1950s Northern Colorado
Our Irish Dad
Our dad was a hard-working, big smiling Irishman. He had auburn hair, deep brown laughing eyes. His hands were big, his arms strong. He had a big heart, a big hearty laugh and loved nothing better than to pull a joke on someone or tell one. I am sure he delighted in conjuring up things he could do to my brothers and sisters on St. Patrick's Day and if you weren't wearing green, you got pinched -- pinched hard. Our mother was not exempt from his pranks either. And if he couldn't get you with one of his St. Patrick's pranks, he saved them for April Fools Day.
The other thing he really loved to do was fish. He would load up as many kids as the car would hold - usually about twelve, and take us to the nearest lake with a bunch of bamboo poles.
Fishing for catfish
My sister Ginger wrote this story about catching catfish, on a late summer evening, he would gather all us kids and probably a few neighbor kids, a couple of nephews and we headed for a warm water lake near our farm. Nobody had any fancy fishing tackle. Everybody had a bamboo pole with a piece of fishing line attached to a rather small hook, tied to the end. Dad never fished for catfish. His job was to bait all the hooks, line up all the kids on the shoreline, then count to 3 and then we would whip that pole and fling the hook and worm into the water. What fun we had. We'd catch little 6 to 8 inch catfish. It was dad who scurried up and down the shoreline, removing the fish, throwing them in a bushel basket, baiting the hook, moving on to the next kid saying, "fish on." He looked like someone in a speeded up movie, frantically keeping all our lines as busy as possible. We'd be having so much fun we hated it when dad called it to a halt, because the basket was overflowing with dozens of small fish.
There really wasn't much left of the fish, especially after dad chopped off the heads leaving the gutted filet ready for mom to dredging cornmeal to deep fry. We ate our fill as she just keep frying catfish until everyone had as much as they liked. The fish were so small that the bones disintegrated into crispy wisps as we ate the catfish minus the head, bones and all. Now that was good eating!
Grandpa's recipe for cooking carp
Story No. 2 from Ginger: We lived about five miles from a lake called Black Hollow. It was an irrigation lake full of carp. Dad loved to tell you how to cook carp. Catch the biggest, ugliest, "most-est" bottom feeding carp you can find. Bring it home in a gunnysack, measure it, go to the lumber stack, selecting a nice piece of flat plank, freshly cut is best, about the same length as the fish. Lay that cleaned fish on top of the plank; add some lemon slices, salt and pepper. Shove it in the oven. Bake one hour at 350 degrees. Remove from oven, throw away the fish and eat the plank! He said that's the only way to ever eat carp!
Dad and Pickle Bill
Story No. 3 from Ginger: Dad love to tease you and was really good about dishing it out, but wasn't as good about taking it in return. Once I bought him a little porcelain figurine in the shape of a white pelican. He did not appreciate it and he never did say thank you.
Maybe this is why. His best friend, we called Pickle Bill, because he owned a pickle factory, where farmers brought their cucumbers for him to pickle and pack in jars. Pickle Bill always invited dad to go with him as he pulled his glorious fishing boat to Mexico, so they could go deep sea fishing. Dad wanted to do something special for Bill to show his appreciation for all Bill had done, so one morning Dad got up two hours early and went down to clean the boat. He wanted to surprise Bill before the day got underway. He hosed the boat down, swabbed the decks, polished the chrome and buffed the wood. Then he left to fetch Pickle Bill, to show off his hard work.
They had breakfast together then headed down to the docks. Dad was beaming with self-satisfaction about what he had done for Bill. He was sure Bill would appreciate it. However as they turned the corner of the pier and spied the boat, they saw that it had become a roosting place for a flock of pelicans. Pelicans were all over the boat, as was pelican poop! It covered every exposed surface. Dad hated pelicans from that day forward and I guess my teasing with the little figurine never seemed very funny to him.
Our Patriotic Dad
Last of Ginger's stories: Our home farm was just a short distance from Poudre Canyon road that winds its way up into the foothills and the beautiful Rocky Mountains. We loved going for Sunday drives and picnics beside the Poudre River. Dad knew just the campground he wanted to stay at. It was beautiful where we always had wonderful picnics. We fished for Brookies in the little stream that fed into the Poudre River and caught enough fish for our supper. Mom fried them up, and we ate our fill. It was time to relax.
This was the year that the United States had landed a man on the moon. This made such an impression with our patriotic Dad. He just kept repeating how amazing it was to think that there was actually an astronaut on that moon, as he pointed towards the moon high in the sky. After dark when all was quiet, Dad went to stand near an open space by the road so he could see the bright full moon. Then, to the surprise and alarm of everyone within five miles, he shouted "Yahoooo" and waved and yelled his congratulations to Neil Armstrong. His congratulations to the astronaut echoed up and down the canyon.
Happy St. Patrick's Day. Don't forget to smile and once in a while shout, "yaahhooo."