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Stories To My Grandkids

 

 

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Stories To My Grandkids

by Doyle Breedlove

 

 

Webmaster Forward:

Don't you wish your Grandparents had written down some of their memorable experiences growing up?  One of my most cherished possessions is a video

tape of my Grandmother telling me about her first ride in a car - when she and Granddad eloped - In the late 1800' s several families moving to Arkansas in wagons and night time the men (fathers) would scare the children by telling them stories about the Civil War - which was still a fresh memory.

 

Doyle Breedlove and Art Cole have put their stories on paper so their Grandchildren  will know what it was like growing up in the 1940's and 50's.. 

You will get a lot of hearty laughs and some lessons on life reading Doyle's stories.  Look for Art's" Pool Hall Philosophy" on the "Dirt Roads" page

- it's filled with patriotic messages and a pool player's philosophy of life.

 

 

 

Hogging Catfish

 

 

Blake and 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 the site.

 

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 go hogging.

 

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 again.

 

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 go feed.

 

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 strong.

 

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 stomach.

 

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 potatoes.

 

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 for life.

 

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 matter.

 

German airplanes 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.

 

 You will 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

 

 

An acquaintance of my dad once gave him a baby chicken. We had chickens all over the place so it wasnít unusual for us to have baby chicks. But our chickens were of two types. The White Leghorns were for laying eggs and the White Rocks were for frying chickens. What made this gift chicken special was that it was a male Game Chicken. You may not know what a Game Chicken is but if youíve ever seen a rooster fight in a movie then you were watching a Game Rooster.

We named that little chicken "Skippy" because of the way he got around the yard. In a few months he was grown and of course he became the dominant rooster of our entire flock the very first year of his life. Some of the greatest rooster fights you would ever want to see occurred with Skippy against roosters twice his size at that young age. He did rule the roost and since he was our pet he would always just come right up to you and let you pet him or hand feed him.

In those days in Southeast Missouri they regularly had Game fights where heavy gambling took place. What they do is take a straight razor blade and shave the roosterís spur down to a stub, then they place a gaff over the stub and fasten it down.

 

 A gaff is a strong clip with a curved needle protruding from it in the angle of a spur. When two roosters fight with those on, instead of a blunt rooster spur hitting the other rooster, the needle hits the other rooster. Of course the needle protrudes deep with a hard hit and the hit rooster will soon fall to the ground. The gambler backing the winning rooster wins the pot. This is all illegal but I can tell you it still goes on a lot in our country as well as down in Mexico. I can remember my dad talking about how terrible this was. Iíve already told you in my fish hogging story that dad wasnít beyond doing something a little illegal and even though he loved to watch a good Game Rooster fight he always wanted it to be in the natural. I am still impressed today at how much he hated to hear bout the Gaff Game fights.

After Skippy had established his dominance, then the fights stopped, i. e., the other roosters would run. Well when dad wanted to see a good rooster fight he would go out and call Skippy. Skippy was trained to follow dad. He would go with dad out to the truck. Dad would open the door and Skippy would jump right in. Off they would go to some other farmer friend that had a game rooster. There wasnít any use to take him to any other rooster besides another Game because the fight would be over in seconds.

After these Game roosters had fought for a while, each man, bragging about how well his rooster had fought, would separate them and we would go home. Just as often they would have come to our house but mama didnít like that stuff going on around her.

 

So we went somewhere else. You know it never occurred to us what would happen if you left two Game Roosters alone indefinitely. We just thought one would finally establish dominance. In fact, when Skippy was in his prime dad bought another fine full grown game just to have two around the house.

 

As soon as dad set that rooster down ole Skippy tore into him. Well, did we ever have us a rooster fight. In fact, they fought and they fought and they fought. Finally dad said "Weíve got to separate these roosters. They wonít quit until one dies".

We broke them up for a second and dad picked up the new rooster. We went around to the backyard and dad picked up a full size washing tub. We turned it upside down and put a block of wood under the side of it. Dad said "Iíll have to go tomorrow and sell this rooster to somebody else". We slid a container with water in it under the tub and dropped some grains of corn under the edge. We went into the house to carry on with the day.

 

We had no more than got inside when "KER BLEWEE" we heard this tremendous sound. We shot out the backdoor and "KER BLEWEE" , there it went again. Skippy had come around to the backyard and found that tub.

 

Those roosters were pecking away at each others head right where that block of wood was holding up the tub. The opening wasnít more than three or four inches at its highest point. Each rooster would peck away and then instinctively flog in the air, throwing their spurs into that tub. From inside and outside it was like somebody was beating on a giant drum. Dad said "Well Iíll be!"

Dad shoved Skippy out of the way with his foot and told me to scare Skippy around the house out of sight. It took some doing for me to run that rooster away but after I got him of there dad reached under the tub and once more had the new rooster in his arms. This time dad took that rooster out through the barn lot and took him to the corn crib in the barn. There he locked him up.

This was the same corn crib that my cousin and I had almost burned a few years earlier.

Well, later in the day I was out playing and usually my playing would eventually get me to the barn. Hay lofts are a great place to play. When I got on the other side of the barn where the cattle and horses entered I heard a thumping sound. I went down the isle for each cow stall entrance and when I got to the very one where the fire was set by my cousin and me, there I found Skippy. You remember I told you about those cracks between each board.

 

Well Skippy must have heard that rooster crowing from all the way up to the house because he had found him hours ago. Both roosterís heads were a bloody mess and the boards on each side of the crack had chips cut into them where the spurs had been thrown into them. I took off running to the house. "Dad" I say, "Those roosters are out in the barn fighting again". He could hardly believe all this. He said "Well Iíll have to take that rooster right now and find somebody to buy it". He got the new rooster out of the crib, put it in the cab of the truck, and took off.

He came back later and said he had sold it to a fellow he hardly knew but I guess itís hard to find an immediate market for game roosters. A few days later my dad came back from town and he was very sad. He got the news from around town that about a week after buying that rooster from my dad that man went to a "Gaff" Game Rooster fight. He had entered that prize rooster into one fight after another on the same night. It had killed the first four roosters it fought and made that fellow a lot of money.

 

Finally on the fifth entry in one night the rooster was killed. My poor papa just shook his head. "If I had known he was a gaff gambler I would never have sold him that rooster" he said, but it was too late now.

So Blake and Savannah, in life you will find that at times there is nothing left to do but to let a prime fighting rooster go. Sometimes two prime fighters just canít live together without killing one another. And it may be that the one you let go may go off and get himself into a gaff fight somewhere and get killed. Donít feel to guilty though because you canít fight nature nor can you control the next owner of the rooster.
 


"S-Finger"