Savannah, hogging fish is against the law and if a game warden
catches you, you are in for a big fine. Well actually its
against the law in Missouri. It is not against the law in
Oklahoma and some other states. Also itís dangerous because
snakes are all along the bank of a river in the summer time and
thatís where you hog fish. It turns out that muskrats will dig
into the embankment of a river about two or three feet below
water level. After they dig straight back about four or five
feet, they will then turn upwards. After they dig upwards past
the water line, they then dig straight back again. Back in this
den, with underwater entrances, is where they raise their young.
They always dig three of these underwater entrances and then
later converge all three tunnels to their den. After these
muskrats have used these tunnels for a season, they will abandon
It turns out that
big cat fish, I mean big ones, four or five feet long, will
leave the big rivers, like the Mississippi, and swim up smaller
rivers to find these abandoned muskrat dens. The big cats like
the idea of those three entrances for their nesting cites also.
In the summer these big cats would leave the Mississippi and
swim up those man made rivers that drain southeast Missouri to
lay their eggs. So on a real hot day, maybe when we would have
the cotton chopping caught up, my dad, two brothers and I would
We would make our
entrances into these drainage rivers from way back in some field
so that the game warden wouldnít see the truck parked and get
ideas. We would enter the water quietly and remain quiet all the
while we fished. We always stayed right up against the bank so
that the over hanging bushes would hide us from anybody who
might be standing on a bridge a mile or so off.
With just our
heads sticking out of the water we would begin to feel along the
embankment for these muskrat dens. I kept looking up at the
overhanging tree limbs because many times a snake would be lying
out on the limb just above my head. I would gently ease back
away from the bank and go around that old Water Moccasin and
then go back to the bank and start feeling for muskrat holes
Now when you find
one, the first thing to do is to feel the bottom of the
entrance. If the bottom of the entrance is mushy mud then all
you have is a muskrat hole. But if the entrance is smooth and
sandy, which is how a catfish will prepare a nesting area, then
you have a cat fish den. Without putting my hands any further
back than just the entrance, I would then motion for my dad and
brothers to come.
The first thing we
had to do was to find all three entrances. Having found those,
and theyíre always there, then the outer two have to be blocked.
So each of my
brothers would take an entrance and move their bodies right up
against them. Then it always fell my dadís lot to work on the
middle entrance. You just never knew if the big cats would be in
there at the time since they evidently leave the nest a lot to
So my dad would
get his position and then say "ok, Iím moving in". Then Roy and
Ray would bring their elbows and knees in to further block the
escape routes. Blake and Savannah, a big 30 to 50 pound catfish
is really strong under the water and you canít believe how hard
they can bang against you. Well, with everybody braced, dadís
hand would start back into the hole. I watched his face because
you canít see back in those holes.
Now what happens
next, when there is a fish in there, is what divides a real
hogger from everyday fishermen because that big cat doesnít like
strangers in itsí den. What the big cat does is attack the hand.
Smaller cats have sharp fins which, when stuck into your hand,
hurts unlike any pain I know. But on big cats, meat and muscle
have grown around their fins so they canít stick you. But what
they have is razor sharp saw like teeth. Their head is as big
around as a bucket so they can and do grab your whole hand. When
that happens, most hoggers jerk their hand back. When you do
that then most of the time the big cat will slam against your
body at lightening speed and escape down the river.
My dad was
excellent at not flinching when the bite came. Instead he
clamped down. How many big cats teeth imprints have I seen on my
dads hand? I canít count. Later his hand would be bloody where
the cat had grind the skin. So Blake and Savannah, this was a
tough sport. We actually did this as much for the meat as we did
for the sport because we were poor and didnít even have any kind
of meat for most meals, much less fresh catfish.
Well anyway, once
dad had the big fish by the mouth and his hand clamped down, he
would always say, "I got Ďem". Now you just canít pull a
fifty-pound catfish out by the mouth. In the first place he
would near chew your hand off and in the second place when you
pulled him out into open water, so that he would be able to
maneuver, why he would slam your body so hard with his weight
that it would knock your breath out. In fact, some people try to
use giant hooks to catch these fish, but you can get your own
hand hung in those things.
I once heard of a
hogger getting one of those hooks into a big cat and his hand
became wedged in the scissor like handholds on those things and
the big cat dragged him into deep water and of course he
drowned. Itís certainly possible because those catfish are
Well after dad
would say "I got Ďem", he would always brace his neck right up
against the mud bank and start in with his left hand. He would
maneuver his left hand into the gills until he had a firm hold.
A big cats gills are even sharp. But still, with two hand holds,
you would never bring that cat out. So what dad would do next is
to loosen the grip with the right hand. This was all done very
gently and very slowly. Then just at the right moment, I would
see my dadsí right arm thrust forward. Blake and Savannah, he
would ram his arm right down that fishís throat and into his
The fish would
bite him hard as he did this. I later could see the saw-like
bite marks up past his elbow. Anyway, when he rammed his hand
into the fishís stomach he would then rip its insides loose.
Right at this
point he was in quite a strain. His head and neck would be
jammed into the mud bank. He always said "Now weíll wait just a
few seconds". Of course the big catfish was right then in the
process of dying. Just reading over this, I know it sounds
cruel. And to the fish it is. But once dad ripped those organs
loose that fish was dead in seconds. Remember that any meat you
eat, chicken, beef, etc., then an animal had to die to make it
possible. All that we can ask is that the death be quick. It is
ordained in the Bible that we can eat meat.
So I donít have
much patience with folks that poo-poo this. But while Iím at it,
let me come down just as hard on "sportsmen" who just kill for
sport. No sir, if you donít aim to eat it then donít kill it.
Youíll find no defense for this in the scriptures except if you
kill to defend yourself against a wild animal or something. Iím
sure animals love life just like we do. In fact, I am kind to
all animals, both wild and tame, if I get a chance to be.
Anyway, after a
few seconds, dad would gently pull his arm from the dead
catfishís throat and then he would pull him out. Right about
then it was exciting to think about the feast we were going to
have. We didnít have refrigeration in those days, so you
couldnít freeze it. A fish that big will feed a lot of people
too. So we would put the fish in a big burlap sack that we
always took along and head for home.
Once home, dad
would start to skin the fish. (Cat have skin not scales) and mom
would start heating the grease in big pots. We didnít have
neighbors chose but dad would send my brothers off a mile or so
to invite all our neighbors, from every direction, to a big fish
fry. Boy they would come too! Catfish, hush puppies, and fried
We did have a good
time. Poor people in the country donít always have it hard, just
mostly. In those days there was no such things as food
stamps. Wouldnít have mattered if we had.
So Blake and
Savannah here is something you can take from this story. In
life, when youíve got a big fish to catch, get your hands firmly
into the matter and then go all out. You might get your hands
and arm skinned up a little but by golly youíll get what you
came for. In fact, getting what you came for reminds me of
another event that took place when I was about six.
Bird and Bess
A Horses Tale
Turns out that
Uncle Lloyd, my dadís half brother, had bought a team of horses
to work his farm. He had gotten a real good deal on them but
unfortunately when he tried to harness them and work with them
he couldnít handle them because they hadnít been broke to work.
He decided that if anybody could handle them then my dad could,
so he loaded them up and brought them over to our farm and ask
dad to do with them what he could. Uncle Lloyd was much taller
and stronger than my dad . He was sure down about wasting his
hard-earned money. My dad didnít assure my uncle that he would
break them in but just said "Iíll see what I can do."
Well they were in
our barn lot which bordered our back yard. The gate from the lot
that led to the fields was in the northeast corner of our
backyard boundary with the lot. Dad decided to leave that lot
gate open so that these horses could go out into a large
harvested corn-field that was just outside the gate.
Even though the
corn was harvested there are always bits and pieces of ears of
corn that was overlooked or missed when the corn was picked.
This makes a great place for horses to scrounge around for food.
After a few days
dad decided it was time to harness up these horses and find out
what problems he was going to have in breaking them in to work.
These horses had the names of Bird and Bess. We already knew
that it was Bird, the male horse, that caused all the problems.
Dad had told Roy and Ray to go out into the field and drive Bird
and Bess into the barn lot. There they would close the gate and
drive the horses into the barn stables where the harness would
be put on.
I followed Roy and
Ray out the door but dad, at that point, gave me strict orders
not to leave our own yard. I watched as my brothers went out
into the field. After about a mile walk they got on the other
side of the horses. They had first tried calling to them but
that was useless.
They drove the
horses toward the gate. Roy and Ray were spread out and jogging
along behind the horses. When they got up to the lot gate ole
Bess ran right into the lot like she knew what was expected.
Bird knew what was expected also but he determined not to go.
Suddenly he turned sharply to the right and took off at a full
run. Roy was on the right and immediately saw what was
happening. Roy broke into a hard run while at the same time
waving his arms and yelling to the top of his lungs. No matter,
Bird was not going to listen!
Once more my
brothers took the mile walk to get behind Bird. Once more they
spread out and jogged behind. This time when they got close to
the lot gate they knew what to expect. Bird again broke sharply
to the right but this time Roy had maneuvered himself to be
right in front of him. Roy was about fifteen years old at that
time and was just about a grown man. That horse shot right by
him like he was so much dirt. Both Roy and Ray knew they were
dealing with a hopeless situation. They went into the house to
explain all this to dad.
Dad said "come on,
Iíll go see what we can do". He told my brothers to go bring
Bird around one more time. While they were gone he gathered up
some soaked corn cobs that were in the lot and then walked out
to position himself in the field. In all the excitement I forgot
that Dad had told me to stay in the yard. Without dad noticing,
I, at the last few minutes before they brought Bird back around,
walked out into the edge of the field. Not very far from where I
was standing was a farm implement called a disk. A disk has many
sharp blades on it. I never thought anything about the disk
being there. I just mention it for the storyís sake.
As my brothers
brought ole Bird around again, dad positioned himself on the
right and got his soaked corn cobs ready. As Bird trotted up to
within range of the gate my Dad let out a yell, "HEEyyahh Bird!"
and threw a soaked corn cob right into Birds hip. Well Bird
wasnít about to go into that lot and that corn cob deal just
made him madder. This time though he swung wider to the right,
broke into a dead run, lowered his ears in a fighting position
and came straight for me.
Suddenly my dad
saw what was going to happen. I knew for sure. Bird was going to
run me down and kill me. I almost panicked. Dad was yelling and
that mean horse was almost on top of me. At the last moment I
saw the disk and broke to get behind it. I had to run several
steps and just as I got behind it ole Bird shot by me just one
step away from me. He was swinging his head in fury and broke
right on past my dad to re-enter the open field.
Dad had nearly the
life scared from him. He sent me into the yard in no uncertain
terms telling me he would whip me for disobeying him when this
was over. When my brothers came up he told Roy to go into the
house and get the shotgun and to bring some bird shot shells.
Bird shot shells have very small bee-bees and are used, as the
name infers, to kill birds.
For the fourth
time he sent my brothers out to drive ole Bird into the lot.
Again dad took his
position on the right. Again they drove Bird up into position.
When at just the
right position, my dad again yelled "HEEyyyahhh Bird".
This time he aimed
that shotgun right along the top hindside of that horse and
pulled the trigger. That horse jumped like he was shot, which he
was donít you see, and immediately broke into a dead run
straight for the lot gate. When he got into the lot he just kept
up this hard run. Right straight through the lot and around to
the other side of the barn where the stall-entrance was.
Now when a horse
is running hard he goes much higher into the air than when heís
walking or trotting. Ole Bird kept that hard run going straight
into the barn.
Well it turns out
that as he ran through that door his hind hip quarter came up so
high into the air that it hit the top of the two by four door
facing. Again that poor horse was wounded. This wound was much
worse than those little bee-bees that were imbedded just under
his skin level.
When we got to the
barn ole Bird was standing in his stall shaking like the scared
horse that he was. My brothers got some salve horse medicine and
treated the hip wound and then they took their knife and
proceeded to squeeze those little bee-bees from old Birdsí hide.
In a few days Bird was all healed up. Again my brothers were
sent out to bring him in to harness and work.
This time when
they brought Bird around to the gate my dad again yelled "HEEyyyaaa
Bird" but even that wasn't necessary. That horse had no
intention of going anywhere but into that stall in the barn.
From that day my dad or brother could harness that pair of
horses and they worked their tails off. Whatever command was
given they obeyed.
Now I have to tell
you, my uncle did not like the idea that my dad had shot his
horse but he knew better than to say much about it. When those
horses were delivered back to my uncle he was so pleased that he
could now work them easy and they were indeed a valuable team.
Was my dad right in doing what he did? I do say he got good
results. Given the situation I have never been able to figure
out what lesser measure would have worked. So here is a lesson
Sometimes when you
have an extremely difficult problem you just might have to take
a little more extreme measure to solve it. But do think about
all the possible measures that you can think of and use the
least most extreme that you think might work. When I saw the
movie "Patton" I realized he was a man after my fatherís own
heart. When on that narrow mountain trail in Italy his whole
army was stopped, he raced to the front to see what was the
were shooting his men as they marched along that extremely
narrow mountain trail. When he got to the front he found that an
old farmer had a pair of mules that had stubbornly stalled on
this narrow road and had it completely blocked.
He told the farmer
to move those mules immediately. The farmer said he couldnít.
General Patton jerked out his gun, shot both mules between the
eyes, and ordered his men to throw the mules over the edge of
the mountain and off the trail. They did and the army continued
its march. That is surely the way my dad would have handled the
situation and just as fast as Patton did.
Ole Gray and Ole Jim
One Jackass Mule
Now this last
story made me think of another horse story that I was involved
in. In this situation I was about eight years old and dad had
harnessed up a pair of mules that we owned called ole Gray and
ole Jim. A mule is half jack-ass and half horse and are always
sterile. They are excellent farm animals and Missouri was known
for its excellent stock of mules.
On this occasion
the mule team was hitched to a wagon and dad and I were going
into the back forty to get a load of watermelons we had raised.
I mentioned earlier that dad didnít spend much of his free time
with me but fortunately the whole family did work together in
the fields. There is plenty of work on a farm. It had been
raining and the little dirt road along side our field was very
muddy. When we got to a certain spot there was a big mud hole in
the road. Well, on the farm when you come to a mud hole in the
road you have no choice but to go through it. If you tried to
pull out into the field you would mire down to the wagon bottom.
So dad drove the
team straight on through the mud hole. When the wheels started
miring up in that mud the pulling got quite difficult. All of a
sudden ole Gray decided that he didnít want any part of such
hard work and the jack-ass half of him took over.
He just layed
right down in that mud hole and left ole Jim standing, both
still in the harness. Now we had just bought this team of mules
from a Mr. Roberts who lived about a mile away. He told us the
reason he was selling them was that they were bad about breaking
through fences. Well we found out later just how bad they were
at that but for right then we had us a sulled mule and that we
didnít know about. Dad took the check lines, which are thick
leather strips, and begin to pound away on ole Greyís back side,
yelling for him to "Heeyaaaa".
Ole Grey just lay
there like that leather strap didnít hurt a bit. After a little
my dad stopped beating him and said "Well this is not doing any
good". He sat and thought for a minute and then he spoke to me.
He said "Son, I could take that piece of chain laying back there
in the wagon and beat him with that.
But that would
just cut him up and maybe cut into his stomach. I donít believe
he would even get up for that. What I want you to do is jump off
this wagon and run back to the house and get me some newspapers
and dry corn cobs". I jumped down and took off. When I got back
dad lined that paper right along both sides of ole Grey and put
a few cobs on both sides. Dad struck a match and lit the papers
then we crawled into the wagon and he took the reigns.
Now Blake and
Savanna, right here you might be against at what we were doing
but letís think about this a little. First my dad was determined
that ole Grey would get up out of the mud and help ole Jim pull
that wagon out. We absolutely knew they were capable of that.
The way we were doing it allowed ole Grey to decide at which
point he wanted to remove himself from the stimulus.
Can you believe
that he lay there in that fire a little while. Mules can,
indeed, be very stubborn. But in just a little while he suddenly
jumped up and pulled that wagon right on down the road. That
mule wasnít seriously hurt at all but never again did he try to
pull such a stunt.
So Blake and
Savannah, in life you will find that in certain situations it is
necessary to turn up the heat to get the job done. Just try to
create the situation where the jack-ass youíve got it under can
make up his own mind on just how much he wants to take.
find that at a certain point you will get co-operation and there
wonít be much serious damage come from it. You do have to be
resolute though or else the situation will control you rather
than the other way around.
The Rooster Fight