Fishing was something we did very often on summer days when school was out. My brother and I would always search out a pond that the owner did not mind us catching the fish. The yellow mud cat that were in muddier ponds were not as desirable to eat as the blue that the owner had bought and stocked the pond with. Edgar Hammond's pond that was within walking distance was one of these such ponds. We had our bikes, so that is how we traveled to the pond.
Catching the fish in the shallow muddy less than a mile from home was easy. These fish would bite anything your put on the hook. Earthworms and chicken liver is what we took to fish with, but if we ran out of either of those a cricket caught at the pond would still work as bait.
These fish did not grow very large and had a yellow belly. My grandmother fried everyone we caught in a black iron skillet. She did not use peanut oil or even vegetable oil, she used the lard that was used to season everything we had to eat. There was nothing culinary about the batter either, it was cornmeal, just cornmeal. A left over piece of fish on white bread tasted like heaven to me as a child.
We learned quickly how to clean them by watching Daddy. He would do them for us when he was able. On more occasions than not he was incapacitated and would not do them for us. We were professional pond fisherman by the age of twelve, we caught, cleaned and I cook fry them up in the pan, even. Cooking was something my grandmother made sure I could do as soon as I could reach the stove. She had spells with arthritis when I was in the fourth grade and would call my teacher for permission to keep me home to do the cooking for her on those days she was not able to cook.
The education my grandmother gave me in everything was something I have tried to teach my girls. I shared with them everything that I could about my childhood, including fishing in ponds. We could drive to my uncles pond, so the riding a bike miles was something they did not do. There was more traffic on the roads and danger was an issue when they were children. At twenty-seven one of them still tells this fishtail.
The pond we picked to fish in was within walking distance. I wanted all of us to have a rod and reel to fish with. I borrowed one from my friends husband that just happened to be new. Me and the two girls each had a rod to fish with and walked to the pond less than a mile from my house. We all stood on the same side of the pond excited about catiching a big on that everyone in town had said were in this pond. Many were snicking to fish, but we had permission and were good to go.
It really did not take my daughter long to get board with fishing when the fish seemed like they were not going to bite. She of course being a tad spoiled had the new rod and reel I had borrowed. After it became boring to her she sat down on the bank laying the rod and reel beside her. She did not have either hand on it, and was sure that it was not going any where.
It was really not unusual for me to zone out and not pay attention; as I was watching mine not helping watch her's the rod took off across the pond. I was in the middle of the two girls with thoughts of how I was going to appoligize to my friends husband for loosing his new rod and reel.
The fish was just swimming around dragging the rod threw the water. This gave me several minutes to come up with a plan to retrieve the rod. Each time it came close to the bank I would try to grab it, which was not often. Then as we stood watching the fish seemed not to get near the bank. I at the spur of the moment decided there was only one thing to do and I dove into the muddy pond swimming to the rod and reel. This to the girls was the funniest thing they had ever seen. After not much effort I grabbed the rod and swan to the bank of the possibly snake infested muddy pond with the rod and reel and the fish. We caught only one fish that day, because I was finished when I smelled like the cows that had been cooling off in the pond. It was a big fish. If the fishtail was a whooper I would say eight pounds, really maybe half that.
vegetable oil for deep-frying
2 cups self-rising cornmeal mix
3 tablespoons self-rising flour
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapenos’
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
In a deep fryer or heavy, deep skillet, heat 2 to 3 inches of oil over medium heat to 375°. In a mixing bowl, combine cornmeal mix, flour, and onion. Add milk and egg; mix well. Let stand for 5 minutes. Drop batter by tablespoons into hot oil. Fry until golden brown, turning several times. Drain on paper towels. Makes about 15 hush puppies.