The “Bass Bait Bummer”

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The “Bass Bait Bummer”

James R. Aist

“Things aren’t always as they seem.” – Carl Hurley, Kentucky humorist

This is a true “fish story”, I swear it! By that I mean this really happened, believe me.

I was in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin at the time, and my wife and I decided to take a summer vacation of hiking, canoeing and fishing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area just north of the Wisconsin border. I was an avid fisherman and couldn’t wait to get my “hooks” into a monster muskie up there. With eager anticipation, I brought along a light-weight, collapsible gig (a three-pronged spear, as it were) just in case the muskie was too big to land with my light-weight fishing line. As you will see, that scenario developed alright, just not as I had expected.

We launched our canoe at the first lake and portaged from the end of that lake to the second lake.  There I decided to fish for an hour or so before we pitched our tent and retired for the night. It was a bit windy, so we were going to have to paddle upwind, fish as the wind drove us back, and repeat, repeatedly. It was a small lake with a bluff and weed bed on the far side, and I surmised that, if there were any muskies to be had, they would be lurking in or near the weed bed. So we launched the canoe, and I started fishing as we paddled toward the weed bed. To my surprise, on the second cast I had the most powerful strike ever! This fish fought harder and longer than any other fish I had ever hooked. I could tell that it wasn’t a muskie when it surfaced, and it wasn’t a large-mouth bass either. When I got it landed, I could see that it was a good-sized, small-mouth bass. That’s when I had a vision of frying it for dinner that night! After hooking this fish onto my stringer and lowering it into the water to keep it alive for later, we continued to paddle toward the weed bed.

When we were sufficiently upwind and near the weed bed, I began casting toward the weed bed as we drifted downwind, pulling the bass along in the water as we went. I got 4-5 casts in before we had to paddle upwind again, with no muskie. Each time we drifted downwind to fish, the bass would get tangled up in a few weeds, so we had to pause to free it. After the third pass alongside the weed bed without any sign of a muskie, I noticed that the bass had gotten entangled by a clump of weeds much wider and longer than before. So we paused once more to free up the bass, and that’s when I took a closer look at the clump of weeds. Suddenly, it occurred to me that this was not a clump of weeds at all. It was a huge muskie, about three feet long, that had chomped down on the bass we were dragging in the water! I was shocked, and it took me a few moments to figure out what to do next, without spooking the muskie and causing him to release the bass. I wanted to land both of them, but how could I possibly get the muskie in the boat without spooking him?

Well, that’s when I remembered the gig I had brought with me. Perhaps I could spear him with it and lift him in. So I began to carefully and quietly assemble the pieces of the shaft. Then I leaned carefully over the edge of the canoe, lowered the gig slowly into the water, aligned the business end of the gig over the back fin of the muskie, and, with all my might, I jabbed at him violently. At first I thought I had him, because I saw the gig strike him squarely and shake him. But, alas and alack, it was only a glancing blow. The muskie gently released his grip on the bass, and we slowly drifted away from him until he was too far away for me to try again. “Dagnabbit”, I said to myself, “I almost had him, and that would have made such a great fish story”!

Unfortunately, that was my one and only encounter with a muskie on that trip. But, on the upside, the bass made a delicious dinner for the two of us that night. And, just in case you were wondering…yes, the bass had the tell-tale pattern of muskie tooth marks on both sides. Now that was impressive!

(To read more of my short stories, click HERE)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

we launched our canoe

Murphy’s Law Strikes Again! (Or, Let ‘er Rip!)

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Murphy’s Law Strikes Again! (Or, Let ‘er Rip!)

James R. Aist

“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” – Murphy

Most of us are all too familiar with the manifestation of Murphy’s Law in our lives. I am no exception. Thankfully, this law usually manifests in relatively minor, private situations where little or no embarrassment results. But, that is not always the case, as this all-too-true short story will amply demonstrate.

It was the summer of 1965, and I was an undergraduate at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Beautiful Lake Wedington was a short drive from campus, and it was there that the Department of Plant Pathology, where I had worked part time for more than a year, was having its annual picnic on Saturday afternoon. Most everyone there would know me.

I was bashful around girls growing up and had only dated once by the time I entered college, but I wanted to. Somehow, I found enough courage to invite a new girl in the Department to go with me to the picnic. I would pick her up in my 1955 Chevy, a two-tone, white-over butter-yellow Belaire with a forest green interior; she was a beaut! I would rent a canoe on the premises, and we would enjoy a short boat ride before the picnic began. Well, she accepted, and I was psyched! I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

It was a beautiful, warm and sunny summer day, just right for a boat ride and picnic. I was decked out in a T-shirt and tight-fitting shorts, perfect for the occasion, I reckoned. As we approached the picnic area, we could see that there was a large turnout. We parked the car, and I headed straight for the canoes and picked out a good one. Now, I was more than a little ill-at-ease at this point, because I had not actually paddled a canoe before, and because I really wanted to make a good impression on this new girl. It felt like the whole crowd was watching as I held one end of the canoe steady so she could climb aboard and take her seat at the far end of the canoe, facing me; so far, so good. Now it was my turn, and I climbed clumsily into the canoe, barely managing to avoid tipping the canoe over. But, as I was cautiously taking a seat directly facing her, I heard it: an audible “rrrrrRRIP” coming from the direction of my crotch area. I had heard that dreaded sound before, so I new immediately that the unthinkable had happened. I looked down to see how bad it was, and it was really bad:  there was a 6-inch tear in the crotch of my shorts, and there were my “tidy whities” peeking out, in full view of the girl I so wanted to make a good impression on! I was instantly embarrassed beyond comprehension and sat there motionless for a moment. In rapid succession I asked myself, “What can I do, what can I say, who else is watching?” Well, it quickly dawned on me that there was only one way to make the best of this bad situation. So, I put my knees together and paddled us back to the shore. We got out of the canoe, walked directly to the car, and drove to my apartment, where I changed my shorts. Then, we drove back to the lake and re-joined the picnic, as if nothing noteworthy had happened.

Now, I don’t know if anyone else at the picnic had actually seen my “display” during all this, but, thankfully, no one said anything if they did. And my date was very kind and understanding on her part, being quick to express an eagerness to just put it behind us and move on. We actually enjoyed the picnic, and she went out with me again later. One thing I can say for sure is, I did manage to make quite an impression on her that beautiful, sunny afternoon, albeit far different from what I had in mind!

And I suppose Murphy was standing somewhere in the middle of the crowd, shaking his head and trying to hold back a giggle or two. He must have known something was going to go wrong, and of course, it did. Thanks a lot, pal!

(To read more of my short stories, click HERE)

You Dwell Among Scorpions…Beware!

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You Dwell Among Scorpions…Beware!

James R. Aist

“And you, son of man, … you dwell among scorpions.” (Ezekiel 2:6)

This unusual experience occurred when I was an 11 year old boy, and my next older brother, Johnny, was almost 13. Our father had recently been ordained as a Methodist minister and was simultaneously serving three small churches in rural, north-central Arkansas. This was very much scorpion territory, and my brother and I had often played around with scorpions in the wild, for entertainment purposes. But, we were always careful to avoid being stung by them, because we had been told – by “reliable sources” – that getting stung by a mature scorpion does not end well for the instigator.  When mature, this 2-3 inch long arachnid has a wicked stinger at the tip of its tail that can deliver a powerful portion of painful poison in a split second, if “pressed.”

A Sunday night worship service is the scenario for this short, but true, story. This particular church had managed to build a brand new, albeit small and simple, worship facility. Consequently, the sanctuary had a shiny, sparkling-clean hardwood floor that clearly displayed to the casual observer the presence of anything on its surface. Johnny and I, being preacher’s kids, were sitting together near the front during the service. Directly in front of us was sitting a lady whose legs were so short that her feet didn’t quite reach the floor, leaving her heels suspended above the floor about one inch. (The significance of this little detail will become apparent as the rest of the story unfolds.) As one might expect, we soon became bored with the usual goings on, and our attention was turned to anything else that might be happening during the service. Well, it wasn’t very long before something very interesting did begin to develop on the floor, to our right.

There, in all its glory, was a full-grown scorpion crawling erratically along the slippery floor, heading right for the lady with her heel elevated slightly above the floor. Johnny and I appeared to be the only ones in the sanctuary who saw the scorpion and the dangling heels. I’m not proud of it, but in all honestly, we looked at each other with devilish anticipation of what might very well happen soon. On the one hand, we didn’t really want her to get stung, but on the other hand, we didn’t want to disrupt the service because of something that might not actually happen anyway. So, we decided to just let it play out and plead ignorance if worse came to worst and we were asked why we didn’t say something. I’m not especially proud of this course of action, but give us some credit for planning ahead, alright?

Slowly, but surely, the scorpion inched closer and closer to the dangling heels, sometimes a little to the right and sometimes a little to the left. The closer it got to the dangling heels the greater was our eagerness to see what would happen. Would the scorpion actually crawl under her heels, and, if so, would she decide to stand up at just that very moment, to her misfortune? The suspense was killing us, and we could scarcely contain ourselves. Then it happened: the scorpion did, indeed, crawl directly under one of her heels. Now our eyes were glued to this drama unfolding directly in front of us, wondering if the heel was about to come down on the scorpion, or not.

After a brief pause, the scorpion crawled out from under her heel and continued its journey toward the opposite side of the floor. The lady stood up just seconds after the scorpion had passed under her heel, and Johnny and I both sighed a sigh of great relief. We reckoned that since nothing really happened, we had nothing to feel guilty about. And we were right, weren’t we? Well, weren’t we?

(To read more of my short stories, click HERE)

Guess Who I Ran Into On My Way To Work!

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Guess Who I Ran Into On My Way To Work!

James R. Aist

Better safe(er) than sorry!

If you have ever tried to maneuver your car on “black ice”, even on a straight, level road, you should be able to fully appreciate the encounter I am about to share with you. However, this road was covered, not by frozen rain (i.e., black ice), but by a thin coating of fresh snow that had been thoroughly packed down and smoothed out by early morning traffic and then lightly “lubricated” by a layer of thin water created by brilliant sunshine melting the surface of the packed snow, resulting in “white ice.” In this case, however, there was no caution sign.

Here’s what happened. We lived in a very rural area not far from my job at Cornell University. It was a beautiful winter morning, very cold, but caressed by brilliant sunshine. My neighbor across the street had just pulled out ahead of me to drive to his work, also at Cornell. Ours were the only two houses on our road. As I left my driveway heading to work, I began to enjoy the beauty of a light snow that had fallen overnight, now sparkling in the sunlight. Once I turned onto the main road, however, I soon realized that the road surface was “as slick as deer guts on a door knob”, at least as hazardous as black ice. This was white ice!

That’s when I slowed down as an extra precaution, knowing that my braking time would be greatly increased. Then I began to ponder the situation that could develop up ahead, where my neighbor would have to stop ahead of me at a “T” intersection. But, I reckoned he was far enough ahead of me to clear the intersection before I got there, so I relaxed a bit. Then I rounded a corner and could now see all the way to the “T” intersection, and it was not good. My neighbor had stopped at the intersection alright, but he had to wait there for another neighbor coming from his left to clear the intersection before he could turn right and get out of my way! I was already going very slow, but I began to decelerate further, just to be sure I wouldn’t rear-end my neighbor before he could turn right. As I drew closer and closer to the intersection, I became increasingly aware that there was a good possibility that I was going to run into my neighbor on the way to work. That realization inspired me to begin lightly pumping my brakes to get as much traction as possible without fish-tailing out of control, and, hopefully, to avoid a very embarrassing collision on a clear day on a straight, level road with only three cars in sight.

But alack and alas, I was just a teenchy bit too late with the brake pumping, so I began to steer ever so slightly to the left, in hopes I could slip around him to the left and stop before hitting the ditch on the other side of the cross road. And, I almost made it. At a speed of about two miles per hour – it was like slow motion – I clipped his left-rear bumper with my right-front fender. Then, as a result of the impact, I finally stopped, now quite embarrassed to have to look my neighbor in the face after what had I had just done!

The good news is that my neighbor was kind and gracious toward me. He simply popped his bumper back into place and drove off to work, no problem. I, on the other hand, drove off to work with a dent in my right-front fender the size of a volleyball. But, we both got a good chuckle out of this bazaar encounter. After all, how often do you run into your neighbor on your way to work?

(To read more of my short stories, click HERE)