When I was a kid, say around the age of seven, down in southern Ontario (A province of Canada for those of you, not from these parts), my parents had finally saved enough money to buy a home of their own. For them, it likely seemed like an excellent idea, but while I shared an enthusiasm for the adventure of the move I also had to contend with a few losses. Since as far back as I could recall we had always lived in an old two story farmhouse. Where my father had looked after a few animals, and us kids had run free, climbing trees and occasionally sneaking into the forbidden hayloft. They built magnificent barns in southern Ontario back in the day. I would miss that farm for the rest of my life. I had also recently befriended a stray dog that had come by to make its home in the old barn. A black short-haired straggler I had, with all the originality I could scrape together, named Blackie.
Now, I know it seems reasonable in this day and age that the dog would have moved with us, but this is a few years back and I was technically not allowed to touch or feed that filthy stray dog. Just asking to take it with us would have been an admission of guilt. I was young, but I knew better than to go around confessing crimes willy nilly. No, this story is not about Blackie. I’ve no clue what fate befell the poor beast once I stopped slipping food out to it.
The house that my parents had bought happened to be an old school house from back in the one-room school days. The home, with its large school yard, was located next to a gully where a creek flowed down to Lake Erie not many miles away. Entering the gully was of course, strictly forbidden. We played in it almost exclusively. None more so than myself now that I think back. I was assumed to be a good obedient kid, but I was not.
During rainy times this creek would swell up as the farmland from the surrounding area drained, and the fish would swim up the creek from the lake, often to find themselves stranded in small pools as the water drained off. It was not long before my siblings, and I had discovered this fact and though we had no fishing rods, we managed to find string and bobby pins to serve the purpose. The fish were starving, and some unfortunate grass hopper would find himself sacrificed for our amusement since worms can easily wiggle their way off a straight pin. Bobby pins are not barbed; I assume because babies tend to complain enough when stuck by them as they are.
We would wait for the telltale tug of the fish taking the bait before heaving suddenly and mightily to watch the fish fly looping over our heads up the bank behind us. The steep banks sloping down toward the creek bottom were such that more often than not the fish would have flopped its way back into the water before we could overtake it from our precarious perches. The fate cheating fish might have been a problem had we been fishing for food but returning home with a fish would again have been a confession with evidence in hand, and so all was well and good. No child among us wanted to be found out, and none was rat enough to get the others into a hiding since some were empathetic while the others preferred to be delivering any hiding that occurred, rather than passively observing. Thus we passed our summer during those times when vegetables were not ready on the fields.
The fishing went well until the day my sister decided to tag along and play in the gully. I was perched on the edge of a large pool of promise when she attempted to sneak by me and slipped down the bank and into the pool. How amused I was. Briefly. Very briefly. She managed to scramble back up far enough to grab hold of my pant leg causing my forfeiture of the tenuous hold I had on the creek bank. I was much less amused in the pool. Seconds later we were both safely up the bank well away from the water, but we were wet. Moments later a younger sibling hollered for us all to go in for supper.
I managed to finish my dinner before being found out, but as I snuck out of the room, my sharp-eyed mother verbally snagged me much as I had done to the fish. Let’s just say I have never taken my sister fishing since.