Stickman Readers' Submissions March 8th, 2004

Gone Fishing (In Isaan) Part 1

As you can see from the title…..I've gone fishing….in the village, and the surrounding environs. I love fishing. Anywhere, anytime. Done it my whole life actually, since I was about four or five years old. I remember when I was a kid living in southern New Jersey fishing in the old mud hole pond with my Dad and brother. Some of the most tranquil and best remembered times of my somewhat screwed up and misguided youth were spent with split bamboo pole in hand catching catfish and sunfish and other such exotic southern Jersey aquatic life, like old mud and water filled rubber boots, rusted tin cans, and the half bald heads of rubber dolls, with no eyes, while resting and hiding from the scorching summer sun in the shade under a big old spreading weeping willow tree on the banks of the pond near an ancient abandoned railroad bridge, and listening to the calming endless screeching cries of the Cicadas in the tree branches above. My brother and I would sit in the dirt and grass with our make-shift bamboo fishing poles jammed into the mud, drinking nearly warm sweating bottles of coke, and scarfing boxes of "Good and Plenty" and "Juicy Fruit" candies while goofing around and singing the TV commercial song from the good and plenty people about Choo-choo Charley the engineer having so much fun making his train run with Good and Plenty candies. "Charlie says!" would pipe my brother. "Love my Good and Plenty!" I'd respond back heartily, much to the annoyance of my old man, who'd tell us to pipe down after a while. He said we were scaring the fish away with our racket.

We'd sit there all day, watching and waiting for the cheap plastic red and white bobber to jerk up and down and signal the attempted theft of our early morning dug up night crawler we'd squeamishly impaled upon the hooks of our fishing line
by a crafty Bluegill or Catfish. My father would sit nearby, his own bamboo fishing rod in one hand, and an aluminum can of Ballentine's Ale clasped reverently in the other, which he'd sip from time to time while imparting his 27 or
28 year old wisdom and witticisms for our young and decidedly wisdom empty brains to soak up. We gained much knowledge about the world around us from the old guy during these times out….just fishing….and talking and listening….just us guys.

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No girls allowed, as they talk too damned much to fish properly according to my old man. More imparted wisdom passed down through the male side of our family. My Mom could give a shit less about fishing, nor the patriarchal wisdom spouted by my Dad. For
her our fishing outings were a holiday without us guys under foot. A day off for her really. I do remember her encouraging my Dad occasionally to "Take these two little monsters out for the day!" on a weekend or two, possibly more, when
my brother and I were sitting about watching cartoons and bickering, and slapping the crap out of each other for some good reason or another, or so we thought at the time. My brother is a year younger than me, and I needed to constantly show him
who was the boss, and he needed some toughening up once in a while, which I was usually only too happy to provide when needed with a slap in the head, and a whispered "Shaddup you big baby." when he started whining. Hey, what are big
brothers for right? He turned out okay, mostly due to my diligence and brotherly love. I always caught more fish than him too.

So Dad would gather us up and get out the fishing poles, while we went to dig up the garden in the back yard, tin cans and shovel in hand, and collect a good number of worms, as Mom would slap together some baloney and cheese sandwiches and chips and
stuff, wrapping them in tin foil and filling a brown paper bag with these delicacies, with maybe a few bottles of cokes, or cream sodas, (my favorite, although root beer is in a good second place too) to quench our thirsts during our manly day
long fishing pursuits and escapades. I figure fishing actually saved my brother and my lives on more than one occasion. (Maybe Dad's too!) If Dad hadn't gotten us away from our mother once in a while she probably would have snapped one
day and killed both her eldest sons. And if you knew some of the shit me and my brother pulled before we even turned 10 years old I wouldn't doubt that anyone would not blame her really. She'd probably have gotten off scot free in any
court, with any jury, in this here land of the free! We were little bastards. Although it was mostly my brother's fault you understand I hope.

Actually he never truly appreciated my fisticuffs tutoring and tough big-brotherly love I believe. Bastard knocked out two of my teeth in a fistfight when we were both around 17 and 18. Huh. That's gratitude for ya! While I hit my full height of
5' 10" by age 15 he continued to grow to be around 6'2" at 250 pounds, solid muscle once the baby fat melted away in his early teens, due mostly to using MY goddamned barbells and weights when he started high school, and playing
football, and he never had seemed to forget my loving brotherly lessons and exercises to toughen the big baby up during all those many years. Hell, if it wasn't for me he wouldn't be half as tough a man as he is now! Ungrateful fucker!

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So fishing has always been a part of my life, something I truly enjoy, even with two less teeth, a most relaxing form of whiling away the hours on a hot summer's day, or any day for that matter. As the t-shirt says……"I'd rather be fishing!"
or, my favorite…."A bad day fishing still beats the hell out of a good day at work!" Ah yes, truer words have never been written! Amen brother fishermen!

Now, ever since I'd first gone to the village in Isaan I'd noticed many little ponds, streams, rivers, and lakes dotting the landscape amongst the rice fields as I drove around the countryside in the old red shitbox pick-up truck. Looked like
prime tropical fishing territory to me. There has to be something to catch here right? Every trip over I'd mean to take along my fishing rod and tackle box so I could try my hand at catching whatever was catchable, and possibly even edible,
in the Land of Smiles and funky fishes, and every time I'd forget to do this.

Well one time when talking with Sis on the phone some months back, while waiting for my wife to get to the phone, Sis told me she had been in a village/small town near our place and had purchased a fishing rod. "All right!" I exclaimed to her
from 9,000 miles away. "When I get there next month we'll go and buy me one too and we'll go fishing okay?!" She laughed at my excitement, and said "Okay. No problem. We go fish in rice farm at sister's." "Yeah!
Sounds great!" I cried over the static on the crappy connection I'd gotten.

So began my introduction into the trials and tribulations of fishing in Isaan. Little did I know what I was in for, but hey, fishin' is fishin'!

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(to be continued)

Stickman says:

More Magic From Cent.

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