Trout Fishing Fools by Gary Benton
My cousin Bubba and I go back for years hunting and fishing together, starting when we were just young kids. We grew up on farms that were close to each other, about two miles a part, and spent a lot of time goofing off together. Now, often we’d usually mess around in the barnyard, out by the pond, or in the woods. I guess you could say that by the time we were adults I could sum up all I knew about the man in one sentence– he was cheap, dumb as a cow pie, fat and ugly. But, nonetheless, he is my cousin so I love him, sort of.
I can remember, oh, a few years back, sitting on his front porch in front of his mobile home one cold morning in February drinking coffee as Bubba said, “Cold out here today ain’t it?”
Shaking my head at the depth of his perception (realizing it was very cold), I replied, “Yep, usually is durin’ February.”
“Yep, it usually is.”
“What’s on your mind Bubba, besides your cap?” I asked as I raised the steaming cup of hot oil Bubba called coffee to my lips.
“Trout’s.” Was his simple response as he pulled his cap off and scratched his bald head at the very crown.
“Catchin’ or eatin’?”
“Catchin’, because I can’t eat what I don’t have.” He said as he put his hat back on, adjusted it for comfort, and then continued with, “let’s go to the river tomorrow and get some.”
Now, Bubba doesn’t like to get up early unless it’s for a good reason, like the outhouse is on fire, a fox is in the henhouse with the chickens, or maybe a hunting or fishing trip. Even during those times he’s a might slow when compared to most folks. So, I knew just getting him to the river near dawn would be a chore, but I decided quickly that a trout fishing trip would be great, so I replied, “Ok, I’ll be up an hour before dawn and you pick me up.”
Bubba gave me a big tooth gapped grin and said, “Nope, I ain’t got no gas in the truck and no money until payday.”
I thought for a second and then replied, “Well, then how are you going to get into the Springs then? You know they charge five dollars a head and you got to have some money for lunch, hot drinks, and such.”
“Oh, I got that much. I have ten dollars, but I don’t have enough to pay to fish and for gas. So, if ya want to go, you’ll have to drive.”
Well, see, I knew this was the way it would end up eventually. Now, you may be wondering how I knew? Because it always ends up like this, I drive, pay for the gas, and Bubba sleeps to and from our activities. Always.
I arrived at Bubba’s mobile home at four in the morning and the first thing I noticed as I pulled in his rutted driveway was the place was as dark as a lawyer’s heart. Yep, not a light on in the house. I walked from my truck, stepped up on the wobbly cinder blocks he had stacked as steps and knocked on the door. An old beagle suddenly ran out from under the porch and growled at me, as if she was going to gum me to death. See, she didn’t have any teeth.
I shivered in the cold, knocked once more, and listened to the beagle growl. A few minutes later, getting impatient, I knocked louder and finally heard Bubba yell from inside, “Jess a minute! Dog-gone-it, I . . .” And I heard a crashing sound from inside the trailer.
The door opened a few minutes later with Bubba holding a broken lava lamp in is left hand, his long johns were on, and one boot and one shoe were on his feet. He wiped the sleep from his eyes with his big right hand, threw the broken lava lamp into his front yard and asked, “What in the world are you doin’ heah this time of the mornin?”
I gave him a crooked grin and said one word, “Trout’s.”
A confused look came over his face, but finally he said, “I ain’t got no trouts. I do have some of them fish sticks in the freezer, if ya want ‘em.”
“No, Bubba, we was to go trout fishin’ at the Springs this mornin’ or did ya forget?” I spoke with anger in my voice, knowing all the while it was a typical fishing or hunting morning for Bubba. The man just was not a morning person.
“Oh, yea, I forgot. Come on in and while you have a cup of coffee, I’ll get dressed.”
Well, that cup of coffee took over an hour to drink, because Bubba took that long just to find his waders. Then he had to find his tackle box, his creel, and this lucky fishin’ hat. I felt my anger growing by the minute and knew all of his gear should have been gathered up and stacked the night before. But, Bubba never does anything until the last minute.
Finally, two hours after I had arrived we were on the main highway headed to the Springs and some serious trout fishin’. Bubba, as usual, was fast asleep and I sipped hot coffee from the thermos I had brought along. One positive aspect of the trip, there was very little traffic on the road. I was enjoying the quietness and soft music I had playing on my radio, when Bubba suddenly shot upright and said in a very distressed voice, “Potty.”
“Potty? What are you talkin’ about Bubba?”
“I gotta use a potty.” He spoke in a voice filled with anguish.
“Number one or number two?”
At times dealing with Bubba is like dealing with a small child, but I’m used to it, so I pulled off the road at the next exit and drove into a huge rest stop. Before my truck had stopped rolling into the parking spot, Bubba was off and running. I spent the next thirty minutes reading my latest issue of Redneck Esquire Magazine and looking at the hot new fashions from Little Rock.
The door suddenly opened, Bubba climbed in and as I glanced up from my magazine he said, “Stop readin’ that dumb magazine and let’s get to the Springs. I didn’t get up early and come all this way just so you could sit on your backside a read that garbage.”
I simply shook my head in disbelief and started the truck. Less than a minute later we were rolling and bouncing down the road once more. It took us about twenty more minutes before we pulled up to the entrance of the Springs. The man manning the gate counted us and said, “That will be ten dollars for the entrance fees and I need to see your fishing licenses.”
Well, to make a long story short, and to keep my writing clean enough that it will be printed, Bubba suddenly claimed he must have lost his wallet back at the rest room. Now, most of y’all would have returned to the rest stop and searched for it, but I knew better. See, the odds were, Bubba had never brought his wallet. So, when we finally drove into the park I was out ten bucks for our entry fees as well as twenty-five dollars for Bubba’s combination hunting and fishing license. I suddenly realized as I turned the ignition off, that I would end up paying for Bubba’s lunch too, and that could well exceed his cost of his combination fishing and hunting license. All I could do was shake my head and slap myself mentally for continuing to be such a fool.
While I had hot coffee in the thermos, Bubba wanted hot chocolate, so it was off to the snack bar and another four dollars gone. I was keeping track of what I was spending in my head, but why I did that, I don’t know. See, the big man would never pay me back, and I knew it. Bubba considered us family and as such my money was his money. And, right then and there our money was quickly disappearing and I’d not even wet a line yet. I was still complaining about the high cost of snack bar food when we neared the river.
“You using a fly or cheese bait?” Bubba asked as he dug around in his cluttered tackle box.
“Fly.” I responded as I pulled a dry fly from my vest.
“What kind of fly?”
“Why what, Bubba?”
“Why a fly?”
“Why not a fly Bubba?” I felt my anger building quickly, but then decided to let it go and not waste the energy.
“I’d use cheese.”
“Fine then Bubba, you do that.”
Bubba held up a big thick wad of cheese on his right index finger and asked, “You want to use some?”
“No Bubba, I don’t want your cheese. For goodness sakes man, let me fish.”
“You got a big anger problem, do you know that? And, you’re the big psychologist.” And as soon as he spoke he broke out in a little schoolboy giggle.
I did work as a psychologist, but my goodness Bubba would stain the patience of the Pope. Everything was Bubba’s way or it was wrong. Well, he confirmed my thoughts a few minutes later when he yelled, “Got one. And, I told you to use cheese.”
As he netted the fish, I noticed it was a nice one in the two-pound or so range. Now, usually I just catch and release, but not Bubba. The rules at the Springs stated all fish under eight inches were to be released, so Bubba kept anything legal. Oh, I guess he had the right, but I just didn’t think like that.
“You had a bite yet?” He asked as he gently removed the hook from the fish’s mouth.
“Nope.” I replied and waited for his next comment, because I knew it was coming.
“You should be using cheese.”
“I don’t wanna use cheese Bubba.”
“You must not want no fish either.” He said with a loud horse laugh.
Ya know, right then and there I considered murder, but I just couldn’t figure out where to hide his body, after all he is a big man. Besides, there were too many witnesses around.
At noon Bubba had four fish and I had yet to catch a single one. I’d had one bite in a little over four hours. We broke for lunch, which was another twenty dollars down the drain for hotdogs and colas, and then made our way back to the river. Over our lunch a light rain had started to fall and the temperature dropped suddenly. As soon as I got to the river I reached in my fishing vest and pulled out my poncho, but Bubba, as you might well guess, didn’t have one. So, ten minutes later I was out another ten dollars, but my cousin had a nice hot pink poncho with a big cartoon mouse on the front of it.
Near four that afternoon Bubba suddenly gave a loud yell and as I glanced over the tip of his rod was dancing wildly in the pouring rain. He was doing a jig or some sort of dance as he screamed; “I got me a monster this time! It’s a big-un too!”
Now, since me and Bubba are both rednecks, I figured he might be doing the mating dance of redneck trout fishermen, but finally decided he would never have been able to do any dance that required certain steps. And, besides after knowing his wife Maude all these years, I wasn’t sure what his mating dance could bring to us. Maude was a nice enough woman, with a smile as big as her rump. And, trust me on this, the thought of a mating dance by Bubba absolutely terrified me.
Regardless of my anger at the man, I screamed at him, “Keep the tip up Bubba! Give ‘em some line now, or he’ll break it. Tip up Bubba!”
Ten minutes later Bubba was standing knee deep in the cold water of the Springs holding up his huge carp for the world to see. My man had a grin on his face that reminded me of an egg suckin’ dog comin’ out of the henhouse.
An hour later, as we drove home, Bubba was once again asleep with his head leaning on the door window as I drove. Traffic was still light, mainly due to the bad weather, and I did some serious thinking. As near as I could figure, counting the beer Bubba had to celebrate his fifteen-pound carp, the trip cost me almost eighty dollars. Now, I’m not a greedy man by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s a lot of money. I realized it would have been cheaper to just go to a store and buy a dozen trout, but I like to fish. Also, I had not caught one single fish, mainly because Bubba had kept me so upset I couldn’t think straight most of the wet day. All the way home I fumed as I thought of how my cousin had used me once again.
Pulling up in front of Bubba’s mobile home, he quickly pulled out the carp, gave me a big lopsided grin and said, “You keep them trout’s. This heah carp is big enough to feed me and mine. And, Gary?”
“Yep, Bubba Lee?”
“Come by on payday and I’ll pay half of what the trip cost ya.” And with that said Bubba turned and quickly walked toward his home. You know, as he turned I caught the sharp outline of his wallet in his right rear trouser pocket.
“I’ll come by early on payday Bubba, I got a pretty full day planned.” I yelled out as I got into my truck, but thought, I’ll be by before the mailman runs and go with ya to the bank. I might be dumb, but I ain’t stupid. Or am I?