade maple syrup.  “We’ll soon have some maple syrup,” said Leo excitedly, rubbing his hands together and licking his chops.

But a little later, when I walked into the living room, our eager anticipation turned into alarm. I noticed a large, wet spot on the ceiling; then another and another! Then I noticed that the same thing was happening in the adjoining dining room too! Suddenly, a light went on in my head. That must be the reason for using the sugar shack; it allows the water vapor from the sap to escape through the vents, instead of condensing on the ceiling. In a panic, we stopped the boiling immediately, to prevent further damage to our ceilings; so much for our homemade maple syrup!

That day both mother and son learned a valuable lesson by trial and error; a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.  And we had plenty of time to let this little lesson sink in, as we waited anxiously for the wet spots on our ceilings to dry. I sure hope Mrs. Butterworth wasn’t watching!

(For more articles by Angie Brown, click HERE)